Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

Village Industry

As mentioned, farming was vital to Braunton, which could once have been described as little more than a group of farms.

The Great Field

Braunton Great Field 2006The common situation of having individual farms, spread among outlying fields, was largely absent in Braunton because it had the Great Field, a vast and fertile acreage of land which was divided up among the farmers. They grew crops on the Great Field to feed their animals and also some vegetables to sustain the family – but not much more. Faming was not such a commercial enterprise in those days and, although farmers sometimes supplied the village shops, they did not make much profit. The farmer’s cows and sheep were herded through the village and out to the grazing lands, often to the marshes where the lush grassland was also divided up. They might also keep some chickens, geese and turkey.

The story of farming in Braunton continues in the section about Farming.


Braunton’s early success also relied heavily on shipping. Although it might not be obvious today, Braunton’s links with the sea were as strong as those at the better-known village of Appledore, just across the Estuary. In January 1853, Braunton Pill (where the River Caen and Knowle Water meet, before flowing out to sea) was straightened, to allow larger ships up the river than had hitherto been possible.

Modern day Velator Quay bThe next twenty years saw the new Velator Quay boom and a phenomenal variety of cargoes passed through Velator, including coal, iron ore from the local mines, gravel, scrap iron, railway sleepers, pit props, salt and other minerals, manure, vegetables and cereals from the Great Field – to name just some.

Refer to the section about Shipping to find out more about shipping in Braunton and Velator Quay.

The Railway

Shipping was then the only method of transporting large cargoes but the coming of the railway effectively caused Velator Quay to decline. Many goods left Braunton by rail, bound for markets all over the country and one major export was flowers – grown at Braunton Bulb Farm between 1923 and 1969 – which were sent to Covent Garden market in London.

More about the Bulb Farm can be found in the section about Farming.

explore braunton, the most biodiverse parish in england - a north devon aonb project