The Axe Estuary

About this route

The Axe Estuary is home to grazing marsh, mud flats, saltmarsh and reedbeds.  It is a haven for wildlife, especially birds.

Within the Axe Estuary area there are two Local Nature Reserves – Seaton Marshes and Colyford Common.

Seaton Marshes, an area of grazing marsh, with scrapes, ponds and ditches, supports a range of wetland wildlife. During the winter large numbers of ducks, such as teal and wigeon, feed on the marshes, while curlews, redshank and sandpipers can be seen on the estuary mud. In the summer, butterflies and dragonflies abound, including black-tailed skimmers and rare ruddy darters.

Just to the north of Seaton Marshes, Colyford Common has a viewing platform offering views across the estuary. In winter, shelduck graze on the reserve, and little egrets can be seen on the estuary. In summer, the reserve supports a wealth of insect life including the uncommon short winged conehead (a type of bush cricket).

Getting Around

Seaton Marshes
By bus: regular bus services run to Seaton from Exeter and Axminster. For latest times see
On foot: accessed along a cycle path running from the information centre at Harbour Road car park in Seaton, the South West Coast Path crosses the mouth of the estuary.

Colyford Common
By road: take the A3052 from Exeter towards Lyme Regis, enter Colyford and turn right at the post office along Seaton Road. Entrance to the reserve lies on the left opposite Popes Lane.

The Seaton Tramway runs through both nature reserves offering good views of the estuary. Occasional guided bird watching trips are available, visit

Seaton Marshes (fully accessible bird hide, car parking), Colyford Common (boardwalk from gate to viewing platform, car parking).
Seaton Marshes - bird hide access along surfaced path, suitable for wheelchairs. Colyford Common - boardwalk to viewing platform, not suitable for wheelchair users.

Interesting information

East Devon District Council manages the two Local Nature Reserves – Seaton Marshes and Colyford Common.

Seaton Marshes contains the beautiful Borrow Pit pond which has a popular pond dipping platform. Otters have been spotted here during the winter whilst the pond and surrounding ditches are full of dragonflies and damselflies through the summer.

There is a bird hide on Colyford Common which offers fantastic views across the upper reaches of the estuary and surrounding saltmarsh. A new boardwalk leads to the hide and also to a viewing platform further north which gives great views of waders such as Curlew in winter.

Photo of wading birds on the Axe Estuary
Waders Axe Estuary by Derek Harper

You can explore more in this area