Cricklepit mill is a wildlife oasis in the heart of Exeter. Owned by the Devon Wildlife Trust it is a Grade II listed building with an undershot waterwheel. The Trust host milling days when the machinery is active, and flour is produced in the old-fashioned way.
In the wildlife garden, bird feeders attract plenty of common garden birds such as greenfinches, goldfinches, blue tits, great tits, and robins, while the leat, or watercourse, provides a home for mute swans, kingfishers, moorhens, grey wagtails, and little egrets, as well as otters, eels, and dragonflies.
Exe Reeds Beds
The Exe Reed Beds is one of the largest tidal reedbeds in Devon and a sanctuary for a wonderful array of birds and insects. There is no public access to the reed beds but they can be viewed from a trail on the western side of the Exe or a bird watching cruise is an alternative way to get closer to the birds.
Look out for red-breasted mergansers, avocets, Cetti’s warblers, sand martins, and reed warblers. The site also offers fantastic views across the Exe Valley and river.
Old Sludge Beds
The Old Sludge Beds was once a sewage farm in use until 1969 until new treatment works were built close by. The pools are now damp marshy ground with willow scrubs and the Devon Wildlife Trust that manage the reserve has built boardwalks that run across the site so visitors can get amongst the ponds without getting their feet wet.
Look out for water rails, cetti’s warblers, and bitterns amongst the reed beds. It’s also a good vantage point from which to see starling murmurations, and if flying mammals are more your thing, then the old sewage pump house has been converted into a roost for bats.
Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve
Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve is an area of grassland, sand dunes, and mudflats across the mouth of the Exe Estuary. It is one of the most important roosting sties for migratory wildfowl and wading birds in the southwest of England and thousands of birds arrive each autumn and winter from the far north of Europe. In the hours before and after high tide vast flocks of dunlins, grey plovers, black-tailed godwits, and oystercatchers gather on the shores, and brent geese, wigeons, and teal can be seen on the inshore waters.
During breeding season skylarks and linnets can be found nesting on the dunes, and short-eared owls, reed buntings, and cirl buntings are common sights over the summer. A number of rare vagrants occasionally turn up at Dawlish Warren too, including the elegant tern, lesser crested tern, greater sand plover, and great spotted cuckoo.