Starts/Finishes: Aylesbeare Common Car Park (GR: SY056897)
Distance: 2 miles
Time: 1 hour
Terrain: Bridleways and muddy singletrack
Parking: Free parking available
Aylesbeare Common Circular Walk
The peaceful heathland of the RSPB Nature Reserve, Aylesbeare Common, is a wonderful place for wildlife and walking, providing a place of escape, discovery and activity.
Part of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, this area faces a number of threads and so is heavily managed by the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust in order to maximise their wildlife value and for the benefit of the visiting public.
This area is also home to a rich diversity of habitats, including grazing ponies and many protected bird species such as the Dartford Warbler, the Nightjar (which you can spot at dusk during summer) and the Tree Pipit. Spring sees the influx of a variety of warblers and you’ll enjoy walking around the reserve listening to the sound of singing yellowhammers as you go.
Extraordinarily, Aylesbeare Common was used as a decoy landing strip during World War II, lit up through the nights to throw off the scent of bombing enemy aircraft and confuse them into thinking it was Exeter Airport!
From the car park (just past the Halfway Inn), (1) head back out towards the main road (A3052) from which you entered and cross over onto the tarmac lane. Please take extreme caution when crossing this road!
Follow the tarmac lane as it curves to the right and then more gently to the left, keeping your eyes peeled for a forking gravel track on your left. (2) Take this route and follow it until you reach an area of woodland. (3) Turn left and follow the track until you reach a 90 degree right-hand bend.
(4) On this bend, take the narrow walking track between two tranquil ponds. Meander through here and then continue as the path widens going steadily uphill.
(5) At the junction, take the optional there and back route by turning right to visit more larger ponds teeming with wildlife.
Otherwise go straight ahead (or turn right at this point if returning from the detour) to follow the path through more woodland (6) and wiggling its way along the higher part of the heathland until you return back to the main road.
Still feeling energetic? The common land on the car park side of the A3052 is known as Hawkerland Common and offers more heathland exploration with the added bonus of reintroduced cattle who now graze here in the summer.
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This manageable there and back route offers easy walking and wheeling along the eastern side of the reservoir and to the dams, plus additional access to the wildlife trail in the Burrator Arboretum