Conservation grazing, Dartmoor style.

Natural England’s Yarner wood ponies have returned for another year and without these symbols of Dartmoor I’d be permanently strapped to a brushcutter during the winter months. In order to help deliver our Higher Level Stewardship targets for out wet meadows we have been borrowing a herd of Dartmoor ponies for a couple of years now.

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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…

Bluebells on Dartmoor – they are out!

Dartmoor’s bluebells tend to flower later than those in the lowlands – simply because it’s at a higher altitude and the climate is harsher. However once they are out they are usually spectacular.

 

bluebells

Bluebells at Parke

Bluebells are one of the classic flowers of the moor’s woodlands.  The National Trust has a number of brilliant places to see bluebells. Try any of the following woods over the next couple of weeks and you wont be disappointed.

Lydford Gorge
Parke
Teign Valley Woodlands – around Castle Drogo at Fingle Bridge, Fingle Woods, Dunsford Woods
Plymbridge – on the edge of Plymouth
Dewerstone Woods on the Plym near Shaugh Prior
North Wood on the Plym down from Cadover Bridge
Hembury Woods on the Dart
Holne Woods by New Bridge on the Dart

 

Peregrine watch point goes live in the Plym Valley

Peregrine

The dedicated group of over 30 Volunteers are again drawing up their rota. With the help of our ranger Simon Garland they are overseeing the successful nesting of the pair of Peregrine Falcons in the Plym Valley. The birds were likely nesting in Cann Quarry shortly after its creation as a result of slate mining which ceased 1911. The peregrine watchers have given the birds 24hour protection since 2001 following two separate poisoning attempts. Each year this amazing team experience a heady mixture of drama, excitement and expectation as these masters of the sky settle down to breed and this year is no exception. A young male from last year’s brood has remained with the adults over the winter but is now out staying his welcome! 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…