The sheltered embankments of this disused railway cutting are a haven for grassland butterflies.


The sheltered embankments and cuttings of this length of disused railway provide high-quality habitat for Heath Fritillary, thanks to careful management of the grassland by cutting and raking. Open conditions are also maintained through scrub removal and in places have been created by scraping the soil accumulation off the old rail bed, so sparse vegetation can develop on the ballast.

The areas of mown bracken in the adjoining Forestry Commission land support healthy colonies of Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. The forest track verges are also home to Grizzled Skipper and other grassland species.


Area: 2.5 hectares Map Reference: SX495835 Lydford, Okehampton, Devon, UK

As the breeding habitat of the protected Heath Fritillary on this site is vulnerable to trampling damage, the guided walks organised by the Devon Branch are the recommended way to visit this reserve. These also cover the butterfly key areas in the adjoining forest.

Access to the BC reserve is through the neighbouring National Trust property (the Waterfall car park) and subject to their permission. Outside of the organised visiting days, this requires presentation of a valid BC membership card as permit, and access may also be restricted by other conditions. Please check with the Warden (see contact at foot of this page) for further details.

The forest butterfly areas may be reached at any time by walking from the Forestry Commission’s Lydford Forest car park at Map ref: SX497851

The walk is quite long (2.5km) but follows surfaced tracks through magnificent forest and crosses the River Lyd.

Notable nearby sites

Dartmoor has many important sites for key species such as Marsh Fritillary, Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. See the UK Butterflies website for details of sites to visit in this area.

Public transport

Buses between Okehampton and Tavistock stop in Lydford Village. From there it is about a 1.3km walk to either the National Trust (NT) waterfall car-park or the Forestry Commission (FC) Lydford Forest car-park. The XX cycle route also runs through Lydford from Okehampton to Tavistock.

Site access and safety

Access from the NT Waterfall car-park is along the level and part-surfaced old railway line. The path through the reserve is largely firm, dry and level. There are no marked access routes between the BC reserve and FC forest butterfly areas and the limited pathways that can be found are uneven, muddy and can be steep.

Most ticks are little more than an irritation, but a few can transmit Lyme disease, a rare and potentially serious illness which is treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early. It is therefore important to be informed and take some simple precautions


Colin Sargent, Volunteer Reserve Warden:

  • Mob: 07980 372909
  • Tel: 01822 810433
  • Email: @email