Braunton Burrows, the central focus of the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, was at the time Ravilious took this image, an English Nature Reserve and it had a particularly rich amount of flora.
It shows Robin Ravilious with Margaret Tulloch, a well known amateur botanist who was living in north Devon at the time.
“Margaret would come to the Burrows regularly every year and record some of its most interesting plants,” recalls Mary Breeds, whose husband John is a former Burrows’ warden. “She was a dynamic, strong character – I’d go out with her when she was in her 80s and not be able to keep up with her.”
In the 60s and 70s the Burrows was at its very best for wildflowers, says Mary. Large numbers of rabbits kept the scrub at bay, allowing the tiny flowers to grow; but when the myxomatosis disease devastated the population, the grazers’ disappearance allowed some of bigger, stronger shrubs and brambles to take hold.
The Burrows is also an ever changing landscape and so it would be hard to find this exact spot where Robin and Margaret are examining some of the flower-rich turf.
The other people in the photograph are heading along the boardwalk towards the sea. The boardwalk is a route through the Burrows, one with the promise at its end of glorious views out across the bay. There’s something very appealing about a boardwalk; especially perhaps for children, as it snakes up and down the surrounding sand dunes. Parts get covered in sand, in other areas it crosses over boggy patches, small ferns growing up through the slats.
Then, at its end, there’s the sliding down across loose, sun-hot sand to the wide open beach and waves beyond.
Were these people in a hurry to get to the beach? Did they stop at any time to look at what was beneath their feet, just off the wooden walkway? Even now, if you stop and look down and know what you are looking for, you could find up to 20 different species growing in a small area.