Find your spirit of adventure on Dartmoor

Have you ever wanted to have a go at rock climbing? The National Trust has teamed up with Spirit of Adventure, an outdoor adventure activity provider, to give you the opportunity to try out rock climbing at one of Dartmoor’s natural beauty spots.

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 The rock adventure day takes place at the Dewerstone, near Shaugh Prior on Dartmoor; a perfect place for climbing, scrambling and the thrill of abseiling. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy a day out with friends or family as well as seeing some amazing scenery along the way.

 The session takes place on Tuesday 12 August, 10am–4pm. You will receive expert instruction from qualified instructors throughout the day and will have the opportunity to move on to more challenging sections if you are able. All the necessary equipment is provided.

 The day costs £30 per adult and £20 per child (under 18; minimum age is 8 years).  Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult who need not climb. Please bring a packed lunch, wear trainers, long trousers and sleeves.

 For more information and to book your place please contact Spirit of Adventure on 01822 880277.

Green woodworking at Parke

A gate hurdle nearing completion in the woods

A gate hurdle nearing completion in the woods

Recently on Parke estate the Devon Rural Skills Trust came along to a small coppice area that we work in partnership to learn how to make traditional gate hurdles.

These hurdles would once have been made in their thousand to be used on farms to manage their sheep, make up runs, shearing areas, and folds for lambing. Now they have been replaced by metal hurdles much stronger and long lasting but having a far higher carbon footprint and less character.

From left, brace and bit, draw knife, twybil,froe

From left, brace and bit, draw knife, twybil, froe, hand axe

 The hurdle would have been made of ash, sometimes sweet chestnut or oak split or ‘cleft’ down t0 the required size with wedges and a ‘froe’ then shaped using an axe and draw knife. Mortise and Tenon joints formed simply with a brace and bit and a chisel or a ‘twybil’ (a very old tool specially designed for green wood tenons) in the uprights formed the structure held together with a few nails. The hurdle would have been 6ft long by 3ft high with between 5 and 7 rails, more rails were needed near the bottom if used with small lambs.

 However things must adapt to survive and the traditional hurdle has undergone a bit of a metamorphosis. The basic hurdle pattern can be adapted to different situations. They are great in the garden, made smaller they can hold back herbaceous plants from paths. Stop the children falling over walls or prevent their football hitting the roses. With a bit more imagination they can be formed into garden gates with cleft hazel infill. Or made really big and provide a structure for rambling roses or clematis.

Hurdles in place protecting the flowers in a busy garden.

Hurdles in place protecting the flowers in a busy garden.

Made from ash they are light and easy to move round, weather in nicely and last for some years, made from oak or sweet chestnut they are a bit heavier and last for many years especially if stored out of the weather in the winter.

 Best of all they have that lovely rustic look that blends beautifully into the garden and the countryside.

 Quite a few green woodworkers make them now. You can learn how to make them through the Devon Rural Skills Trust or come and see them being made at the Castle Drogo Edwardian Country fair on the 20-21st September.

 

National Trust Devon Rangers come to Dartmoor

Around 50 of the National Trust’s Rangers in Devon have just met at Fingle Bridge in the Teign Valley for a conference on the Outdoors and Nature. We spent two days in the glorious sunshine and camped overnight. Tremendous atmosphere and camaraderie – now all back to our special places fired up and ready to manage them even better for people and wildlife. Full photo set here

rangers-24Team photo at the end

Continue reading…

Exploring Fingle woods

One of the most exciting things about the acquisition of Fingle woods is the need to get to know it I had a fair knowledge of some parts but I had never been to most of it. So on Saturday I got up early and went for a long walk in Halls cleave and Coleridge wood just to the South of Clifford Bridge.

A view down 'Hidden Valley'

A view down ‘Hidden Valley’

 In the bottom of the valley or coombe is a picturesque stream with grassy banks surrounded on most sides by rather forbidding conifer forest but a bit further up the valley are wonderful stands of huge Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar and Sequoia just like parts of West coast America and Canada. It seems a shame that the conifers are much maligned when in a commercial plantation but if left beyond their financially optimum life span and given some space to develop into old age the trees are very impressive. Continue reading…

Wildlife gardening at Parke

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I surfaced from the verdant green of Hembury Woods the other day to go to the office at Parke.  I apologise to my long suffering boss Mick, who constantly wants me to do a blog on Hembury or Holne Woods, but it was going into the Walled Garden that finally broke the dam.  Wow!  It looks fantastic.  The work of Kate, Mary and the other volunteers has resulted in a mass of colour and a nectar elysium for pollinating insects.  Another aspect of the National Trust’s conservation work, but one maybe sometimes overlooked when people think of National Trust gardens.  Formal ones abound, exemplars of horticultural practice in many of our old estates, but the message of such ‘wildlife gardening’ as practiced at Parke is a reflection of the present rather than the past.  That most of our flower rich meadows have gone due to changing agricultural practices and with them, many of our pollinating insects.  It is an example of how those of us who want to help pollinators and who have neither the space, time or expertise for formal gardening, can help.  The Royal Horticultural Society have a list of ‘Plants for Pollinators’, this venerable old organisation also recognising the importance of ‘wildlife gardening’, something also championed by Plantlife. Continue reading…

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

Pearl Boardered Fritillary

Pearl Boardered Fritillary

 This is the time of year when we take stock of the success of the years Pearl-bordered Fritillary all too short fight period. The news is not very good as once again despite our best efforts in providing the habitat the weather has stepped in with rain overcast skies and strong cold winds, not ideal breeding conditions for a small rare butterfly. Some have been seen and with the past few days of sunshine hopefully the late fliers will be able to get out there and lay some eggs in hope of a sunny spring next year.

On the subject of habitat within conservation there are often difficult decisions to be made around management options. One of these conundrums is developing on the side of the gorge below Castle Drogo. Continue reading…

Dartmoor’s birds and the new BTO Atlas

Dartmoor's birds and the new BTO Atlas

Every now and again a book appears which grabs your attention and dominates your time! The last time this happened to me was when Mark Avery’s ‘Fighting for Birds‘ was published. Now the BTO, Birdwatch Ireland and the SOC have published their Bird Atlas 2007-11. It is a magnum opus both in terms of size and intellect. The book does however differ in many ways from Mark’s – I read his at a single sitting whereas the Atlas will take months to digest! Continue reading…