Blackadon Nature Reserve, Devon

★★★★★

River Webburn
Blackadon Tor

Ancient woodland on steeply sloping ground beside the River Webburn, and an area of moorland centred on Blackadon Tor; near the east edge of Dartmoor
Location
Buckland Bridge, long minor roads 5 miles from Ashburton on the A38; TQ13 7PQ
Photo Tour (17 images)
Blackadon Nature Reserve is a relatively large site, extending over a mile across the western side of the steep valley of the River Webburn, a tributary of the River Dart near the east edge of Dartmoor. Most of the reserve contains ancient woodland, in a fairly narrow band above the river, home to a typical selection of of arboreal wildflowers including extensive colonies of bluebells and wild garlic in the spring, but in the higher reaches to the north the woods give way to a patch of bracken-covered moorland, centred on an outcrop of eroded granite, Blackadon Tor. Here, the mostly treeless surroundings allow good views in all directions, especially southwards down the river valley, while the densely wooded lower slopes are atmospheric and quiet, and as the woodland faces north or east it receives little sunlight, so conditions in the valley are permanently cool and moist, with abundant ferns, lichens and mosses.

Wildlife of note includes otters and grey wagtails in and around the river, other birds in the woodland canopy, and butterflies on the moor, which supports a rather different, and larger, selection of wildflowers.




Access


Blackadon, reached by narrow and sometimes steep roads northwest of Ashburton, is close to the even larger Dart Valley Nature Reserve, which contains several miles of the River Dart upstream of the confluence with the River Webburn. The southern entrance to Blackadon is right beside the confluence, at Buckland Bridge, where the single lane road is crossed by a cattle grid next to a parallel gateway used by horses. There is parking space for just one vehicle in front of the gate, and no other places nearby since the verges are too high; the next nearest location is a third of a mile east, past a secluded cottage (Buckland Lodge) and uphill a short distance. The north entrance, close to the tor, is at the end of a short farm track east of the road to Leusdon, and for this the closest parking is a few minutes walk away on a grassy common in the village centre. One other access point is on the west side, further south on the road to Leusdon, parking in front of an abandoned stone building. A path into the woods begins a little way north.

The Woodland


From the southern entrance at Buckland Bridge, a path follows the swift-flowing River Webburn northwards, past many mossy boulders and fallen branches, but stays close to the water for only a short distance, before moving away through the flat woodland to one side, filled with bluebells in the spring. It then climbs steeply up the valley slopes, aided via steps in some places, to a junction within sight of a field, along the upper edge of the woods. The path on the left leads to the western parking place along the road to Leusdon, running through a more recent pine plantation, while the other route continues along the edge of the trees, where the more open conditions allow a greater variety of wildflowers to flourish. This path also soon meets the road, next to another isolated house (The Glen), about half way through the reserve. A track resumes on the far side, also staying close to the upper edge of the trees, here part of a somewhat wider forested area named Town Wood, and reaches Blackadon Tor in half a mile.



Blackadon Tor


Blackadon Down, centred on Blackadon Tor, covers most of the northernmost section of the nature reserve, and is most easily accessed from the farm track near Leusdon village. The tor itself is quite small compared with many others on Dartmoor, but similar in appearance, formed of weathered, grey granite boulders, with gorse bushes below. The surrounding land is partly grassy, good for wildflowers in late spring and summer, but most of the down is covered by bracken, and the lower ground has a quick transition back to woodland, sloping steeply down to the River Webburn, which flows around three sides of the moor, up to 600 feet below. Also growing on the down are a scattering of rowan trees, which provide food for several bird species including redwings. The moor is seasonally grazed by ponies, to control the growth of bracken and other scrub.

Upper level path
Upper level path