The Natural History of East-the-Water

The Torridge shore around East-the-Water is one of its more ecologically diverse stretches. Continually vulnerable to further development, many of its biodiversity hotspots are on derelict property, popular pathways, or marginal land. As yet, the expansion of Bidefordís population has managed to leave many of them intact, though the pressures are always there.

Flower covered bank beside a cycle-path The verges of the Tarka Trail host a rich flora, for it is a very varied habitat, with well drained verges, sections of sea wall, patches of woodland, cuttings, and an old quarry. Wild Madder trails through the scrub and Ox-eye Daisy makes a show, other species are  occasional, e.g. Ploughmanís Spikenard and Wild Pea, or even scarce, such as Sweet Galingale. Current cutting regimes may mean some species, such as Greater Knapweed, will decline.
Wildflowers along a verge The value of roadsides is heavily influenced by mowing regimes and herbicide use. Never-the-less, on the northern edge of the community, species such as Birdsfoot Trefoil, Pale Flax, Rat's-tail Fescue, Knotted Hedge-parsley, and Yellow Stonecrop are to be found. In some areas less usual species cling on, for example, just north of Brunswick Wharf there is Fern Grass and Eastern Rocket. Other local pavement lovers include Field Madder and Water Bent.
Pink thrift aththe bottom of a low cliff
The shore to the north of the town, from Manteo Way to Westleigh, boasts varied habitats and a diverse flora. From Saltmarsh near Manteo Way, with stands of Sea Couch and patches of English Scurvy-grass, to low cliffs near Mount Pleasant, with Thrift and Sea Beet. North of these is found shingle hosting Rock Sea Lavender, Long-bracted Sedge and a variety of Hard Grass, and, in fields reverting to saltmarsh, Reflexed Saltmarsh-grass.
Bideford town viewed across an expanse of saltmarsh
To the south of the town there are some of North Devon's most extensive areas of saltmarsh, though this is somewhat estuarine in character. The shore at Kynochs, with its extensive marsh and reedbeds is being developed as a nature reserve. Derelict land behind the Kynochs shore adds to the biological diversity of the area and provides a local home for the likes of Teasle and Small-flowered Buttercup.
Gravestones with ox-eye daisys
Within the village, East-the-Water's old graveyard (which has restricted opening times) can provide good shows of more common species. The fields around the Pollyfield Centre once yielded an interesting flora, with species such as Birdsfoot, Upright Chickweed, and Round-headed Clover, though much of the interest has probably now been lost to recent development.  Slow Worms have been found in Barton Tors and are said to be frequent there.
Flooded low fields with view to distant hills
On the communityís NE outskirts, the rough grazing fields beside Manteo Way attracts over-wintering birds such Meadow Pipits and seem to be attractive feeding areas for owls. Beyond them, Southcott Marsh can be alive with migrants in the spring, with hirundines feeding over the grassland and waders attracted to transitory pools. Rarities such as Little Ringed Plover have visited. Ravens and Buzzards both forage over the area.
View over an area of rough ground with a stream and a large area of exposed mud
The lower section of Manteo Way runs past a nature reserve (access is by permit) with rough ground and a large tidal pool. The pool, though it often attracts Little Egret and Shelduck, never seems to attract large numbers of migrants, but has had overwintering Greenshank. There is also, from 2019, evidence of Otters using the area.
Flocks of starlings in flight seen against the backdrop of East-the-Water
In mid-winter starlings roost under the Long Bridge and their dusk-time murmurations can be a memorable sight, though, sadly, their current numbers are much reduced from their former thousands. There are also often gull roosts on the Torridge which can contain the occasional rarity. The commoner overwintering waders, such as Redshank and Curlew, feed all along the Torridge shore, with the saltmarsh north of Ethylwyn Brown Close particularly attractive to them as the tide rises.
Single Pied Wagtail perched on a fence
The Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme reedbed on Watkins Way has, in several winters, seen a large roost of Pied Wagtails and has sometimes proved attractive to migrating hirundines. Palmate Newts and Grass Snakes also find it attractive. Flocks of Goldfinch frequent suburban feeders whilst mixed flocks make use of the green causeways through the community provided by the Old Barnstaple Road and the stream that crosses Mines Road.

There are a number of other nature reserves within a reasonable distance of Bideford, making it possible to see quite an impressive list of wildlife through short excursions from the town. The most significant has to be the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, whose proximity gives this area an internationally significant role in wildlife conservation. East-the-Water lies within the reserveís transition zone, but close enough to its core to abut the buffer zone. The tidal Torridge is, in this area, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Over the seven years to 2019 (inclusive) local botanists have drawn up this List of the Flora of East-the-Water.