Seaton Marshes Local Nature Reserves.
There are three Local Nature Reserves Seaton Marshes, Colyford Common and Black Hole Marsh all of which are are owned and managed by East Devon District Council.
Seaton Marshes, Colyford Common and Black Hole Marsh Local Nature Reserves teem with bird life in the winter with rare migrant visitors stopping over as well as large feeding flocks of Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck. Black tailed Godwit can be seen feeding along with numbers of Curlew and Shoveler, cold days will bring out the elusive Snipe. In the summer months the breeding birds return to the marshes as well as abundant insect life.
Seaton Marshes LNR.
The Seaton Marshes LNR can be reached with a short walk from the Harbour Road car park.
A path leads to the purpose built bird hide built on the side of the estuary. The hexagonal hide gives views not only of the estuary and its mud flats and creeks but also of the adjacent flood plain and its scrapes and ditches.
The LNR is a impressive place to visit in the winter with its large feeding flocks over wintering birds as well as migratory visitors, it is not unusual to see flocks of 250 Wigeon, 100 Teal and 100 Shelduck.
Large numbers of Curlew can be seen feeding on the mud flats feeding on the rich harvest of animals with their specially adapted long, down curved beaks pulling animals like lugworms from deep down in the mud.
In the Summer Kingfishers are often seen fishing from a perch directly in front of the hide, and a bird table provides close-up views of birds that you wouldn’t find on your garden table, like reed buntings and even perhaps a water rail.
Within the Seaton Marsh LNR is Borrow Pit s deep water pool which has been made accessible to bird watchers where Little Grebes nest and Sedge Warblers can be seen.
There is a pond dipping platform at Borrow Pit, it features built in benches from which to enjoy the beautiful views and special adjustments to allow larger groups to pond dip together
Over the winter of 2009/10, two otters were regularly seen during the day at the Borrow Pit and in the Estuary with further sightings in early 2012.
Black Hole Marsh LNR.
Black Hole Marsh, the original name given to this part of the estuary is a new wetland for the reserve. It lies close to Colyford Common and Seaton Marshes Local Nature Reserves and is now a large saltwater lagoon having been a freshwater marsh for the past 150 years.
The lagoon is being filled using a self-regulating tidal gate to allow salty water to enter the site, whilst still preventing flooding of the adjacent land. This stable, shallow, saline lagoon is perfect for encouraging very high levels of invertebrates, providing plenty of food to sustain birds during their amazing annual migrations.
The reserve features islands for wading birds to roost on and a new freshwater reed-bed for priority species such as Reed Bunting and Reed Warbler.
The site is now open to the public with a bird hide being located on one of the islands in the lagoon. The path way leading to the hide is screened by an earth bank so that you won’t scare all the birds off as soon as you reach the lagoon. A second bird hide is reached by a path down the side of the lagoon to where the hide is located looking over the estuary. This hide is raised on stilts to give an excellent view over the tram track to the mud flats the other side.
Some of the best views of Black Hole Marsh are to be had from the top of one of Seaton′s delightful trams and the site is set to become a firm favourite with the bird-watching trams organised by the Seaton Tramway through out the year. Plans are being made for a new tram stop so that passangers will be able to use the tram to get to and from Blackhole Marsh.
You can visit Black Hole Marsh after visiting the bird hide at the Seaton LNR by continuing along the cycle path towards Colyford until you reach the Colyford Road. Turn right up the Colyford Road until you reach Seaton Cemetary and turn right through the 5 bar gate into Marsh Lane ( a green lane) which leads into the Black Hole Marsh LNR.
Further up river is the Colyford Common LNR with its salt marshes.
Access is from the path (Common Lane) leading off the Seaton Road near the village of Colyford. A raised board walk leads to the bird hide giving views over Colyford Marsh and the upper estuary with a further board walk leading to a viewing platform which over looks over a large salt water scrape.
You can walk to Black Hole Marsh LNR by turning right at the end of Common lane before you get to the raised boardwalk and following the white marker posts to the path which leads to Black Hole Marsh LNR.
The Colyford Common grazing marsh is regularly flooded by the sea at spring high tides creating a different habitat with unusual flora and fauna with the ground conditions uneven and cut through with run off’s and raised tussocks of grasses.
The rising tide will cause the flocks of migratory birds to move up the estuary from Seaton LNR to Colyford Common in search of food and a place to settle.
The Autumn migration brings many different species of birds to the Common with the winter months bringing flocks of Widgeon, Teal, Shelduck waders and other waterfowl.
Field Studies Base
The Field Studies Base has been newly constructed on Stafford Marsh in the centre of the wetlands. It includes an information centre which is seasonally manned by volunteers.
The Wetlands Classroom holds up to 50 students and sits on stilts over a reedbed and is accessed via an island boardwalk designed to provide a magical wow-factor entrance through a reed tunnel.
The classroom is the venue for school visits and many of the site events start from here. There is also a small wheelchair-accessible hide in this area with views across Colyford Common. The area to the side of the classroom has been made into a pond and made accessable for pond dipping.
Future development of the Seaton to Colyford LNR’s.
Another plot of land, called Sheep’s Marsh close by to the Underfleet car park should soon be aquired by EDDC. This will open up the next stage in the progress of the wetlands, an inter-tidal habitat supported by £150,000 of funding already secured from the Environment Agency. It is hoped that capital works on new fresh-water meres will soon start along with further sections of the Stop Line Cycle route.
The River Axe
The River Axe rises near Beaminster in Dorset from where it flows west then south to Axminster and joins the English Channel at Axmouth near Seaton. During its 22-mile (35 km) course it is fed by various streams and by the tributary rivers Yarty and Coly.
It is a shallow, non-navigable river until it reaches the village of Axmouth where the high tides flowing up the estuary allow sailing dingies and canoes to use the estuary up river of the bridges at Axmouth Harbour.
Low tide in the estuary leaves a narrow shallow river flowing down to the sea through mud flats cut with creeks and several low lying islands bounded on eastern side by the B3172 Axmouth Road and the built up track of the Seaton Tramway on the west side.
The Seaton Tramway runs alongside the estuary through the flood plain which stretch further westwards until the land starts to rise and the houses of the town.
Further up river past Axmouth, the river flows through low lying salt flats until it reaches Colyford Common with its grazing marshes and the A3052 from where it meanders on its way to Axminster.
The high tide covers the mud flats and salt marsh ebbing and flowing twice a day.
During periods of heavy rain, flood water flows down the Axe to where it backs up against the tide covering large areas of the flood plain and grazing marsh.
It is these mud flats and salt marsh rich in wild life which attract the numerous species of birds which either over winter or pass through on their migratory travels.