Little Dartmouth


Slapton Sands

Grey Seal off Start Point

What Makes South Devon Special

What makes South Devon Special?

In order for us to value and care for the South Devon AONB, we need to understand what is important about it - What makes it special. This campaign, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, runs from April to October 2018. During the project we are working with a wide range of people from our communities, discovering more about the AONB and looking closely at the distinctive character of the natural heritage that makes up this nationally important landscape.

AONBs are particularly special landscapes whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the nation’s interest to safeguard them. The primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area.

The special qualities of South Devon AONB define and describe this natural beauty and are what makes the area unique or particularly distinctive. Together, the special qualities make the area nationally important and give it a strong ‘sense of place’.

Different people have their own opinions on what is special about South Devon, and no definition can claim to be absolute, but these are the ones used in our management plan.

A wild and rugged coastline

The superb, undeveloped coastline with its sandy shores, rugged cliffs, secretive coves and rocky islands

A network of streams, rivers and estuaries

Our five ria estuaries (drowned river valleys), combe valleys and the network of associated watercourses.

Rolling farmland

The patchwork of deeply rural agricultural landscape. Rolling hills with high hedgebanks and small fields on lower ground and hill top copses and wind sculpted trees higher up.

Open tops and hidden valleys

A naturally incised landscape that quickly turns intimate, hidden and secretive away from the plateau tops.

Long, unspoilt views

Iconic wide, unspoilt and expansive panoramic views and long framed dramatic views, giving a sense of remoteness, wildness and scale.

A long-lived in landscape

A rich sense of history and heritage reflecting thousands of years of human occupation, which creates ‘time-depth’ within the landscape.

A landscape rich in wildlife

An outstanding number and mix of priority habitats within a small area create a mosaic that is home to an amazing diversity of wildlife.

An ancient network of routeways

An ancient and intricate network of winding lanes, the South West Coast Path and other strategic recreational routes offer many opportunities to explore and enjoy the countryside.

Naturally tranquil

A sense of tranquillity, space and place, natural nightscapes, distinctive natural soundscapes and visible movement.

Quality of views beyond the AONB boundary

A variety in the setting to the AONB formed by the marine environment, Plymouth City, Market and Coastal towns, rural South Hams and the southern fringe to Dartmoor National Park.

What do you think?

From April to October 2018 we will be running a series of events and activities to help you find out more about this special landscape, funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. During this time, we will also be out and about asking you what you think makes South Devon Special and what living or visiting here means to you.

You can download the full WMSDS programme by clicking on the pdf link on the side of this page.

This is how you can get involved!

  • Head out to explore yourself... each month we will highlight a downloadable walk from our website, that particularly shows off our chosen special quality of the month - see below or choose your own.
  • Or join us for a guided walk... local experts will lead a series of 10 guided walks showcasing each of 10 special qualities. Click on the pdf link on the side of this page or look at our events calendar.
  • Go geocaching! We have placed 10 new geocaches around the AONB, each in an area that showcases a special quality. They will only be there until October 2018, so don’t miss your chance!
  • Capture the landscape Take your camera out exploring and enter our photo competition for a chance to win some great prizes.
    New to photography or fancy having a go? Join in with one of our beginners photography walks for lots of help and advice. Bring any camera, including smartphones, or just join us for the walk! Click on the pdf link at the side of this page or look at our events calendar.
  • Enjoy some nightlife! Our natural nightscapes events include dawn and dusk walks, bat walks and a visit from a mobile planetarium! Click on the pdf link at the side of this page or look at our events calendar.
  • Wish you were here? We will be producing a set of 10 limited edition postcards highlighting a special quality – they will be given out at AONB events and on our stand at shows – come and find us and collect all 10!
  • Tell us what you think? Visit our survey page to have your say on what you think makes South Devon special.
  • This is what makes South Devon Special At the end of the project we will put on an exhibition of the all the stuff that has been made, collected and shared during the project, from artwork with local schools, films, your views and the finalists from the photo competition.

Exploring What Makes South Devon Special

We have picked a series of walks that highlight each of the AONB's 10 special qualities - so you can download the route and go and enjoy them for yourselves.

  • April– Kingsbridge & Bowcombe Creek. This month’s Special Quality walk is all about our amazing network of rivers, streams and estuaries.
  • May – Noss Mayo and Revelstoke Drive. This month’s Special Quality walk is all about our beautiful wild and rugged coastline.
  • June – Modbury. This month’s Special Quality walk is all about our patchwork of rolling farmland and settlements.
  • July – Slapton.This month’s Special Quality walk is all about our landscape as a place for wildlife to thrive.
  • August – Aveton Gifford. This month’s Special Quality walk is all about Long, iconic and unspoilt views.
  • September – Blackdown Rings. This month’s Special Quality walk focuses our long lived in landscape.
  • October – Dart Valley Trail : Dittisham to Totnes. This month’s Special Quality walk focuses our open plateau tops and hidden wooded valleys.

We would love to hear what you think! Why not send us a picture of your favourite patch or let us know what you think makes South Devon special - post on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and tag us, or use #specialqualities or get in touch via email.