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17 September 2014
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Freshwater - Slapton Ley

Slapton Ley c/o Natural England and Peter Wakeley

Slapton Ley in Devon is the largest natural lake in south west Britain. It was formed over 3,000 years ago when this shingle ridge or bar created a natural dam across a river estuary.

Wonderful wildlife habitats at Slapton.
Photo - Natural England/Peter Wakeley

This nationally important feature is gradually being eaten away by the advancing sea.

In 1959 a field studies centre was created at Slapton to monitor this unusual freshwater phenomenon.

As a result it's believed more research has been carried out here than at any other National Nature Reserve.

Mysterious water beast

The National Nature Reserve at Slapton Ley is home to one of our most mysterious watery beasts - the Eel.

During the autumn Eels start to migrate back to the sea to breed so keep an eye out for them in the water and on land.

The Eels look very different looking eels depending on their age, even though they belong to the same species.

Yellow Eels are residents who is not old enough to breed yet, whilst silver Eels are more mature - they turn this colour when they are ready to mate and then migrate back to their breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea.

The Rivers Trust monitors the eel population, its numbers, and movements.

Wild walks

Slapton Ley c/o Natural England and Peter WakeleyOne of the great things about Slapton is its circular nature trail walk.

Look out for Butcher's Broom, a peculiar plant which looks a little like holly, with its spiky evergreen leaves and red berries.

In fact this is a member of the Lily family and it's an indicator of ancient woodland, only found in the south of England.

Its name is derived from the fact that butchers used to tie together sprigs of its bristly branches and use it to sweep up their shops - like a broom.

As evening approaches Slapton Ley boasts a top wildlife experience - a Starling roost.

The birds turn up in huge flocks and watching them swooping around the early evening skies can be truly spectacular.

Badger safari

BadgerBadgers aren't something you might associate with freshwater areas but Slapton Ley provides a great habitat for them.

Some of the Badger sets are located just yards away from the reed beds.

Although it's quite unusual being so close to the water, it is believed that the Badgers struggle to find their natural food of worms during the long hot summers when the ground is hard.

It's easier to wander out into the wet reed bed and feast on a whole host of creepy crawlies that survive in the moist reed beds.

Photo credits

Starling image copyright and courtesy of RSPB Images and David Kjaer.

Slapton Ley images courtesy of Natural England and Peter Wakeley.



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