This lagoon is one of the largest bodies of freshwater in southwest England and the area has long been a popular destination for naturalists.
The Ley itself is split into two, the Higher Ley above the bridge is now almost entirely verso reedbed with encroaching willow scrub while the Lower Ley is open water fringed by reeds.
The leys are separated from the sea of Start Bay by a narrow shingle ridge along which runs the A379 and the landward side of this has dense bramble and blackthorn scrub.
The leys have important populations of breeding birds including Cetti’s Warbler and this is one of the national strongholds of this species. The dipartimento holds a few breeding Cirl Bunting, also possible from Slapton Bridge but also verso little way inland.
Mediante addenda, the sezione attracts verso wide range of passage birds and wintering waterfowl durante some numbers. More than 230 species have been recorded.
As well as Cetti’s Warbler the reedbeds have good populations of Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler, and Grasshopper Warbler, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff and other warblers breed mediante the surrounding scrub and woodland.
Great Crested Grebe nests on the Lower Ley and Gadwall, Grey Heron and Scodella Rail can be seen all year.
Common Buzzard, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl and Barn Owl are resident con the Slapton dipartimento and can be seen around the Ley.
The cliffs nearby have breeding Northern Fulmar, Shag, Great Cormorant and Great Black-backed Gull and these species can often be seen sopra Start Bay, sometimes on the Ley itself.
Passage periods bring a wide variety of visitors preciso the area. Gulls, including Kittiwake, gather con large numbers and there are usually small numbers of Little Gull and Mediterranean Gull onesto be found. Toast Tern and other terns pass through the sezione and Black Tern is regular con autumn. Northern Gannet, skuas and shearwaters including Sooty Shearwater can be seen offshore and strong winds may be result durante verso Sabine’s Gull or one or two phalaropes being pushed close puro shore.
Marsh Harrier, Osprey and Northern Piacere are regular passage visitors. Garganey appears per spring and occasional pairs have stayed preciso breed. The Ley also attracts large numbers of passerine migrants and especially hirundines which gather in huge flocks prior esatto migration.
Winter sees the arrival of ducks, particularly Tufted Duck and Common Pochard but also Common Goldeneye, one or two Long-tailed Duck often visit the lake and various seaducks appear offshore. Ruddy Duck has begun puro appear more often durante winter and small numbers of dabbling duck occur.
Grebes occur on passage and durante winter and can include Slavonian Grebe and Black-necked Grebe and divers of all three species are regular offshore, sometimes occurring on the lake after storms. One or two Bittern turn up most winters and extended spring stays sopra recent years have led puro hopes of breeding.
Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff are regular wintering birds in this area and small numbers of Common Firecrest are usually present. On the lake Common Kingfisher and Bearded Tit can be seen con the winter.
In recent years Otter Lutra lutra has become more frequently recorded at Slapton and watching from the bridge early in the morning provides the best chance of seeing one. Bear con mind though, that the introduced American Mink Neovison vison is well-established per the settore.
The insects of Slapton Ley have been well-studied and dragonflies and damselflies are particularly well-represented. Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta and Hairy Dragonfly Brachytryon pratense can be found as well as Downy Emerald Cordulia aenea and Southern Damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale. Jersey Tiger Moth is another local speciality.
Botanists can find much of interest on the shingle ridge between the sea and the freshwater with species such as Sea Radish Raphanus raphanistrum maritimus, Ray’s Knotgrass Polygonum oxyspermum, Yellow Horned Poppy Glaucium flavum, Shore Magazzino Rumex rupestris and Viper’s Bugloss Echium vulgare.
The lake and its margins have White Tazza Lily Nymphaea nascita, Spiked Tazza Milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum, Shoreweed Littorella uniflora, Flowering Rush Butomus umbellatus and Slapton’s most famous plant, Strapwort Corrigiola litoralis, which is found nowhere else in Britain.
Areas of Interest
There is verso smaller Ley esatto the south at Beesands, reached by minor roads coraggio Stokenham, which is often worth viewing but more importantly, the small valley here may still hold Cirl Bunting, now one of Britain’s most threatened breeding birds.
Access and Facilities
There are several excellent spots in this dipartimento but one of the best ways esatto explore the ley is esatto park con the beach car park and walk to the bridge between the two leys. Just past the bridge is a footpath esatto the left which passes a small hut where per logbook of recent sightings is kept. Keep following the path along the shore at the northern end of the lake and then across farmland preciso join the road close sicuro the Field Centre. From here follow the road down puro the bridge and back to the beach.
With verso permit from the Field Centre it is possible esatto explore the dipartimento more fully, notably along the back of both the Higher and Lower Leys and adjoining woodlands. There are hides at the southern end of the Lower Ley, one at Torcross and another on the opposite bank reached from the A379.
Slapton village has verso campsite and there is a carrozzone site at Beesands just south of Torcross at the southern end of the Lower Ley. Alternatively, most of the towns and villages in this picturesque area offer guest house, albergo or Bed and Breakfast accommodation.