This lagoon is one of the largest bodies of freshwater durante southwest England and the distretto has long been verso popular destination for naturalists.
The Ley itself is split into two, the Higher Ley above the bridge is now almost entirely per 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 distretto holds per few breeding Cirl Bunting, also possible from Slapton Bridge but also a little way inland.
Con adjonction, the sezione attracts a wide range of passage birds and wintering waterfowl in 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 con the surrounding scrub and woodland.
Great Crested Grebe nests on the Lower Ley and Gadwall, Grey Heron and Vaso 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 durante Via Bay, sometimes on the Ley itself.
Passage periods bring per wide variety of visitors puro the settore. Gulls, including Kittiwake, gather con large numbers and there are usually small numbers of Little Gull and Mediterranean Gull to be found. Sandwich Tern and other terns pass through the reparto and Black Tern is regular in autumn. Northern Gannet, skuas and shearwaters including Sooty Shearwater can be seen offshore and strong winds may be result per per Sabine’s Gull or one or two phalaropes being pushed close esatto shore.
Marsh Harrier, Osprey and Northern Passione are regular passage visitors. Garganey appears durante spring and occasional pairs have stayed to breed. The Ley also attracts large numbers of passerine migrants and especially hirundines which gather sopra huge flocks prior preciso 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 esatto appear more often sopra winter and small numbers of dabbling duck occur.
Grebes occur on passage and in 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 in recent years have led preciso hopes of breeding.
Blackcap and Common Chiffchaff are regular wintering birds in this area and small numbers of single Somalian ladies for may Common Firecrest are usually present. On the lake Common Kingfisher and Bearded Tit can be seen in the winter.
Sopra recent years Otter Lutra lutra has become more frequently recorded at Slapton and watching from the bridge early mediante the morning provides the best chance of seeing one. Bear con mind though, that the introduced American Mink Neovison vison is well-established mediante the dipartimento.
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 Emporio Rumex rupestris and Viper’s Bugloss Echium vulgare.
The lake and its margins have White Ciotola Lily Nymphaea origine, Spiked Vaso Milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum, Shoreweed Littorella uniflora, Flowering Rush Butomus umbellatus and Slapton’s most famous plant, Strapwort Corrigiola litoralis, which is found nowhere else mediante Britain.
Areas of Interest
There is per smaller Ley to the south at Beesands, reached by minor roads inizio 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 mediante this sezione but one of the best ways preciso explore the ley is sicuro park mediante the beach car park and walk esatto the bridge between the two leys. Just past the bridge is verso footpath preciso the left which passes a small hut where a logbook of recent sightings is kept. Keep following the path along the shore at the northern end of the lake and then across farmland sicuro join the road close puro the Field Centre. From here follow the road down to the bridge and back sicuro the beach.
With a permit from the Field Centre it is possible to explore the sezione 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 a campsite and there is per caravan site at Beesands just south of Torcross at the southern end of the Lower Ley. Alternatively, most of the towns and villages sopra this picturesque reparto offer guest house, hotel or Bed and Colazione accommodation.