North Devon Coast

National Landscape

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Horsey Island

The latest nature reserve of the Devon Wildlife Trust.

For bird watchers, this is a must-see. There is currently no access to the nature reserve, although a public road/path provides excellent views of it and its residing birds and wildlife. 

Mr Mark Ansell, a local homeowner and bird observer, generously assisted Devon Wildlife Trust in purchasing Horsey Island in November 2019.

The 80-hectare property was previously grazing area, with an earth bank sea wall protecting it. This sea wall was breached in 2017 (prior to our ownership), allowing sea water to enter.

Since then, the breach has developed significantly, and each incoming tide now completely covers Horsey Island. As a result, a dynamic environment of mudflats, sandbanks, and saltmarsh has replaced grassland.

Thousands of wading and other birds rest and feed on the nature reserve, which is home to salt-tolerant flora including sea purslane and glasswort (samphire).

Ospreys, spoonbills, glossy ibis, cattle egret, great white egret, and ruff have all been seen recently. There have also been reports of 2,000 golden plover and 200+ lapwing on the site.

Horsey Island is presently regarded as one of the best birdwatching spots in Devon.

Horsey Island is our newest nature reserve, therefore visitor facilities are limited. We expect to put up modest visitor signage shortly, but longer-term ideas for greater trail access, bird hides, and other amenities are still in the works.

There is currently no direct public access to the reserve due to its dynamic state and, in particular, the vulnerable character of its barrier sea wall. However, along the South West Coast Path, throughout its inland border, there are good observation places.

Keen on going cycling? For Horsey Island, the Braunton Countryside Centre has created a Komoot cycle route. Check it out by clicking here!