East-the-Water Wildflower Walk

Warning - Important 2023 Update -

The upper Manteo Way section of this walk has been seriously impacted by new development. There have also been signs that post-Covid verge maintenance regimes and the unusually dry conditions have not necessarily been sympathetic with the successful establishment of these verges as wildlife sites. It is hoped to assess the sites later this year to understand their current state somewhat better. The original details presented below have been retained as a record of what was achieved in 2020.

Green leaves of young wildflowers Verge full of colourful annual arable weeds, making a splash of yellow, purple, white and blue

Enhancing our community with wildflowers

In 2020, within the umbrella of the Tarka Country Trust's Life on the Verge- Biosphere project, East-the-Water in Bloom began an ambitious project to create a wildflower-enriched route through the heart of the community. The project is still in its infancy, but management has already begun on eight areas of verge, and it is hoped to eventually include more. A range of different management approaches are being trialed. Often this means cutting the verge less frequently, so that the attractive wild-flowers have a chance to grow. As many will not flower for a year or two, it may take a while for their effect to become apparent. But, in time, all these sites could, with appropriate care, become places where natural beauty can be freely enjoyed by people as they pass.

Since the 1930s, 97 percent of wildflower meadows have been lost through change of land use. But, by re-creating meadow-like conditions on our verges, communities can help to preserve this valuable resource for our children and grandchildren. It is not just about flowers, if you increase the range of wildflowers present in an area, then a wider range of wildlife will begin to make use of it. That means more bees, more butterflies, more mini-beasts in general, so more to pollinate our crops and more predators to keep pest species at bay. A survey of the managed areas, carried out in June-July 2021, found over a hundred and sixty different trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and ferns were already growing in them. So why not look a bit harder and see what you can find?

Where are the verges

Map showing the layout of the wildflower walk The base map is OpenStreetMap contributors (2021), used under their licensing terms and ShareAlike CC BY-SA 2.0.

1. The Pollyfield entrance

Pink flower with narrow petals Post with a sign on it against a background of grass

This area of ground shows what happens if an area is cut fairly frequently, but the plants already present there are allowed to develop.

What to look out for:

  • The large purple flowers of Common Mallow in summer
  • Bees visiting the White Clover
  • The large leaves of Broad-leaved Dock

2. 3. & 4. Torrington Lane

Rounds heads made up of dozens of pinkish flowers Three yellow flowers clustered in a head

The verges here were all relatively species-poor amenity grass. The three planted sections are being managed differently, to see what difference that makes. The lowest has been cleared and re-sown. Others have had seed introduced to the existing grass.

What to look out for:

  • Bright yellow patches of Kidney Vetch and Bird's-foot Trefoil
  • The wiry Hedge Mustard, with its tiny yellow flowers
  • The delicate pink flowers of Alsike Clover

5. Chubb Road

Yellow daisy-like flower with three small flies visiting it A seed head, composed of many tiny spikelets on delicate stems

Much of this verge is shaded by a large Cherry-tree, cutting has been reduced and some bulbs have been introduced.

What to look out for:

  • The nodding purple flowers of the Snake's-head Fritillary in spring
  • The yellow daisy-like flowers of Cat's-ear

6. The upper end of Manteo Way

Pink and white composite flowers, with and elongate bright-green beetle Black moth, with red spots, resting on a purple thistle-like flower

This verge provides an existing mix of open and more scrubby areas that are great for foraging birds and insects, especially butterflies. Well developed ant-hills are a sign of a mature community.

What to look out for:

  • The showy white Ox-eye Daisy in late spring
  • Blackberry bushes covered in bloom in the summer
  • The purple flowers of Hybrid Knapweed

7. The Lower end of Manteo Way

Clusters of tiny white flowers in an umbel A delicate blue flower, with its tracery of darker blue veins

Thanks to a pattern of irregular cutting down the years, this was already one of East-the-Water's richer wildlife sites. Selected planting, and more meadow-like management of sections aims to preserve the existing diversity (by allowing plants to seed), whilst promoting a colourful show. What can be seen depends very much on when the verge is cut in a given year.

What to look out for:

  • The yellow 'daisy' flowers of Beaked Hawk's-beard, Cat's-ear and Dandelion
  • The delicate white flowers of the parsley family of plants (some poisonous), Cow Parsley, Rough Chervil, Stone Parsley, Corky-fruited Water-dropwort and Upright Hedge Parsley
  • The delicate blue flowers of Pale Flax

8. West end of the Old Barnstaple Road

Close up of two yellow flowers one with a green fly Two bright pink flowers

On this verge wildlife-poor ground-covering shrubs have been removed and the area has been re-sown with a mix of wildflower seeds. These include many colourful annuals, that once grew among crops. Such flowers struggle to find a place on many modern farms, but are popular for wildlife gardening. They flourish on disturbed soil, where they have no competition from established plants.

What to look out for:

  • The white and yellow daisy-flowers of Corn Chamomile
  • The vivid pink Corncockle
  • The buttery-yellow Corn Marigold
  • The bright blue Cornflower and Borage

Pretty interesting none-the-less

Colourful butterfly, basking on a wall Rosette of broad green leaves with toothed bases. Creamy-white, rather tatty looking umbel

Not every wildflower on the walk is interesting just because it is pretty. For example:

  • Common Nettle is the food-plant of the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (like the one shown above, which visited the Pollyfield verge)
  • Greater, or Broad-leaved, Plantain is often trodden under foot without a second thought (especially as it survives in trampled places where little else can). Yet the type with toothed leaves (Subspecies intermedia) that grows on one verge, is something of a rarity in Devon.
  • Corky-fruited Water-dropwort is quite common in some areas of South Devon, but here in the north there are very few places where you can see it.