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
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
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
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

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Recruitment Genius: Processing Partner

    £15000 - £19200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Processing Partner is require...

    Recruitment Genius: PPC Manager - SW London

    £34000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist travel agent ba...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower