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Exe Reed Beds

One of the largest tidal reedbeds in Devon and one of the best for birds.

The Exe Reed Beds nature reserve is home to an amazing array of birds and insects. 


Situated in the attractive upper reaches of the Exe Estuary, this site offers wonderful views across the Exe Valley and river. During the winter its mudflats and creeks are important for wildfowl and waders, such as red-breasted merganser, teal and avocet.



In summer Cetti's, sedge and reed warblers all use the reedbed to nest in. Their distinctive calls penetrate their dense surroundings. Swallows, house and sand martins can be seen buzzing over the tops of the reeds collecting insects. 


Starling spectacular

Most winters the Exe Reed Beds are the place to see large starling murmurations. The synchronised acrobatic flight displays of these birds each dusk and dawn are one of nature's spectacles. The best vantage point to watch is from the Topsham side of the River Exe or from the footpath that leads from our Old Sludge Beds nature reserve under the M5 motorway bridge.


Exploring the River Exe

Access to the Exe Reed Beds is limited to views across the nature reserve from the neighbouring Exeter Ship Canal towpath. The River Exe Wild Walk links this nature reserve with our nearby Old Sludge Beds Nature Reserve and Cricklepit Mill. It's a great way to begin to explore the wildlife riches of the River Exe.


Train lines and a cycle path running along both sides of the Exe Estuary, cafes and pubs and regular ferries make this area one of the most accessible and most popular parts of Devon.



Species and habitats

Grassland, Wetland
Curlew, Wigeon

Nearby nature reserves

Old Sludge Beds
0 miles - Devon Wildlife Trust
Cricklepit Mill
3 miles - Devon Wildlife Trust
5 miles - Devon Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Countess Wear
Map reference
SX 957 885
Great for...
Best time to visit
Jan - Dec
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Opening Times
Open at all times
25.00 hectares
Good views from the public right of way along the Exeter Ship Canal and from Topsham. No access to the reedbed but public footpath runs alongside.
Walking information
No access to the reedbed but public footpath runs alongside. The Exe Valley Trail off-road cycle and footpath runs close by.
No dogs allowed
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Devon Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01392 279244