Dawlish Warren is a beautiful part of the Devon coast, and an internationally important site for wildlife.
The Warren is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a National Nature Reserve (NNR) and forms part of the Exe Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site. It includes the main roosting area for the estuary’s birds and has over 600 types of British wild plant.
A variety of water activities take place around the Exe Estuary. Without great care some activities can disturb wildlife.
Dawlish Warren is important for birds all year round as a feeding, resting and breeding area. In winter thousands of birds escape the cold of the arctic to spend winter on the Exe. In spring and autumn the Warren is a vital resting area for birds travelling between Africa and the Arctic Circle. Birds also use the beach for nesting in the summer.
Why is it important to prevent bird disturbance?
Disturbance is any activity or noise that could change behaviours of an animal. When birds are disturbed they are prevented from resting and eating, which means they can have to use lots of scarce energy. It can be a matter of life and death for the birds who may already be exhausted from flying 3,000 miles or more.
Visitors are welcome at the Warren, but all users are asked to avoid the most important areas for birds. Please keep a distance of 100m from birds, especially during winter.
Identified by their black mask and necklace.
The primary feeding ground for wintering wildfowl on the estuary.
A legally protected reptile that thrives on sand dunes.
Can be identified by their round chestnut head and small bill.
Avoid disturbing wildlife and ensure any dogs are kept on leads (dogs are not allowed anywhere on the Warren mudflats).
How you can help
To make sure the site can be enjoyed by future generations please:
- follow this code and observe Nature Reserve byelaws and signage
- talk to the Rangers when you visit – they can help you make the most out of your trip
- use dog friendly ares: dogs are welcome on the beach between groyne 3 and 9 all year round, but restrictions are in place in other areas
- always keep pets under effective control
- always bag and bin your dog’s poo – it can affect water quality and is not pleasant for other visitors. Any bin will do!
- keep noise to a minimum
- use dedicated access points and keep to paths – please do not climb fences
- leave driftwood on the beach – it is a protected habitat in it’s own right
- don’t light fires or barbecues anywhere on site, fire is a great danger to people and wildlife
- only use the designated landing area on Warren Point, from 1 April – 4 September, no launching or landing elsewhere
- fish wisely: avoid waste, return unwanted fish and don’t discard tackle. Observe local regulations, such as minimum landing sizes (more information available from Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority)
Please be aware that it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb the wildlife in an SSSI or to damage or disturb land known to be an SSSI. It is also an offence to take down, damage or obstruct an SSSI notice or sign.
Safety at The Warren
Don’t put yourself or others at risk, be aware of the dangers from rising tides, soft mud and strong currents. Do not swim or use inflatables anywhere beyond groyne 3 – the current here is very fast and there are water craft.
In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard
Dawlish Warren Wildlife Refuge
Dawlish Warren has been identified as one of two areas on the estuary that are particularly vital for protected birds. These voluntary areas are known as Wildlife Refuges. During winter, thousands of birds rest and feed on the mudflats and eelgrass beds of the Warren, during their long migratory journeys.
- All users are asked to avoid the Wildlife Refuges where safe to do so, all year round at all tidal states, due to it’s importance as a high tide resting area
- For shore activities, such as angling and bait digging, please stay north of Cockwood Steps and the southern tip of the wreck
- A limited number of crab tilers are permitted to carry out their activity within part of the Wildlife Refuge, in adherence to the D&SIFCA byelaw and Bait Collector’s Code of Conduct
- Eales Dock are permitted to have continued access via Shutterton Creek by agreement
- Please note that there is a byelaw in place for statutory exclusion of dog walkers on the mudflats of the Nature Reserve.
- All visitors are asked to avoid the beach past groyne 9 for approximately three hours either side of high tide on certain days during September to March (check on site signage). In summer, from 1 April to 31 August, this area can be fished at any time
- All craft are asked to try to avoid navigating close to Warren Point around high tide period (approximately three hours either side of high tide) all year round, except where safety may be affected. (The recommended distance for craft is around 100m from the high tide line)
Where to walk your dog at Dawlish Warren
Signs will show you where dogs can walk. There are also groynes (wooden structures) along the beach that will help mark out different areas. Please note that these areas are in place through local byelaws, so penalties can be given out to owners who do not observe them.
Other dog friendly areas
The park is a 65 acre public open space with wild countryside walks. Opened in 2017 this offers an excellent exercise area for dogs off-lead, and a free car park on site. The park can be found on the outskirts of Dawlish near EX7 0PA.
A fantastic scenic route around the entire Exe Estuary for a range of users. Always keep dogs under effective control on a short lead and consider those who are wary or nervous around dogs. Remember to ‘Share this Space‘ by being considerate of other users of the trail.
Join Devon Love Dogs!
It’s free to join and as a member you’ll receive a free welcome pack and be the first to hear about events for you and your dog.
Contact details for further information
The Nature Reserve is jointly owned by Teignbridge District Council and Devon Wildlife Trust. Teignbridge Rangers manage the Reserve on a day to day basis.
Dawlish Warren Visitor Centre:
Exe Estuary Management Partnership
Exe Estuary Officer: Phone 01392 382236
Coastguard: call 999 or VHF Ch 16
Harbour Authority (River and Canal Office)