Down among the Dunes

Every Friday evening though the summer, a local expert gives up his spare time to lead a free walk through Braunton Burrows, finding and talking about some of the very interesting flowers and insects that live there.




Braunton Burrows is a vast sand dune system which is of huge national importance, as it is home to a large number of species, many of them rare. Most of these don’t live in the new, sandy dunes just behind the beach, but in the rolling, grass-covered older dunes behind, and particularly in the damp areas between the dunes.


Water Germander


This rather uninteresting flower looks very like mint, but is in fact Water Germander, so rare it is now only found in three sites in England!


Sand Pansy


The Sand Pansy is much prettier, but much less rare!




There were many tiny flowers growing amongst the rabbit-cropped turf, but they were hard to photograph in the dull evening light. This one is Eyebright.




Remember angelica? Green candied stuff that you used as a cake decoration? Well this is angelica plant whose stems are used.


Marmalade Hoverfly


Despite it being a cool, damp evening after an entire day of rain, there were a few interesting insects to be found. This is a Marmalade Hoverfly, presumably named for the stripes on its abdomen rather than its taste in conserves.


Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar


This gorgeous creature is the caterpillar of the Cinnabar Moth, which only feeds on ragwort. Like every other horse-owner, I have spend many an hour pulling up ragwort from horse fields, as it is very toxic to them, especially when dried in hay. But the ragwort plant is a very valuable plant for a large number of insects, especially the Cinnabar Moth, so it is important that in places like this, well away from horse fields and hay fields, it is allowed to flourish undisturbed.


Six Spot Burnet Moth Caterpillar


This is the caterpillar of the Six-spot Burnet Moth, which metamorphosizes into…this!


Six Spot Burnet Moth


Now the summer rains have reached Devon, I was hoping to find a few fungi on the burrows, but there were only a couple of tiny ones, including this minute Milky Conecap.


Milky Conecap


It was a beautiful place to spend an evening, and we learned so much from our expert guide. Now we need to go back on a hot sunny evening to see all the butterflies and dragonflies!



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