Celebrating the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths

Each July, families flock to the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths for Heath Week. An exciting range of free outdoor events take place throughout the week, celebrating the heritage, wildlife and beauty of this rare lowland habitat.


Celebrating the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths

The events give local residents and visitors a chance to meet local experts and learn about the history, landscape and conservation work that make the heathlands so spectacular.

Illustrated talks and guided walks, an art exhibition, orienteering, bike rides and expeditions in search of the rare nocturnal Nightjar were among the many activities hosted this year by the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust alongside partnership organisations such as the Devon Wildlife Trust, the East Devon countryside team and the RSPB.

The week kicked off with Heath Week Family Festival Day, an event that brought together a wealth of local organisations with plenty to interest all the family including wildlife rambles, art and crafts, mountain bike taster sessions and short pony rides.

A joint event organised with the Royal Marines saw over 800 people enjoying assault courses, weapon and vehicle displays and even trying ration pack food! The Royal Marines are based at nearby Lympstone Commando Training Centre and their recruits are a regular heathland feature, completing much of their commando training on the Woodbury Training Area. This event offered an opportunity for local people to find out just what they get up to and why the heathland is essential to their training regime.

The Pebblebed Heaths cover 2,800 acres and are estimated to be more than 240 million years old. The land, owned by Clinton Devon Estates, is managed by the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust 

with the aim of ensuring this threatened ecosystem is protected.

The Trust is also responsible for ensuring all wildlife associated with the heathland flourishes, public access is protected and promoting environmental education. 

The Heaths are located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and have both UK and European designations, including a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). 

Without careful management, heathland can deteriorate into scrub, and this valuable open habitat with its rare animal and plant life would be lost. The Trust works with local community groups to demonstrate how and why the heaths are managed as they are; to maximise both the wildlife and public value of the site. Heath Week is an invaluable opportunity to discuss conservation grazing and heathland management, in addition to getting families out to see what the heaths can offer everyone. 

Kate Ponting, Countryside Learning Officer for Clinton Devon Estates, said: "Heath Week is a great opportunity to get out and about in this beautiful part of the world and learn about the variety of wildlife living in this rare habitat. The heaths are very special and are enjoyed by thousands of people each year for walking, cycling, horse riding and bird watching. The events this year were a huge success, with hundreds of people turning out to show their support. We have a range of events planned throughout the rest of the year too, so it’s not too late for people to get out and about and make the most of the heaths.”

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Do what you can to elevate your profession. It is an honourable one

– Robert Lipscomb, Steward 1865 – 1892

Handing over something more valuable than we have today,

– Estates ethos

…and the Lord Clinton was, by the whole Council, brought to the King’s presence, who after like thanks was given, was pleased that he should be made High Admiral of England and one of his Privy Council…

– Official record of appointment of 9th Baron Clinton as Lord High Admiral for life on 4th May 1550

We are trustees for life of the countryside

– 22nd Baron Clinton, 2002

But our power for good or evil in this world’s affairs in a countryside is enormous

– Robert Lipscomb, Steward 1865 – 1892