Owned and managed by Devon Birds, South Milton Ley Nature Reserve is located on the coast of the South Hams of Devon, 30 km southeast of Plymouth and 9 km to the west of Kingsbridge (Figure 3.1). Occupying , a shallow valley 100-150 metres wide, running north-east for 1.5 km from the coast at Thurlestone Sands (Figure 3.2), from which it is separated by a shallow sand bar, the reserve is the most westerly Phragmites reedbed in Devon of over 10 ha in area and forms an important link in a chain of reedbeds running along the south-west coast of England from Radipole Lake RSPB Reserve in Dorset to Marazion Marsh RSPB Reserve in Cornwall.
Extensive hedgerows of native species have been planted around the perimeter of the reserve and these, together with areas maintained as semi-natural pasture, have greatly increased the biodiversity. A sewage treatment works discharges into the centre of the reserve after the wastewater has been passed through a tertiary treatment reedbed. In common with similar plants in the southwest peninsula, the STW attracts wintering chiffchaffs with over 100 being ringed in the winter of 2016/17.
The bulk of the reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) containing the second largest freshwater reedbed in Devon. Described as “the jewel in the crown of Society acquisitions” by Jenks in his “History of Devonshire Ornithology” (2004), it is the oldest and largest nature reserve owned and managed by Devon Birds . Much of the descriptive text here is taken from the Reserve’s current management plan. The full document can be accessed here.