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…

Moth trapping in The Upper Plym

At Lower Cadworthy Farm in the Plym Valley, we are monitoring moth populations using a Skinner Trap.

The mercury vapour bulb is very bright, which attracts moths. The moths are able to move down the sloped transparent panels into the trap, but are unable to escape. It works almost like a one-way valve. The moths hide in the crevices in the egg boxes and are then extracted and identified in the morning, when they are less active. As the weather warms up, we are catching more moths and a greater variety of species.

Left to right: hebrew character, great prominent and brindled beauty

Any moths we find particularly interesting or captivating will be posted on this blog, so watch this space. You can build your own Skinner Trap with instructions downloadable online.

Dylan

Air Cadets are a step closer to award at Lydford Gorge….!

On Saturday 18th May a small group of Air Cadets from 2443 (Okehampton) Squadron helped Rangers to build steps on the path to the White Lady Waterfall. The cadets aged from 14 – 17 (taking a break from their usual activities of flying, shooting and sports!), are working towards their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. Part of which requires the completion of community service.  Their time was spent carrying tools and materials to the site, then replacing old redundant steps with smart new ones which are easier to use.  The  ‘short and steep’ path’ allows direct access for anything up to 60,000 visitors per year! So the 220 ‘odd’ steps require regular maintenance. The cadets worked hard and built some of excellent steps for visitors to explore   the wild flowers and beauty of that part of the Gorge.

Young Birdwatchers

 

Micro ornithologists

 

A group of budding young ornithologists came on a guided walk around Plymbridge Woods yesterday. We focused on bird survey techniques and species identification, and finished with a look at our spectacular pair of resident peregrine falcons. We had fantastic views of both peregrines, who are looking particularly nesty. We saw some other great birds including a great spotted woodpecker, mandarin ducks and dippers. The kids’ bird i.d. skills were very good and I’m sure there were a few future Audubons and Humbles among them. Well done folks. If you’re children are interested in joining the young birdwatchers, we will be doing more activities on the 8th and 28th of August and the 29th of September. Please call the office for more details (01752 341 377).

Dry-Stone Walling with Plym Valley Conservation Volunteers

This Sunday Pete Davies led a small team of volunteers in Plym Bridge Woods, reinstating some of the local archaeology. The wall which follows the Plymouth to Dartmoor tramway along the Western edge of the woods has slowly fallen foul of time and misuse, causing the majority of it to fall away degrading the aesthetic value and leaving loose shale on the path. Under instruction from Pete; Jim, Steve, Tony and the two Joes removed any loose shale and unstable rocks from the top of the wall and meticulously replaced them, reinforcing the base where necessary. The centre was filled in with the loose shale and soil which had slowly built up alongside the wall. Aside from the biting wind the weather was pleasant and didn’t hinder the team, allowing them to make serious headway into improving the site.

The work undertaken on Sunday was the first of many steps; the wall runs for miles and will be a long term project. The important thing is that the first Plym Valley Conservation Volunteers meet was a success. For the first day it was a respectable turn out and everybody enjoyed themselves which bodes well for the future.

The next meet will be on Sunday 12th May 2013 and will involve post and rail fencing in Plymbridge Woods. The group will be meeting at 10am in Plymbridge carpark; if you’re interested in helping out this would be greatly appreciated.

 

Easter Egg Trail in the Plym Valley

The nation wide Easter trail event that took place on Good Friday was a great success for us down in the Plym Valley. With more than 200 people following clues along the canal path that eventually lead to the “Easter village” at the end of the trail.

The village was a way of creating the kind of atmosphere you find at most village fate’s; a warming community spirit that aimed to keep people engaged in the event long after the trail had finished. This seemed to work as some families remained on site for 2 or so hours after they’d completed the trail, a resounding success.

Despite being cold, the event went off without a hitch with everyone really enjoying themselves. Alison from Opal came down with a volunteer encouraging children to forage for spring plants as part of the activities which also included the Easter bunny handing out chocolate eggs, games on the lawn and a sizeable craft tent thanks to Fred at Parke.

A lovely day had by all.

Plym Valley team

Can you guess what it is?

On entering the National Trust car park for the Dewerstone at Shaugh Bridge, you are confronted by a large stone building nestled in the hill side. For those you who aren’t aware of its past, this archaeological feature can turn your thoughts into an episode of “Time Team”, giving rise to questions like what, when and why? Further clues of its function, including a ceramic pipeline, a number of stone structures and spoil heaps, can be found along the south eastern side of the river Plym, between Cadover and Shaugh Bridge.

This network of infrastructure represents what was once a thriving China Clay Industry in south west Dartmoor, operating from around the 1870’s to the 1950’s. Starting further up the river Plym close to Cadover Bridge, china clay was extracted from pits at Shaugh Lake and Wigford down. The resulting clay suspension was then fed by pipeline down to a mica drag close to the village of Shaugh Prior. Here any sand particles were removed before the remaining clay slurry was piped down to settling tanks at Shaugh Bridge. The water was drained off and the china clay dried in the pan kiln, before being cut into blocks and transported up to Shaugh Bridge platform on the Tavistock to Plymouth railway line.

 

From the car park you can clearly see the loading bays at the front of the building, where blocks of clay were loaded onto carts. The pan kiln was situated on the level above these, with the large settling tanks located above the kiln. The steps on the right hand side of the building will lead you onto a footpath to Cadover Bridge, and offer you a chance to explore the upper levels of the china clay works.

 

Efforts to preserve such archaeological features are a regular occurrence in the Plym Valley Ranger’s annual calendar of work. Recently for example, a group of 26 student volunteers from the University of Plymouth, including members of the Student Union’s Musical Theatre Group and the Environmental Society, assisted with scrub clearance and vegetation removal from the mica drag near Shaugh Prior. A large pile of garden waste close by was also cleared thanks to their efforts.

 

Student volunteers clearing scrub in a highly efficient manner.

Student volunteers from the University of Plymouth inside the cleared mica drag.

 

Throughout the year we hold a number of archaeological guided walks in the Plym Valley, including some taking in the Shaugh Bridge China Clay Works. If you would like to know more please ring the Ranger team on 01752 341377.

 

To reach the site…

 

By Bike: Use National Cycle Network Route 27 from Plymouth. Leave the route at Shaugh Bridge platform on the right (SX 527 636). Follow the short stretch of road down to the small t-junction and turn left. Follow this road round to Shaugh Bridge. The NT car park is on the left immediately after the bridge over the River Plym.  Visit www.sustrans.org.uk or www.devon.gov.uk/cycling

 

By Bus: Target Travel Bus Route 59 stops right outside the NT car park at Shaugh Bridge. Buses run seven times a day, Monday to Saturday, between Plymouth, Plympton, Sparkwell, Bickleigh and Plymouth’s George P&R. Bus times available at www.transportdirect.info or http://targettravel.co.uk/59-plympton.html.

 

By Car: From the A38, exit at Manadon Junction and take the A386 towards Tavistock. At Bickleigh Cross (immediately after the Belliver Roundabout), turn right onto New Road (signposted Bickleigh, Shaugh Prior). Continue on this road through the village of Bickleigh and after passing the barracks, take the next left signposted Shaugh Prior, Wotter and Lee Moor. Follow this road for a couple of miles round to Shaugh Bridge. The NT car park is on the left immediately after the bridge over the River Plym.