River Webbern flowing through Blackadon nature reserve.

River Webbern. Photo, Dave Chamberlain 

This long, narrow reserve 'tumbles down' the western edge of the River Webburn. Within it you can climb a classic Dartmoor tor or explore woodland.

Location

South west Dartmoor
Ashburton
Devon

OS Map Reference

SX 718 719
A static map of Blackadon

Know before you go

Size
37 hectares

Entry fee

No

Grazing animals

Yes

Walking trails

A walk through the reserve will take 2 hours

Access

The terrain is rough and steep in places. Contact the Trust for disabled access information

Dogs

Under effective control

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

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.

Contact us

Devon Wildlife Trust
Contact number: 01392 279244

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Location map

Grey wagtail drinking from a river

Grey wagtail. Photo, Neil Bygrave

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. 

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.

Blackadon river view

Blackadon river view. Photo, David Chamberlain

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.

Dark green fritillaries resting on a bramble

Dark green fritillary. Photo, Chris Root

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.

Combine a visit to Blackadon with a trip to our nearby Dart Valley nature reserve

Blackadon nature reserve leaflet

Explore our 50 nature reserves