Bystock Nature Reserve  
Click here to download a Bystock location map  


In 1973 South West water leased the land to Devon Wildlife Trust. In 2016 the Trust raised enough money to buy the reserve. The purchase was completed in March of that year.

Bystock reserve covers 27 hectares (67 acres) of wet and dry lowland heath, scrub: Hawthorn, Holly, Silver Birch, mixed planted woodland, a man made lake of 0.6 hectares (1.5 acres), small pools and unimproved grassland.

There are the remains of a building in the wood. Its purpose is not known. Reserch undertaken by the Exmouth Local History Group has found no records that relate to the construction. A site inspection revealed no exact dating evidence and no remnents of machinery.

The reserve lies in an old river valley. The river was fed from three springs one of which is called Golden Well. The valley was dammed around 1889 to form the reservoir . It is thought that French Prisoners of war constructed the lake during the Napoleonic war. It provided a water supply to the Bystock estate.

Bystock was a self-sustaining village with it's own Bakers, Blacksmiths etc. Bystock house still exists. Until recently it was used as a home for young adults with learning disabilities. Its future is uncertain.


There are two small pools in the valley that used to be known as Mr Bryce's fish pools. These are on the spring line. They were probably created when peat was extracted.

Most of the reserve lies within the East Devon pebble bed heaths SSSI.

Four unbroken thoroughbred Exmoor ponies normally graze the reserve in the summertime to help keep the vegetation down on the main heath. They all have thoroughbred names and were born in 1996


Volunteer work parties come in on a regular basis to restore the heathland and maintain the woodland and meadow.


The reserve holds a good selection of wildlife, perhaps more than its size would indicate. There are many habitat types that support this diversity.

Bystock is particularly important for butterflies. The scarce silver-studded blue and dingy skipper breed in small numbers in the Meadow. Small pearl-bordered, dark green and silver-washed fritillaries can be seen in the Copse and the Meadow.

Another important group is that of the dragonflies and damselflies. The reserve is home to the Small Red Damselfly and the Downy Emerald Dragonfly. Although fairly scarce nationally both are flourishing well here. The Downy Emerald can be seen from the boardwalk around the reservoir (June-July) and the Small Red from the boardwalk along the small ponds in the middle of the reserve (July).

The wildlife counts below result from surveys that started in 2004.

How to find Bystock Pools reserve
Click on this link to download a location map