Area: 13.5 hectares.
Included in County Structure Plan Nature Conservation. Zone and Coastal Preservation Area. Part of the site was formerly within the Taw-Torridge Estuary SSSI. Site amended by extension and deletion at this revision.
Description and Reasons for Notification:
This site is of special interest for its herb-rich marshy grasslands and also the rich water-plant communities occurring in the drainage ditches. These habitats are of particular importance as they now have a very restricted distribution in Devon.
The site occupies the northern fringe of Braunton Marsh, the land being generally flat and low-lying with a high water table. The soils are derived from marine alluvium with a peaty surface horizon in places.
The constituent fields represent some of the last remaining areas of herb-rich grazing marsh, both in Braunton Marsh and probably within the county as a whole. The wetter areas support an abundance of greater pond-sedge Carex riparia together with false fox-sedge C. otrubae, glaucous sedge C. flacca and common sedge C. nigra. Many other flowering plants occur here which are typical of wet, unimproved marshlands including marsh marigold Caltha palustris, meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria, fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica, silverweed Potentilla anserina, water mint Mentha aquatica, greater bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus pedunculatus, meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis and ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi. The southern marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa occurs frequently and the site is also a location for marsh arrowgrass Triglochin palustris which is a rare plant in Devon. In places, there is an abundance of rushes Juncus spp. and patches of yellow iris Iris pseudacorus occur. As the ground rises slightly there is a transition to drier grassland containing hairy sedge Carex hirta, yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor, common knapweed Centaurea nigra and crested dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus.
The associated drainage ditches support a rich assemblage of aquatic plants which provide an important element of the site’s special interest. Among the submerged species are common water-starwort Callitriche stagnalis and broad-leaved pondweed Potamogeton natans. Common duckweed Lemna minor is frequent, while the occurrence of ivy-leaved duckweed L. trisulca is of particular note as it has a very restricted distribution in Devon.
The emergent component of the ditch flora is well developed with many flowering plant species present. These include water-plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica, lesser water-parsnip Berula erecta, gipsywort Lycopus europaeus, parsley water- dropwort Oenanthe lachenalii, branched bur-reed Sparganium erectum, pink water-speedwell Veronica catenata and marsh woundwort Stachys palustris. The presence of tasteless water-pepper Polygonum mite is also noteworthy since it is a rare plant in Devon. Common reed Phragmites australis forms small stands along parts of the water channels.
The site supports breeding reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus and sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, both species being characteristic of marshland habitat.