Heath Week returns for celebration of East Devon’s new National Nature Reserve

A hugely popular activities week celebrating the wildlife, history and landscape of East Devon’s new National Nature Reserve, is to go ahead this month.

The annual East Devon Heath Week had to be cancelled last year due to the pandemic, but it’s now set to take place on the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths from Sunday 25th July until Saturday 31st July.

Heath Week is led by the organisations that take care of the site and welcome visitors to enjoy, understand and respect countryside areas; Clinton Devon Estates, the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust, RSPB South West and East Devon District Council (Wild East Devon).

The Pebblebed Heaths is one of Europe’s rarest habitats and visitors can join self-led and bookable events throughout the week. They include walks, talks, a nightjar safari, pond dipping, family creative writing sessions, a ‘waggy walk’ for dogs, book trail and ‘twilight zone’ storytelling sessions.

Many activities are free or by donation, and for some events there will be a small cost. Some will be spread over a longer period to ensure this shared space is safe and enjoyable for everyone. There will also be several online events so people can get involved safely from anywhere. Events involving larger crowds won’t be going ahead.

Kate Ponting, Countryside Learning Officer at Clinton Devon Estates, said:
“The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust always looks forward to delivering Heath Week and it was such a shame not to be able to hold it last year. However, we are thrilled to be able to go ahead with this month’s event, especially in the year we celebrate the heathland being declared a National Nature Reserve and all this means for wildlife and people.

“As people might expect, this year things are going to be a little different. We have a longer timeframe for everyone to get involved so we can keep everyone safe, while also spreading the impact of visitors to the site over a longer period. It’s hoped people will enjoy exploring this expanse of open space while learning more about its wildlife, heathland management and how we can all help to protect these special places.”

Will Jones, Engagement and Participation Officer at Wild East Devon, said:
“Heath Week is always a fantastic celebration of the beautiful heaths found in East Devon. Even in these challenging times this year’s programme caters for all ages and interests and encourages everyone to get out into this uniquely wild part of East Devon and whether you enjoy wildlife, history or getting active in the outdoors there is something for everyone!

“The large-scale events such as the Festival Day and the Bystock Discovery Day will be back next year but there are still plenty of opportunities to get out into this amazing landscape to enjoy being active and to learn more about what makes it so special”.

Jon Pike, RSPB Visitor Operations Manager for East Devon, said:
“The RSPB team are really proud to be a part of Heath Week 2021 to showcase the Heaths’ special wildlife at home at RSPB Aylesbeare and Venn Ottery Common.

“Come and join the RSPB or our heathland partners for pond-dipping, nightjar hunts and walks for all ages. Our Aylesbeare site manager Toby Taylor and Aggregate Industries will also be jointly hosting tours of Blackhill Quarry on a tractor trailer, looking at how it is being restored to a natural habitat. Do book early though as event numbers may be smaller. This means the 2021 events will be more intimate, but the heaths are no less beautiful.”

Zoe Hughes, Digital Communications Officer at Devon Wildlife Trust, said:
“Heath Week is a fantastic opportunity for people to experience wildlife first-hand, have fun and learn more about heathland and other habitats. 

“Devon Wildlife Trust, along with all those who manage countryside areas, are keen to remind visitors to the Pebblebed Heaths National Nature Reserve to follow the Countryside Code. We ask everyone to #RespectProtectEnjoy our reserves, never light BBQs or bonfires and to take all litter home.”

Pre-booking is required for many of the Heath Week events. For full details visit: https://www.pebblebedheaths.org.uk/ and check the event calendar. You can also follow the week’s action at www.facebook.com/heathweek.