The heathlands lie on ancient geological formations called the Pebblebeds. These thick layers of rounded quartzite pebbles embedded in a sand matrix were deposited during the Triassic Age, when a large river flowed through what was then a desert area. The pebbles, or 'popples', appear in many local gardens after being washed down from the heathlands over the years. During the last Ice Age, the area was Tundra (a cold dry desert). As the Ice Age retreated, the area became densely forested.
By 500-300 BC, man had moved into the area and started building fortifications and burial mounds. The remains of a prehistoric hill fort can still be seen at Woodbury Castle. This scheduled ancient monument comprises multiple ditches and ramparts, and was probably used as a stronghold by the local chieftains.
Trees would have started to be cleared in the area to provide building materials, firewood and tools. The gradual development of the current heathland habitat now started in earnest, as local manors were established and 'Commoners' were granted certain rights on the rough scrubland. Activities such as turf cutting, grazing of animals and cutting bracken for bedding and trees for fuel all contributed to shaping the new environment. The heathlands have also been used extensively throughout history for military training exercises including World War Two, today the land is used by Royal Marines for commando training.
East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, c/o Rolle Estate Office, Bicton Arena, East Budleigh, Budleigh Salterton, Devon, EX9 7BL Tel: +44 (0)1395 443881 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org