Coast and Country
The sun goes down at Slapton Ley
Slapton Ley - a wildlife wonder
The wildlife haven at Slapton Ley is a unique place and home to hundreds of important species - but it's under threat from the advancing sea.
Slapton Ley in South Devon is the largest natural freshwater lake in the South West of England.
The 1.5 mile lake is within a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the habitat and the rare species which thrive in the unique conditions.
Birds, fish, dormice, badgers and otters, as well as rare flora can be found at the wildlife haven.
Among the real gems here is the largest population in England of Cetti's Warbler - which is on the RSPB's 'amber list' - and Britain's last remaining example of the vascular plant strapwort.
The beach which is protecting the Ley from the sea
The 200 hectare nature reserve is an amazing place. But there's a warning that we need to make the most of it now, because it could be lost to the forces of nature before too long.
The Ley (there are actually two, a Lower Ley and a Higher Ley) is only separated from the sea at Start Bay by a narrow shingle ridge, and that's being gradually eaten away by the advancing sea.
Already, the A379 road between the Ley and the sea has been damaged and rebuilt, but it could be that nature will take its course and the road will be lost.
If that happens, the Ley will be next in the firing line.
The dredging of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of shingle from the Bay to build Devonport docks didn't help. It has already been blamed for the loss of Hallsands, the fishing village down the coast, which slipped into the sea in 1917.
To look at how Slapton Ley came about, you have to go all the way back to 10,000BC, when shingle was carried inland by the rising sea.
This shingle bar is known as Slapton Sands.The lagoon conditions began at around 5000BC and the freshwater lake was formed thousands of years ago.
The Ley is home to an array of important wildlife
So what can you find at Slapton Ley? Well, the wetland reed beds and surrounding woods are great for birds such as ducks, grebes, osprey, bittern, warblers, buntings, swans, moorhens, marsh harriers, purple heron, starlings and swallows - to name but a few.
The shingle ridge also attracts whitethroats and stonechats, and barn owls can also be seen here.
There are 2,000 species of fungi, 29 of which have been described as new to science.
And there are 450 types of flower. The mix of flora includes grassland, reed, fen, marsh, wild camomile, yellow iris, yellow horned poppy, and orchids.
The nature reserve is owned by the Whitley Wildlife Trust - which also owns Paignton Zoo - and is managed by the Field Studies Council.
The FSC has 'outdoor classrooms' for schools and colleges, and there are also residential and day courses for people wanting to lean more about the geology and wildlife of the nature reserve.
You can find out more about the Ley and the surrounding area by visiting the websites which are linked from this page.
last updated: 04/02/2008 at 16:39