Bideford has a new riverside nature reserve.

A mile-long stretch of the eastern riverbank from Bideford’s old bridge to the former iron railway bridge at Landcross has been given approval by Natural England to become a Local Nature Reserve.

The 38.9 hectares of land includes foreshore, saltmarsh, reed beds and the Tarka Trail, running alongside the Kynochs Industrial Estate.

Tom Hynes of the North Devon AONB and Biosphere Reserve said this was an area of saltmarsh which was unusual because it also contained reed beds. It was an important site for the estuary. It had all the classic saltmarsh plants and was also an important feeding ground for various birds, either passing through or living nearby.

This was a project they had been working on for some time and they had produced a management plan to protect the wildlife needs, he said. People would be welcome to enjoy the area, but were asked to bear in mind that it was a sensitive natural habitat and the designation as a Local Nature Reserve would allow for its protection.

The AONB and Biosphere service is planning to erect more interpretation boards along the Tarka Trail and, possibly, across the river at Little America to explain the contents of the site.

An official opening of the new reserve is planned for October 21 by representatives of both Torridge District Council and Devon County Council, who own or manage the areas involved. A new sign will be unveiled on the existing boardwalk from the Tarka Trail to the saltmarsh. The public are welcome to attend and wildlife experts will be on hand to explain points of interest.

There are already Local Nature Reserves on an area of culm grassland at Meddon, at Fremington, Hillsborough in Ilfracombe and in the Kenwith Valley at Bideford. It is hoped that Ford Woods in Bideford will also soon be added.