South Huish Nature Reserve lies in a shallow valley cut off from the sea by the dunes behind South Milton Sands. The Reserve together with the South Milton Ley Nature Reserve in the adjacent valley and the nearby coastline are visited by up to 200 bird species in a typical year.
The National Trust took ownership of the Reserve in 2011. Devon Birds managed the Reserve since 1994 under an agreement with the previous owner and continues to do so under a new agreement with the National Trust.
When Devon Birds took over management of the Reserve shallow scrapes were formed, drains reshaped and enlarged to introduce an important new habitat, and sluices installed to control water levels. The objective is to retain sufficient water in the scrapes to prevent them drying out over the summer.
No access is permitted within the Reserve.
The Reserve is located just inland of South Milton Sands and about 100m from Thurlestone Bay and can be reached either through the village of South Milton or through Galmpton. The South Milton route is the most direct and leads to National Trust car parks on the dunes separating the Reserve from South Milton Sands. The lower car park overlooks the Reserve and the smaller, upper car park Thurlestone Bay. The car parks are very busy in summer and on sunny days can be full well before noon.
The Beachhouse café next to the upper car park is open most of the year and is very busy in school holidays.
Viewing the Birds
No access is permitted within the meadowlands.
The scrape nearest the sea can be viewed from the lower car park, although reeds do obscure some views. The best location to view both scrapes and the whole of the Reserve is the bank adjacent to the café. Thurlestone Bay can also be seen from the same place, providing the best of both worlds.
The ditches draining the upper part of the Reserve are best viewed from the lane running past the houses on the south side of the Reserve, a short walk from the lower car park.
The field immediately behind the café is always worth a scan as is the small copse on the opposite side of the lane from beachfront properties at South Milton Sands.
206 species of birds have been recorded within or flying over the reserve up to the end of 2015. Good numbers of Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Shelduck and Gadwall are present depending on the time of year with occasional sightings of Tufted Duck, Pintail and Garganey. Greylag and Brent geese can be found from time to time amongst the numerous Canada geese.
Sedge and Reed Warblers are present in summer as are Reed Buntings but as the best habitat is some distance from the viewing spots, these are more easily found at the nearby South Milton Ley Reserve.
A range of waders can be found though most are seen on the beach at South Milton Sands or adjacent reef at low tide for example Turnstone, Dunlin, Sanderling and Whimbrel.
During adverse weather, particularly with easterly winds, seawatching from the bank adjacent to the café has proved fruitful with sightings of Mediterranean Gulls, Kittiwake, Gannets, Terns (Sandwich and Common particularly), Arctic Skuas and Great Northern Divers for example. Lapwing and Golden Plover are present in good numbers during cold spells, favouring the field behind the café. The same field is also a good spot to find Wheatear, Whinchat and Yellow Wagtail during migration.
The reserve requires ongoing management to maintain the health of the meadows, keep the ditches and drains open and scrapes clear.
Current management objectives are described in detail in the South Huish Nature Reserve: A Compendium and Management Plan 2017–2021 document, together with a comprehensive history of the reserve and much more information.