Braunton Village, located between Woolacombe and Barnstaple, is reputed to be the largest village in the country with around 10,000 people living here. Explore Braunton (www.explorebraunton.org) is a fantastic resource for Braunton they sum up Braunton’s history:
“it boasts one of only two surviving medieval open strip field systems in England, a vibrant history of shipping and links with the sea, was once on the route of the bustling Barnstaple to Ilfracombe railway line, which carried 10,000 passengers per day at times and, thanks to the magnificent Braunton Burrows is now reputed to be the most biodiverse parish in England”
Braunton takes its name from St Brannock, who was a missionary from South Wales, he is believed to have arrived at Sauton Sands. Brannock settled in the area, establishing a strong Christian community, founding a chapel in the 6th century. Braunton grew up around its farming and shipping industries, today it is better known for its good surf, local businesses and bustling restaurants and cafes. The village used to be just severn streets, each one having a farm.
It was the farming industry that sustained Braunton through to World War 2. By the end of the nineteenth century it is thought that Braunton had 50 men farming in a small way, with their land being on Braunton Great Field and Braunton Down. To the South of the village is Caen River, which joins the Knowle Water at Vellaton, this is known as the Braunton Pill. Ships upto 200 tons could come up to the Quay where they would be manned by Braunton sailors Today Braunton is a thriving village, with plenty for everyone to enjoy.
Braunton Burrows are the largest sand dune system in the UK and home to an array of diverse plants and species. The Burrows are of international importance and have been declared Britain’s first UNESCO Biosphere reserve due to its diversity of rare flora. The sand dunes are stablized and held in place by the root system provided by the creeping plants.
The name ‘burrows’ comes from the large number of rabbit burrows that can be found, many of the rabbits have an effect on the dunes and vegetation through their grazing. The desingation of 3,120 hectares means it ranks alongside Mount Vesuvius in Italy and the Danube Delta in Eastern Europe.