A reserve of two parts, Town Wood and Blackadon Down, featuring two of Dartmoor’s iconic habitats – steep wooded river valley and grazed bracken moor

Of oaks and otters

29 hectares of classic Dartmoor wooded valley forms the greater part of the reserve, enclosing the fast flowing River Webbern. A tributary of the Dart, the rushing waters are studded by stream-smoothed boulders on which passing otters may leave their spraint, and where bobbing grey wagtails can often be seen. 

Grey wagtail     photo: Neil Bygrave


From the Blackadon Bridge entrance, pick your own path along the steep valley sides, cloaked beneath sessile oak woodland, to find spring woodland flowers such as sanicle, woodruff and primrose among the fern and moss-clad rocky outcrops. Rarities include bastard balm, Tunbridge filmy fern and Graphina pauciloculata lichen. The woods support important moss and lichen communities which are unique in Western Europe. Look out overhead for pied flycatcher, wood warbler and redstarts flitting through the tree canopy, and in winter for woodcock, which may erupt into flight from the ground before your feet.


Moor to be seen

On reaching the upper slopes, the woodland thins out through hazel and birch coppice to the 8 hectare moorland of Blackadon Down. Stands of bracken are interspersed with scattered low growing gorse, hawthorn and blackthorn scrub, on which linnets and yellowhammers may perch, and open glades of wild strawberry, tormentil and bugle.


Pathways through the bracken, kept open by grazing livestock, link back to the Leusdon entrance to the reserve. The mix of bracken cover and clearings, which sustains early flowering violets, is of crucial value to some particular rare species.


Flying visitor

Several fritillary butterflies depend on this type of bracken moorland habitat, including pearl-bordered, small pearl-bordered and dark green fritillaries, each of which can be seen here, alongside the critically endangered high brown fritillary. This area of Dartmoor is a stronghold for this strong flying species; some individuals make use of the reserve in most years.


For the highest point, and a butterfly's eye view, of the site, Blackadon Tor rises above the moorland plateau of Blackadon Down. From the bench here one can see far across the treetops marking the winding course of the River Webburn, and over to Buckland church on the other side of the valley.



Devon Wildlife Trust's Blackadon nature reserve has been supported by Viridor Credits Environmental Company.

Species and habitats

Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Dog-violet

Nearby nature reserves

Dart Valley
2 miles - Devon Wildlife Trust
Emsworthy mire
3 miles - Devon Wildlife Trust
Higher Kiln Quarry
5 miles - Devon Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

South west Dartmoor
Map reference
SX 718 719
Best time to visit
Jan - Dec
Get directions
Find out here
Public transport
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Opening Times
Open at all times
37.00 hectares
The terrain is rough and steep in places. Contact the Trust for disabled access information
Walking information
A walk through the reserve will take 2 hours
Dogs allowed
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Devon Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01392 279244