The Character of Wessex: The Exe Valley and Devon Redlands

The Devon Redlands take their name from the red sandstone that gives the region some dramatic cliffs on the coast and provides it with its distinctive brick-coloured building stone, as at the historic Otterton Mill (illustrated above). Sandwiched in between Exmoor and Dartmoor, the character area centres on the Exe Valley, which separates the southwest peninsula from the rest of Great Britain; and Exeter, once the westernmost limit of Roman Britannia.

Characteristic of the area are linhays, open-fronted livestock shelters built from wood and stone; and whitewashed thatch-and-cob cottages.

The Devon Redlands are largely an area of hamlets and small villages. Larger settlements include Exeter, Exmouth, Tiverton, Torquay and Crediton. The latter was once a diocesan seat in the Anglo-Saxon church, birthplace of St Boniface, but was later supplanted by Exeter.

Species unique to the region include the cirl bunting, southern damselfly, Dartford warbler and warren crocus. Until recently, the latter was thought to be endemic to the area, but a second population has been discovered in Cornwall. Unfortunately for the biodiversity of the area, the heathland at Haldon Ridge has been given over to commercial, single-species conifer plantations. Hopefully it can one day be restored to its natural state.