Dunsdon nature reserve

Dunsdon. Photo, Gary Pilkington

A classic introduction to one of Devon's best remaining Culm grasslands.


Close to the hamlet of Pancrasweek
Nr Holsworthy
EX22 7JW
A static map of Dunsdon

Know before you go

63 hectares

Entry fee


Grazing animals


Walking trails

400m of boardwalk, then open fields for visitors to explore. A Dunsdon Wild Walk offers a four mile exploration of the wider landscape (see 'Visit us' pages of this website for details).


400m of easy access board walk leads to a viewing platform. People are free to explore surrounding fields but conditions under foot can be wet and boggy.


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

May to September

About the reserve

At Devon Wildlife Trust we're very proud of the work we've done over the past 30 years working to preserve the county's Culm grasslands.

Wet and wild they may be, but their wildflower, insect and bird life make them a jewel in Devon's natural riches. Dunsdon shows Culm grassland at its best: it was named Devon's Coronation Meadow in 2012 in recognition of its special value.  

Contact us

Devon Wildlife Trust
Contact number: 01392 279244

Environmental designation

National Nature Reserve (NNR)

Location map

Filmed by the BBC in 2016.

Marsh fritillary at Dunsdon nature reserve

Marsh fritillary. Photo, Chris Root

Big numbers

Dunsdon is probably the best known of our Culm reserves. While, from the 1960s onwards, Culm grasslands disappeared across North Devon, here at Dunsdon the fields of purple moor grass, orchids and butterflies were left unchanged.  

Today we continue the traditional management of years gone by - grazing with a few Devon Ruby cattle in summer and swaling (burning) areas in winter. Visit in May to August and the rewards are obvious - 189 species of flowering plant have been counted here including lesser butterfly orchids, petty whin and whorled caraway.

26 different kinds of butterfly have also been spotted, including the unofficial emblem of the Culm - the marsh fritillary.

Petty whin orchid at Dunsdon

Petty whin orchid. Photo, Michael Symes

By Royal appointment

In 2012, Dunsdon was named Devon's Coronation Meadow to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of HRH The Queen. Another recent development has been the purchase of neighbouring fields and the construction of hedgebanks and the planting of wildflowers in an attempt to allow Dunsdon's wildlife  to spread. 

Dunsdon is also a seed donor site - each year we harvest its wildflower to create new wildflower meadows nearby.

Part of the old Bude Canal which forms the western edge of the reserve has also been recently restored and 're-wetted'. It's now a great place to spot dragonflies and amphibians, while a growing 'herony' is home to several pairs of grey herons

People broadcasting seeds by hand over grassy field

Sowing seeds at Dunsdon National Nature Reserve. Photo, Ian Threlkeld

More is less

In 2018 one of Dunsdon's rarest species, the lesser butterfly orchid, received a boost.

The orchid was one of 20 threatened plants and animals to be the helped by Back from the Brink - an initiated supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Lesser Butterfly Orchid project was led by our friends at Plantlife and meant that a series of key improvements were made to Dunsdon to help the struggling plant.

These changes included:

  • 1.4 hectares of scrub clearance and grassland restoration
  • 8.1 hectares of land seeded or receiving transplanted seedlings
  • 1,800m2 of experimental seed trial plots developed

In the future we hope to see more of the lesser butterfly orchid's delicate blooms appearing across Dunsdon thanks to this work. 

Viridor Credits logo

Recent improvements at Dunsdon have been made possible by Viridor Credits

With help from Viridor Credits

In 2017-18 generous support from Viridor Credits Environmental Company paved the way for some big improvements at Dunsdon. These included:

  • spreading wildflower seed to enrich parts of the reserve for bees, moths and butterflies
  • new gates to provide better access to the reserve
  • fencing to allow better use of grazing cattle
  • a new bridge to allow people and grazing animals access over a stream to a difficult to get to part of the nature reserve

The creation of Dunsdon’s Coronation Meadow was supported by Biffa Award.

Make the most of your visit

You can begin to explore Dunsdon and the surrounding area using our Dunsdon Wild Walk.

Explore Dunsdon with this download leaflet

Become a member and support our work

The vital work we do for nature depends on the support of people who care about the future of Devon’s wildlife and wild places.

Become a member