Dawlish Warren Ranger Team

A year like no other, 2020 has proved to be one of the more memorable for so many reasons and at the Warren it has been one of extraordinary contrast and change. With the huge issues surrounding Covid-19 the wider countryside has proved to be a huge release for so many people and the coast has witnessed some of the clearest examples of this: Dawlish Warren was no exception.

The glorious, sunny Easter weekend for example, saw the beach nearly deserted and for much of the first period of lockdown the reserve was exceptionally quiet, almost tranquil! However, the end of lockdown saw numbers of visitors increase dramatically with the average weekday feeling like high summer bank holidays as people flocked to the coast. This showed the true value of the natural world and open spaces for people, locals and visitors alike.

Wildlife at the Warren has, as usual, provided some highlights. A long staying Melodious Warbler in August being a true rarity, was enjoyed by many birders. Other local and even site rare birds also provided interest. Whooper Swans early in the year, Marsh Harrier in April, Red Kites over the spectacularly sunny spring, but a personal highlight was a humble Coot, which spent a late March day on the main pond, the first site record for nearly 10 years!

The new main pond viewing platform, funded largely through a generous legacy from the family of a long term site volunteer, has been enjoyed by very many visitors. It has given views of water voles, damsel/dragonflies and birds to lucky observers. A very tatty Long-tailed Blue butterfly, a rare visitor to Britain, was a very brief sighting elsewhere on site.

Also new this year has been the installation of access routes replacing the old and deteriorating boardwalks that had been in place since the 1990s, linking the car park and the beach, providing improved all ability access and gentler gradients.

On sadder notes, vandalism to the bird hide and parts of the sea defences, the long-term closure of the visitor centre, vastly reduced volunteering opportunities as well as school and university visits and continued erosion across the beach has been challenging and disappointing.

We look forward to a, hopefully, brighter 2021!

Phil Chambers, Site Manager

Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve