A wealth of rare sights around the Exe Estuary

Where to spot sand crocus, adders, and five types of crab

A flower so petite that a blade of grass dwarfs it. A flower so localised that it occurs at just two British sites. And a flower so reclusive it remains resolutely shut except in full sun. Such is the sand crocus. What more quixotic a quarry for your weekend?

Dawlish Warren, a sandy spit on Devon's Exe Estuary, is a botanist's delight. Spend the morning on hands and knees searching for rare plants. The sand crocus flowers in late March or early April. You should see them in the short, sandy grassland that lines the compound by the visitor centre.

Then walk to "dune ridge", between the seawall and Warren Point. Look carefully at sheltered sunny spots for the ridge's star species: the sand lizard. This is a fabulous time to see this rare reptile, and the introduced population is thriving. The males are garbed vivid green in the breeding season.

Dawlish Warren has one of the Exe Estuary's main high-tide wader roosts, with ringed plover, dunlin, oystercatcher, grey plover, sanderling and turnstone all best viewed from the hide overlooking the Bight.

Depart Dawlish for a late afternoon stroll at Chudleigh Knighton Heath. Amid the ling, bell heather and western gorse, there is a chance of spotting adders before the evening chill.

Spend day two at Wembury, which volunteers one of Britain's finest rock-pooling experiences and one of its rarest songbirds. The lowest tides (a few days after the new moon) expose the greatest expanse of rocky reefs and residual pools. With careful searching, you should find a dozen or more species of marine marvel. If you extract animals use a bucket (not a net), house them singly in a vessel containing seawater and repatriate the creatures to their lairs.

Beadlet anemone is common; one-third of its 7cm length comprises retractable tentacles. Blue-rayed limpets, strip-lit with neon, cling to rocks. You may see five types of crab: common hermit, porcelain, velvet swimming, edible and shore. The small fish include rock goby, tompot blenny and common blenny. As the tide rises, retreat to dry land. Wembury is prime cirl bunting territory. No bird is more closely associated with Devon than this attractive, stripe-headed seedeater. Populations have trebled in the past 20 years.

This is an edited extract from '52 Wildlife Weekends' by James Lowen, published by Bradt. IoS readers can buy a copy for £7.79 (inc UK p&p) from bradtguides.com using the discount code 52WW. Valid to 31 Jan 2015

News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss