Clennon Gorge

Clennon Gorge

Clennon Gorge is a wooded valley of 60 acres that is home to many plants and animals. The nature reserve was identified as a County Wildlife Site by Devon Wildlife Trust due to its areas of limestone grassland and ancient woodland.

The limestone grassland is important because the limestone bedrock changes the qualities of the thin soils above, which in turn affects the type of plants that can grow there. In the past the grassland's main ally has been the humble rabbit whose grazing has prevented it from disappearing under a canopy of trees. Nowadays, we use a combination of grazing and mechanical cutting to control the scrub and prevent the loss of this rich and increasingly rare grassland habitat.

The majority of Clennon Gorge is ancient semi-natural woodland; meaning that it has been continuously wooded since at least 1600 AD but also heavily managed. The main management technique was coppicing. Coppicing involves cutting down a tree/shrub to a low stump which subsequently produces multiple stems that can be cut again in 7 to 10 years’ time.

One of the reasons for coppicing was to provide firewood for the production of lime. Limestone was quarried here in Clennon leaving a number of impressive rock faces and the rock was then burnt with the firewood to produce the valuable resource lime. The quarrying ceased in the 19th century but the quarries, kilns and woodlands remain.
Clennon Gorge is a fantastic refuge for wildlife, and visitors to the Zoo can experience part of it on the Nature Trail.

The Nature Trail is a wonderfully peaceful 10 minute walk that loops around a section of coppice woodland and skirts a stream and pond. Although abandoned for some time, coppicing has been reinstated along the Nature Trail, using the traditional method of cutting small subplots in rotation. The creation of this patchwork habitat increases the number of associated flora and fauna.