Your visit

East Devon’s Pebblebed Heaths are an outstanding area of natural beauty, which have been enjoyed by members of the public for generations. They are a superb and accessible area of wilderness, ideal for a range of recreational activities for people of all ages. Whether you are a dog walker (Devon Loves Dogs), a mountain biker, a horse rider, a runner or simply someone who wants to explore this vast and stunning landscape, there is always something to enjoy on the site. During your visit, please respect the landscape, the wildlife and other visitors so that this area is maintained for all to enjoy, long into the future.

Please do not remove or interfere with any wildlife on the heath, remember to take all of your rubbish away with you and, if you are a dog walker, please clear any dog waste during your visit. We hope that all visitors enjoy their time exploring the rich and varied habitat of East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, welcoming a new generation to discover this special corner of the world for themselves. If you are wishing to organise an event, please be aware that permission and insurance is required. More information for event organisers can be found here.

 

 

interactive map

Select each area to explore the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths.

Mutters moor

Mutter’s Moor County Wildlife Site covers an area of 54 hectares. The site is a relatively small block of heathland when compared to the core area of the Pebblebed Heaths, and is geologically different in that it comprises eastwards dipping Cretaceous Upper Greensand and is capped by Clay-with-flints and Chert. The site supports good quality lowland dry heath. Mutter’s Moor is significant for wildlife and supports a population of Nightjars.

The most significant historic feature of the moor is a former site of a prehistoric Stone Circle from which standing stones were removed in the Victorian era. Other features include cairns and barrows.

Bicton Common

Covering 132 hectares, Bicton Common is dominated by wet heath with scattered scrub and scrubby woodland, with dry heath and bracken upslope. Three small eastwards-flowing streams join in the centre of this Common and form Budleigh Brook.  In 2014 conservation grazing was introduced into this management unit and during the summer season cattle and Dartmoor ponies graze. Bicton Common is highly significant for wildlife and supports populations of Dartford Warblers, Nightjars, Silver-studded blue butterfly and the Small Red Damselfly.

A significant number of archaeological sites are located on Bicton Common including two bowl barrows which are Scheduled Monuments. In addition, the site is crossed by an old parish boundary and has numerous historic features relating to military occupation during WW2. These include a firing range (butts).

East Budleigh Common

Most of the eastern area was a military camp during the Second World War, numerous concrete bases of old structures remain.  This area is a mosaic of dry heath, scrub, bracken and mixed woodland.  The western area is mainly dry heath with bracken, gorse, and some scattered trees.  This common has the greatest proportion of tree cover. East Budleigh Common is excellent for wildlife due to its mosaic of heathland and woodland habitats.

It supports populations of the Silver-studded Blue butterfly as well as Nightjars. Old military buildings dating back to WW2 are now managed as bat hibernaculae and are used by a variety of bat species including Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats.

Woodbury common

Covering 102 hectares, Woodbury Common is located south of Colaton Raleigh Common, largely to the east of the B3180 and to the north of a minor road from Four Firs to Yettington, with Uphams plantation forming the eastern boundary.  The vegetation is mainly dry heath with a small area of mire. Woodbury Common is significant for wildlife and is most notable for supporting Dartford warblers.

Many archaeological sites are located on Woodbury Common with the most significant being the Iron Age Woodbury Castle which is a Scheduled Monument.

 

Colaton Raleigh Common

Covering 333 hectares, Colaton Raleigh Common is the largest of the commons. The majority of the area lies to the south of the B3180, which crosses the heath from east to west on the top of a ridge.  The heath is bounded by farmland, conifer plantations, woodland and a golf course. To the north of the B3180 the ground slopes steeply away to the north, again with dry heath giving way to wet heath with some scattered pines at the base of the slope. The vegetation is a mixture of dry heath with smaller amounts of wet heath/mire in the valley bottom. Scatted wind swept pines are a much loved feature of the landscape.

Colaton Raleigh is highly significant for wildlife and supports a population of the Southern Damselfly which occurs on the mire. It is also significant for Dartford Warblers with their numbers slowly building after a national collapse after the harsh winter of 2011. A significant number of archaeological sites can be found including old quarries, parish boundary banks, a reservoir and barrows.

Dalditch Common

Covering 8.45 ha Dalditch Common has the smallest area and is mainly dry heath and supports Nightjars.

Dalditch Plantation covers 27.4 ha and was formerly a coniferous plantation which was felled and converted to heathland in 1997. It is now a County Wildlife Site. The heathland which can now be found there is a particularly good for Nightjar.

The majority of the site on the slopes and upper western section is dry heath with the vegetation becoming wetter in the south east. Scrub control has been undertaken across the site, but is still currently problematic in some areas. Dalditch Common is regularly grazed. Since the summer of 2014 it has been stocked with Dartmoor ponies; and grazed with cattle.

Hawkerland

Hawkerland covers an area of 78 hectares and divided into Hawkerland East and Hawkerland West by a minor road. The Common is bounded to the north by the main A3052 Exeter to Lyme Regis road. Hawkerland East is dominated by dry heath with some areas of bracken in shallow valleys and a small mire system. This was also the site of a WW2 military camp. The western area of the Common is dominated by wet heath vegetation with areas of damp willow woodland.

Hawkerland supports building populations of Dartford warbler, Nightjars and the Silver-studded Blue butterfly. Grazing will be reintroduced to this entire common in 2018.

Harpford Common

Managed by the RSPB, more information here.

Aylesbeare Common

Managed by the RSPB, more information here.

Where to go

Over 60 km of trail cross the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths offering varied terrain, some of which can be very wet or steep. We recommend that all walkers assess their own fitness levels, ensure they are suitably clothed and check the prevailing weather before setting off. Walking and cycling guides are  being developed. These will be available summer 2018.

All public rights of way across the Commons (including paths and bridleways) are maintained by the East Devon Council Public Rights of Way (PROW) team. Any users concerned about their maintenance should contact the Council directly by visiting their website.

east devon council

Access & car parking

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act, the public have full and free access to all areas of the Pebblebed Heaths by foot.

Clinton Devon Estates also applied to Devon County Council to give general permission for horse riders and cyclists to use the heaths, so long as the user acts in accordance with the CROW Act legislation. As a result, horse riding and cycling by individuals is permitted.

The Act excludes horse-riding, cycling, vehicles, organised games or any activity for commercial gain. For full details of what is and is not permitted on the Pebblebed Heaths and the legislation that protects the heaths, please click here.

There are no official car parks on the Pebblebed Heaths and there is no legal obligation to supply or maintain them, although private car parking is permitted in some designated areas.

The Conservation Trust reserves the right to close areas used for public parking for maintenance work, or where there has been consistent illegal activity, such as fly-tipping that threatens wildlife or public health. Motor vehicles are prohibited on the heaths.

  • Wild camping
  • Dog walkers
  • Commercial & organised activities

Wild camping and fires are not allowed under the CROW Act and are not permitted on the Pebblebed Heaths
at any time.

CROW ACT DOWNLOAD

Over 70% of our visitors are dog walkers, enjoying the boundless terrain and stunning views over the Pebblebed Heaths.

Dogs are more than welcome on the heaths but we politely request that all dog owners follow the Dog Walking Code [Download] in order to minimize their impact on the environment and other users of the heaths.

We also encourage all dog walkers using the Pebblebed Heaths to join the free membership scheme, Devon Loves Dogs, which has been set up for dog owners and dog lovers throughout South East Devon.

There is a legal obligation to keep dogs on leads between the 1st March and the 31st July each year. This is to ensure that dogs do not disturb the ground nesting birds, which are intrinsic to our conservation work on the heaths. In addition to this, dogs must be kept on leads in the vicinity of livestock.
Other legislation applying to dogs is the Dogs (Specified Maximum) (East Devon District Council) Order 2009, which limits the maximum number of dogs that can be taken into a public place to six. Under the Fouling of Land by Dogs (East District Council) Order 2009, it is an offence for those in charge of a dog not to remove the faeces from the heaths.
Under legislation, any commercial dog walking businesses using the Pebblebed Heaths must register for a license. Granting of the license is conditional on adopting the Dog Walking Code. If you would like to register your dog walking business, please contact our Site Manager, Kim Strawbridge, here.

REGISTER YOUR BUSINESS

Organised group activities, including (but not limited to) events involving horses, cycling, running and
orienteering may be permitted on the heaths, however a license and full insurance are a legal
requirement.

If you are interested in holding an organised or commercial event on Commons you must complete a request
and indemnity form, which can be downloaded here:

REQUEST & INDEMNITY FORM

It is essential that organised activities are controlled and regulated to ensure that the natural
wildlife and habitat of the Commons is not adversely impacted, as well as other users.

Long-term leases and licenses can be granted for use on the Commons. Many organisations organise
year-round activities, including the Royal Marines, who undertake much of their military training here,
and the East Devon Radio Control Club, who have an airfield for model aircraft on Woodbury Common.

In addition to organisations and clubs, some organised events are held annually under license, such as
the Commando Challenge, which is held every year on Bicton Common.

What to enjoy

The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths welcome over one million guests each year, who share in its spectacular landscapes, its unsurpassed wildlife and a rich archaeological history.

Situated over 1,400 hectares of lowland heath, Pebblebed Heaths boasts countless walks and trails, which take in the beautiful views and the thriving habitat that we work to protect.

Just one of these trails finds guests walking across Mutter’s Moor, named after a Second World War fighter pilot who (unsuccessfully) tried to claim rights over the land, regaling the tale of his smuggler forefathers who supposedly buried contraband, scattered across the moor.

The walk begins at Peak Hill, stretching down past the ancient stones and through Summer Bilberry’s Wood, offering breath taking views of Woodbury Common. Whilst no loot has been discovered (yet), that hasn’t stopped intrepid explorers retracing Mutter’s footsteps in search of it!

The heath is also home to the River Otter Estuary, stretched over 33 hectares of stunning views and teeming wildlife. The estuary runs adjacent to Budleigh Salterton and has one of the most popular footpaths in East Devon, with over 120 species of bird, including a number of particular conservation interest such as the whimbrel and the black-tailed godwit.

One of the most popular sites on Pebblebed Heath is the historic Woodbury Castle; an ancient castle dating back to the early-middle iron age, during the 6th and 4th centuries BC.

Woodbury Castle is one of the largest archaeological monuments in Devon, situated on the western border of the heath. The Castle was likely built over a 200-year period, at a time when the trees would have been cleared to give commanding views of approaching travellers or even enemies, rising 175 metres above the sea level.

The Castle’s impressive ramparts and ditch are still recognisable today, offering a fascinating insight into the ancient world of Pebblebed Heaths. Geophysical surveys conducted as recently as 2009 unearthed evidence that revealed the presence of houses within the structure, whilst the Castle’s chiefs are likely buried in the nearby tumuli and burial mounds.

do’s and don’ts on the common

 

Please do

  • Enjoy your visit
  • Remove all litter from the site
  • Read and adhere to any signs and notice boards
  • Consider other visitors to the heaths
  • Follow the Pebblebed Dog Code
  • Consider becoming a Friend of the Common to help protect this incredible place

 

 

Please do not

  • Stray from the pathways
  • Camp or light a fire
  • Organise events without a license
  • Undertake commercial activities without a license
  • Climb on Woodbury Castle
  • Use drones

 

 

We welcome visitors who enjoy spending time on the heathland and recognise that many are dog walkers. The Pebblebed Dog Code highlights simple ways that you can help look after this special landscape and the wildlife that lives here while sharing the space with other visitors. By following this code and encouraging others to do the same, you can be sure that you are enjoying the area in a way that respects other visitors, landowners, animals and wildlife. Please click the logo below for more details…

 

 

Please do

  • Enjoy your visit
  • Remove all litter from the site
  • Read and adhere to any signs and notice boards
  • Consider other visitors to the heaths
  • Follow the Pebblebed Dog Code
  • Consider becoming a Friend of the Common to help protect this incredible place

 

 

Please do not

  • Stray from the pathways
  • Camp or light a fire
  • Organise events without a license
  • Undertake commercial activities without a license
  • Climb on Woodbury Castle
  • Use drones

 

We welcome visitors who enjoy spending time on the heathland and recognise that many are dog walkers. The Pebblebed Dog Code highlights simple ways that you can help look after this special landscape and the wildlife that lives here while sharing the space with other visitors. By following this code and encouraging others to do the same, you can be sure that you are enjoying the area in a way that respects other visitors, landowners, animals and wildlife. Please click the logo below for more details…

 

legislation

The Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000, any land registered as common land is ‘access land’ with
the public legally entitled to enter and remain on the land for the purpose of open air recreation. However, a
number of constraints exist on the type of activities that can be undertaken. For full details on what is and
is not allowed under the CROW Act 2000, please click here.

Law and Property Act 1925

Under section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925, the Lord of the Manor or other person entitled to land
subject to rights of common could declare that this section of the act should apply to the land, effectively
giving rights of access to the public for air and exercise to the land. In July 1930, Lord Clinton entered
into a revocable deed which applied this section of the Act to the Commons and which allowed public access to
all parts of the Commons for some 70 years. However, with the passing of the CRoW Act 2000 (see below) this
deed was revoked and is no longer effective.

The Commons Registration Act 1965

Under this act it was open to anyone to register land as common land and to register rights over this land.
The land and rights over it would then be included on a public register, kept by the registration authority,
usually the County Council. On the Devon Commons Register, the Pebblebed Heaths are registered as commons.
Only one ‘right of common’ was registered over Colaton Raleigh and Woodbury Common at this time.

The Commons Act 2006

Under the Commons Act 2006, there is a prohibition on carrying out any works including: the construction of
fences, buildings or other structures; the digging of trenches, ditches or embankments; and the resurfacing of
land consisting of the laying of concrete, tarmacadam, coated road stone or similar, without the consent of
the appropriate National Authority, which for these purposes is the Planning Inspectorate. To carry out any of
these works an application needs to be made and will be determined with regard to the interests of persons
having rights to, or occupying the land (particularly those exercising rights of common).

The Wildlife and Countryside Act

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) is the principle mechanism for the legislative protection
of wildlife in Great Britain. It is the means by which the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife
and Natural Habitats (the ‘Bern Convention’) and the European Union Directives on the Conservation of Wild
Birds (79/409/EEC) and Natural Habitats and Wild Fauna and Flora (92/43/FFC) are implemented in Great Britain.
The act is predominantly concerned with the protection of wildlife, the designation of protected areas, and
public access.

Organise an event

Do you need a licence?

Although designated as Common land and Open Access, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000, such rights of access do not give automatic permission for organised events or activities. All organised and commercial events must apply for a license from the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust. As land managers we have a legal obligation to ensure that we responsibly assess, and where appropriate issue licenses, for events taking place on the heaths.

The Pebblebed heaths are amongst the most important conservation sites in Europe due to the rarity of the habitats and species supported. We are responsible for preserving the sites’ cultural heritage as well as protecting it for the benefit of wildlife. This includes protecting archaeological features, some of which are registered as Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

The Pebbledbed Heaths Conservation Trust encourage recreational use of the Heaths and are supportive of reasonable events. We value public enjoyment of the area and the connections people make with the landscape through recreation.

We request that all event organisers contact us to check whether they require a licence. An event licence may not be needed if the event is purely on a public right of way, however event organisers are still required to deliver their event within their statutory rights of access including the Countryside Rights of Way Act, 2000 and public rights of way and ensure event participants abide by the Countryside Code, which you can download here.

If you are a business or organisation that regularly uses the site it may be more appropriate to get an annual licence more info is available here.

Event organisers are asked to contact us as early as possible to check requirements. If a license is required an event form should be filled in and returned to us. We will assess applications and work with event organisers to satisfy the requirements of the event organiser and our legal obligations as the land manager, whilst protecting the special nature of the site and its enjoyment by other visitors.

Make a successful application

We can only issue licences for events or activities for the part of the event held on the land we manage. If your event covers land outside of these areas you will also need to contact other land owners and managers.

The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust supports events and activities that promote people’s enjoyment of the heaths and may grant a license for such events and activities which:

  • are appropriate for the site
  • will not negatively impact on wildlife or habitats
  • will not negatively impact on archaeological features in the landscape
  • will not negatively impact on other visitors
  • will not leave lasting damage to paths and other visitor infrastructure

We suggest the following points to consider when putting your event proposal together to limit negative impact to the site:

  • avoid going off public paths during ground nesting bird season – March to end July
  • avoid sensitive habitat sites such as mires
  • avoid impact on archaeological features
  • avoid paths which show signs of impact
  • have no dogs at the event or all dogs on short leads at all times
  • ensure parking will not disrupt other visitors or local residents
  • if any of the above cannot be avoided, reduce the number of participants

We aim to avoid clashes between events, if your application is for an event the same, or either side of another event we are already aware of, we may not be able to licence your event unless you are able to change the date. Please note licence applications are dealt with on a first come first served basis.

The Estate has a policy for all organised events that 10% of net income is donated to the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust to support conservation and access work. This ensures that the Heaths are available for all to enjoy. Please note that vehicles are not permitted on the Commons except in exceptional circumstances. A route map and completed indemnity form must be submitted with the event form for it to be considered.

EVENT REQUEST ENQUIRY

Commercial use

It is essential that organised activities are controlled and regulated to ensure that the wildlife and habitats of the Commons are not adversely impacted and to avoid problems with other users.

Although designated as Common land and Open Access, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000, such rights of access do not give automatic permission for organised activities. All organised and commercial activities must be licensed by the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust or Clinton Devon Estates and have insurance.

More information regarding commercial dog walking licences can be found here.

We are keen to support local businesses where possible. If you would like a licence to operate on the commons please contact the site manager – Kim Strawbridge.

 

Listing of Licenced Operators

 

A list of all businesses and organisations that have a licence to operate on the heaths in displayed below. All licenced businesses and organisations have agreed to support and promote responsible use of the heaths and have the appropriate public liability insurance. All dog walking business have agreed to follow and actively promote the Pebblebed Dog Code.

Bicton College https://www.bicton.ac.uk/

Bike Guide Devon https://www.bikeguidedevon.co.uk/

Budleigh Riding School http://www.devonriding.co.uk/

The East Devon Radio Control Club http://eastdevonrcc.bmfa.org/

MOD  https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/where-we-are/training-establishments/ctcrm-lympstone

Royal Bootcamp https://www.facebook.com/RoyalBootcamp/