Careful control of the water levels on the marshes over the centuries has helped to strike a wonderful balance between agriculture and conservation and indeed the clarity and biodiversity of the ditches is indicative of good practice.
Nearby there are salt, brackish and fresh waters that attract a wide range of birds in modest numbers. Several pairs of swans breed here most seasons, in addition to moorhen. Sedge and Cetti’s warblers are heard as well as many of the more common hedgerow and water birds such as little grebe and kingfishers. Several species of owl are seen from time to time.
The shallow brackish water of Horsey attracts redshank and greenshank as well as heron and egret, which are also seen in the freshwater ditches of the inland marsh. The marsh pastures are largely undisturbed and attract roosting birds at high tide, such as curlew and plovers.
Finding the best way to view the birds that frequent the marsh and the shoreline is difficult as there is little cover. The Toll Road provides good viewing over the Marsh, but bird watchers using the banks must take care to avoid disturbance.
Plants and Insects
Water loving plants are abundant; yellow iris, purple loosestrife, meadowsweet, orchids and sedges line the ditches and the wetter meadows in season.
Not surprisingly there are plenty of insects, beautiful butterflies and damselflies, dragonflies and myriad others. The ditches too teem with freshwater life.
Mammals are less visible and there has been little formal monitoring to date, so the picture is unclear. Certainly foxes, rabbits, hares, Greater Horseshoe bats and otters are in evidence.
Respect for the Environment
All of Braunton’s visitors are asked to show respect for the environment and the wildlife sharing it with us. As roosting places around the estuary are relatively few, visitors are asked to take particular care not to disturb flocks of resting birds, especially at high tide, so that their presence can continue to give pleasure.
More information about Braunton’s abundant wildlife can be found in the section about Braunton Burrows.