The Pebblebed heaths lie on a 20-30m thick bed of conglomerates and gravelly sandstones. In addition to forming the basis of an important aquifer providing drinking water to many villages and towns including Budleigh Salterton, East Budleigh, Otterton, Colaton Raleigh and Newton Poppleford, the Pebblebeds have historically been mined to supply high quality quartzite sand and gravel for construction.

The only current mining undertaken on the Pebblebed heaths is at Blackhill Quarry, a 64 hectare site adjacent to Bicton Common. Quarrying began in the early 1930’s by the Blackhill Stone Company Limited, and is now operated by Aggregate Industries UK Limited. Extraction from the site ceased at the beginning of April 2011 with the exhaustion of permitted sand and gravel reserves, although dug sand and gravel is now being imported from Venn Ottery and Marshbroadmoor quarries for processing and subsequent sale, with this operation permitted until December 2016.

On completion of quarrying, the site will be returned to heathland and a heathland restoration programme is already underway.

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