Old Sludge Beds

Paths and boardwalks allow you to get among the reed beds and ponds of this wetland reserve.


Walk from University of Exeter Boathouse car park

OS Map Reference

SX 950 889
A static map of Old Sludge Beds

Know before you go

5 hectares

Entry fee


Grazing animals


Walking trails

Access is along a 2km path and there are no benches/resting places until you reach the reserve itself. Allow an hour to walk from the car park and around the reserve.


Boardwalks and paths are level, some steps. Access is along a 2km path from the University Boathouse, pass to the right (canal side) of the South West Water treatmnent plant. There are no benches/resting places until you reach the reserve itself. Contact the Trust for disabled access information


On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

All year round

About the reserve

We probably could have come up with a better name for this often over-looked nature reserve! But the 'Old Sludge Beds' does at least hint at the history behind the place.

Contact us

Devon Wildlife Trust
Contact number: 01392 279244

Environmental designation

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)

Location map

This site was once the resting place for much of Exeter's treated sewage. However, in 1969 the job of cleaning up after the city came to rest with the South West Water plant which sits next door.

Today the Old Sludge Beds is an altogether more welcoming place to wildlife and people. 

Water rail wading through the water

Water rail. Photo, Sherie New

Don't miss out 

Despite this lots of visitors to the Exe Estuary and even many local people still miss out on its natural charms.

This is a shame because its boardwalks and paths bring you close to some interesting wildlife and provide good views of the neighbouring Exe Ship Canal.  

Cetti's warbler in a tree

Cetti's warbler. Photo, Sherie New

In spring and summer the reserve is an important place for migrating songbirds including Cetti's warblers.

Old Sludge Beds is also a great reserve for insect watching, with dragonflies offering some of the most spectacular action. Visit on a warm evening and you'll also be rewarded by the sight of bats looking to clutch a meal as they fly above the pathside reed beds and ponds.  

In winter the pace of wildlife slows. Even so, the Old Sludge Beds can still offer the chance of seeing a bittern or a water rail skulking in the reeds. 

 Explore the Exe Valley from here

A trip to Old Sludge Beds can be combined with a visit to look over the nearby Exe Reed Beds nature reserve. For those wanting more, why not take the River Exe Wild Walk which links the reserve to Devon Wildlife Trust's Cricklepit Mill in the heart of historic Exeter?

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