As dog owners and walkers in South East Devon we are lucky to have a whole range of different landscapes right on our doorsteps for us to enjoy.

Whether your dog loves to dig holes in the sand, fetch sticks in the woods or sniff and swim there really is something for everyone. But whilst all this fun and excitement is taking place a huge variety of rare and protected wildlife lives, rests and feeds on our precious coast and countryside. Here you can find out more about these special places.

Exe Estuary

Dawlish Warren

Dawlish Warren is a really unusual and special place! Every year thousands of tourists visit Dawlish Warren to enjoy a traditional seaside holiday. But did you know that during the autumn and winter this same place provides the main roosting site for thousands of wading birds and wildfowl that have migrated here from as far away as Siberia! This explains why there are restrictions in place for dog walking and other activities as we try and ensure that people can enjoy this amazing Nature Reserve without harming the wildlife that depends on it for survival. As well being known for this annual spectacle of migrating birds you will also see rare examples of dune grassland, meadows, copses, reedbeds, ponds and saltmarsh. It's also home to the tiny, rare 'Petalwort' flower that grows there. 

The Warren was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 1978 and was then designated a National Nature Reserve in 2000. It has been an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) since 1981, and is also a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation (since 2005). Wow - I did say it was special!

To help protect the wildlife there are restrictions to walking your dog at Dawlish Warren:

All year round

Dogs are not permitted anywhere east of Groyne 9, including the beach, dunes, and mudflats.

Dogs are welcome on short leads in the dunes and from the car park up to Groyne 9.

Dogs are welcome off lead on the beach between Groyne 3 and Groyne 9.

Between 1 April – 30 September

No dogs between Groyne 1 and Groyne 3

Between 1 October and 31 March

Dogs are welcome off lead on the whole beach up to Groyne 9.

The site is jointly owned and managed by Teignbridge District Council and Devon Wildlife Trust who work with Natural England to ensure that the whole site is managed for the benefit of the very special wildlife that lives here.

We understand that it can feel difficult to walk your dog at Dawlish Warren at certain times of the year. If you're looking for somewhere nearby free from restrictions with lots of space for your dog to explore then check out Dawlish Countryside Park instead. 



The Exe Estuary

At low tide when the vast mudflats are exposed, an abundance of invertebrate species make the estuary as rich in biodiversity as a tropical rainforest! In autumn and winter, the estuary is home to thousands of water birds feeding and roosting at Dawlish WarrenExminster MarshesBowling Green Marsh and Exmouth Local Nature Reserve.

To find out more about the array of wildlife that can be seen on the Exe download the “Exe Wildlife” leaflet.



The estuary is also a popular place for dog walking, water sports, sailing, bait collecting, birding and fishing. It’s vital that we strike a balance between these different demands on the estuary, the increasing local population and visitors, to protect it for future generations. To do this, two wildlife refuges have been put in place to protect wildlife in the most crucial areas. Dog walkers and all other users are asked to avoid the wildlife refuges, which are identified with yellow special mark and marker buoys, with “WR” in black lettering.

Off Exmouth: the refuge protects key feeding areas for a short time during low season, from 15 September until 31 December at all tidal states. This includes the foreshore, so dog walkers should avoid the area near the duck pond. All access to the foreshore should be via the slipway, turn left at the end of the slipway, to avoid the refuge. Off Dawlish Warren: the refuge protects the estuary’s key feeding and resting areas all year round at all tidal states. No dogs are permitted near this part of the Warren, all year round.

The whole of the Exe Estuary is internationally important for wildlife and has several designations, including ‘Special Protection Area’ and ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ as well as being a ‘Ramsar site’ showing its global importance as a wetland.

The Exe Estuary is owned and managed by a large number of local authorities and organisations which all come together to form the Exe Estuary Management Partnership . These include Teignbridge and East Devon District CouncilsExeter City CouncilDevon County CouncilExmouth and Dawlish Town Councils, Starcross and Woodbury Parish Councils, Lympstone Fishery and Harbour Associationthe RSPBNatural EnglandEnvironment AgencyDevon and Severn IFCADevon Wildlife TrustRYA and Powderham Estate.



East Devon Pebblebed Heaths

The East Devon’s Pebblebed Heaths is made up of a number of different commons. These are known locally as Woodbury, Bicton, East Budleigh, Colaton Raleigh, Hawkerland, Aylesbeare, Harpford and Mutters Moor. This totals over 1400 hectares of lowland heath, the biggest single expanse of this type of habitat in Devon and one of the most important conservation sites in Europe! As well as being a spectacular area of wilderness for us to explore, heathlands have high wildlife value and support lots of species that are rarely found elsewhere. 

The Pebblebed Heaths support over 3000 species, with dartford warbler, nightjar, curlew and stonechat being key bird species. The heaths also support important insects such as the southern damselfly and silver studded blue butterfly and reptiles such as adder, grass snake and common lizard.

You can download more information on the wildlife on the Heaths and information on walking your dog.

The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths are designated as a Special Site for Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area (SPA).


Pebblebed dog codeA large proportion of the site is owned by Clinton Devon Estates and managed by the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust and the RSPB. Devon Wildlife Trust also own and manage two reserves. Natural England provides guidance on the management and protection of the site.

Click on the image to the right to read more about the Pebblebed Dog code.