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Nature reserves

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6. Hackney Marshes Local Nature Reserve


Hackney Marshes Local Nature Reserve is low-lying area of flood meadows at the head of the Teign Estuary by Kingsteignton. The rich mosaic of marshy meadows, swaying grassland, rustling reedbeds and tranquil ponds makes Hackney home to a host of special plants and animals and a fascinating place to visit at any time of year. A network of level paths enables you to explore these seasonal flood meadows, which are surrounded by mature hedgerows, a small ornamental woodland and an old orchard.


  • free parking, with a small car park at the northern end of the site
  • public transport nearby
  • bicycle racks in the car park
  • a network of level surfaced paths and ramped bridges suitable for wheelchairs, electric buggies and push chairs
  • picnic benches and seats
  • dog bins
  • interpretation signs

Location and access

Hackney Marshes, located between Greenhill Way, the Kingsteignton Bypass and the head of the Teign Estuary, are within easy reach from Kingsteignton by foot and Newton Abbot by car. The site is only a short drive from the A380, the main Exeter to Torquay road.

Turn off Greenhill Way, Kingsteignton to park in the small car park at the north end of the site. There are also pedestrian access points from Greenhills Park housing estate and from Hackney Lane beside the Water Board's premises. A public footpath runs from old Kingsteignton though the Marshes and on down past the ruined hamlet of Hackney to the Passage House Inn and estuary shore.


Hackney Marshes is a County Wildlife Site and consists of 5 main habitat types; flood meadows, ponds, streams, hedgerows and woodland. There are two semi-natural meadows. The north meadow is more species-rich because it has not been so intensively farmed. The south meadow has been agriculturally improved.

Buzzards, kestrels and pheasants are often seen around the marshes. Snipe feed there at night as, occasionally, do woodcock. Mammals include a range of mice and vole species and larger animals such as the badger. The meadows are also very rich in invertebrates which are especially noticeable in late summer.

The ponds and streams host a variety of freshwater and maritime species. The emerald damselfly, which is not common in Devon, has been recorded here. The presence of water increases the value of the site for birds. Kingfishers, moorhens, mallards and herons are often seen by the waterside. The site is also known to be used by the rarer Cetti's warbler and cirl bunting. Cetti's warbler first bred in the UK in 1972 and now has about 17% of its slowly - increasing British population in Devon. The Cirl bunting has about 25% of its British population in Teignbridge and the other 75% in Torbay and South Hams - truly a South Devon denizen.

Historical interest

The disused Hackney canal bordered the southern end of the Marshes. It was opened in 1843 to decrease the distance that pack-horses carting clay had to travel. The clay, owned by Lord Clifford, was excavated from the Chudleigh Knighton, Preston and Kingsteignton areas. Originally the pack-horses carted the clay to the clay cellars in the Hackney hamlet from where the bargemen or lightermen loaded the barges. The ruins of the Hackney hamlet are a few hundred metres from Hackney Marshes, further along the footpath to the estuary. The canal enabled barges to go right up to Kingsteignton. Trading along the canal ceased in 1928.


Hackney Marshes, as an open space in a relatively built up area, is used by many local people particularly for quiet recreation such as dog walking and enjoying the wildlife. The level paths, the main circuits of which are surfaced, make exploring easy. There are seats and picnic tables where you can pause and enjoy the scenery.


The overall management aim for Hackney Marshes Local Nature Reserve is "to sustain and enhance the nature conservation value of the site within the limits imposed by the floodplain function".

Without management Hackney Marshes would soon be dominated by Hemlock Water Dropwort, Bramble and Willow scrub. To safeguard the delicate marshland mix, particularly in the wetter north meadow, specially timed and targeted mowing is undertaken. This allows special plants to seed and keeps vigorous, dominating ones in check. The drier south meadow is managed as a hay meadow. Over the past decade four new ponds have been excavated, creating wetland habitat and boosting reedbed, a scarce habitat in Devon.