The Challenges around Thurlestone – Report on Plymouth Meeting14 Sept

What is needed to create a successful habitat for wildlife on two South Devon coastal reserves?  Nick Townsend described the efforts required each year in his excellent talk ‘South Milton Ley and South Huish Marsh – The work and Rewards of a South Devon Reserves Officer’.

The two reserves are very different. South Milton Ley, owned by Devon Birds, has a  large reedbed with surrounding footpaths. One hectare of the reeds need cutting every year, along with regular grass cutting and fence repairing. Photographs of the planting of hedges and trees showed that the latter have now grown well and a new boardwalk  constructed.

Nick stated that South Huish is meadowland and comprised of three scrapes. Though  owned by the National Trust, it is managed by Devon Birds. Water levels  need to be regulated and ditches cleared. All the work on both sites is acheived with his dedicated team of volunteers, help from local farmers and use of mechanical equipment. Control of the vegetation is helped during the summer by Highland cattle and Dartmoor ponies introduced to South Huish, as they will devour anything.

The work is compounded by the need to remove debris after winter storms. Excellent video showed the ferocity of the sea  in 2013/2014 eroding the beach with the result that huge wooden poles protecting the beach were thrust into the Ley.  Breeching of the water of the Ley through the sand bar into the sea was also shown well.

So what are the rewards? These can be measured by the number of species seen on the reserves and off the nearby coast. Over 200 have been reported over the years and many have been ringed.   Rarities such as Squacco Heron, Little Bunting and Bearded Tit have been spotted. This proves that the work acheived in this area offers several rich and diverse habitats for wildlife.

What further plans could improve these sites? A possible hide and a gravel island on South Huish are being discussed.             Liz Harris