The Axe Valley and surrounding areas are rich in wildlife. Rising in Dorset the River Axe flows round the edge of Somerset before reaching Devon. Most of the area is within an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' (AONB) and contains 21 'Sites of Special Scientific Interest' (SSSI), 2 'Local Nature Reserves' (LNR) and 1 'National Nature Reserve' (NNR) Two SSSI's are under consideration as 'Special Areas of Conservation'
The flora is diverse. Primroses in flower can be seen throughout the winter months, as is also red campion. In Spring Alexandus, a plant introduced by the Romans, blooms near the coast. Orchids in variety include:- green winged, fragrant, bee and southern marsh. Two rare plants are the purple gromwell - lithospermum purpurus - caerulum, and heath lobelia - lobelia urens.
With some 16 species of dragonfly known in Devon, over a dozen have been identified in the Axe Valley area. These include the keeled skimmer and ruddy darter, and also the white-legged damselfly. Other invertebrates of interest are the fairy shrimp, medicinal leech, and the rare species of caddis fly - leptocerus interruptus.
Of the 14 species of bat in Britain, 7 species are known in the Axe Valley area, and include some 40% of the population of the second rarest in Britain, Bechstein's bat.
Salmon and sea trout both occur in the River Axe.
The Axe Valley is well provided with mammals and these include:- badger, stoat, weasel, mink, shrew, mole, rabbit, hare, grey squirrel, dormouse, bank vole, field vole (but not water vole), harvest mouse, wood mouse, fox and roe deer. Otters have returned and are being encouraged to breed.
It is the variety of birdlife that makes the Axe Valley area so important for wildlife, with 17 orders of birds of the 19 recognised in the British Isles. Among the breeding species of special mention are:- merlin, peregrine, the shy and elusive water rail, barn owl, kingfisher, sand martin, dipper, cetti's warbler and dartford warbler. Little egrets have settled but not yet bred. Passage migrants, such as osprey are seen. Odd visits from hoopoe and squacco heron have also been noted.