At 63 hectares, Dunsdon National Nature Reserve, near Holsworthy, is one of the largest remaining areas of Culm grassland - a kind of wet grassland that is rich in wildlife but which has seen more than 90% of its total area lost in the last 100 years.
The reserve is home to rare wildflowers including the lesser butterfly orchid, birds including tree pipits and grasshopper warblers, and butterflies including the rare marsh fritillary. In 2012 Dunsdon was named as Devon’s Coronation Meadow in honour of its special beauty and wildlife value in a move to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The reserve has been cared for since 2002 by the charity Devon Wildlife Trust. Over the past 12 months Dunsdon has benefitted from £50,000 of support from Viridor Credits Environmental Company. Viridor Credits funds community, heritage and biodiversity projects through the Landfill Communities Fund and Scottish Landfill Communities Fund.
The money has allowed Devon Wildlife Trust to undertake an extensive programme of improvements. In one eight hectare area of the wildlife haven the charity has been able to cut back invasive rushes which threatened to overwhelm wildflowers. In other areas wildflower seed was spread to improve the range of flowering plants. The results in future years will be more and different blooms, all providing nectar sources for local bees, moths and butterflies.
Support from Viridor Credits has also helped the charity solve the problem of getting cattle into previously under-grazed areas of the large reserve. 3.8km of stock-proof fencing has now been installed to allow cattle, including a local herd of Highland cattle, to roam across the whole site. In future years their grazing will keep the spread of scrub vegetation in check and help conserve the reserve’s precious wildflower meadows.
Public access to the North Devon nature reserve has also been improved with new signage at Dunsdon’s entrances, improved gateways and tracks. One of the biggest undertakings of the past year has seen the installation of a new bridge to allow people and livestock to cross a stream providing access to the north western sections of the site from an existing walking trail along the historic Bude Canal.
Speaking about the improvements to Dunsdon National Nature Reserve, Devon Wildlife Trust’s Steve Threlkeld said:
“I’ve worked on Dunsdon for more than 15 years. In the past twelve months, thanks to support from Viridor Credits Environmental Company, we’ve been able to put major improvements into place that up until now I could only dream of achieving. I look forward to seeing the benefits for visitors and wildlife for years to come.”
Gareth Williams, Operations Manager at Viridor Credits, said:
"It is with pleasure that we are able to work once again with Devon Wildlife Trust to protect rare Culm grassland. I am sure that visitors to the site will appreciate the improvements to access and biodiversity made by DWT."