The Art of Hedging

coverOn Weds I travelled up to the 156th Mendip Ploughing society event at Priddy near Cheddar gorge. The main event is a ploughing match but coupled with it is a hedge laying competition I take part and fly the flag for the National Trust. Its good to show people that the Trust is active outdoors and that we have the skills to maintain the fabric of the countryside in the same way as our conservators can maintain the contents of a mansion or the building department maintain the fabric of a vernacular building. Continue reading…

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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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

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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…

Red Rangers

From now on all National Trust Rangers on Dartmoor (and indeed the rest of the South West) will be easily identifiable to everyone as they will be wearing red tops.

Ranger teamSome of the Dartmoor Rangers at Parke today
From l to r: Adrian Colston, Dartmoor General Manager; Mick Jones, Lead Ranger North Dartmoor; Adrian Shaw, Area Ranger Lydford Gorge; Tom Wood, Area Ranger Teign Valley; AJ Bellamy, Lead Ranger South Dartmoor; Pete Davies, Area Ranger Plym Valley and Fred Hutt, Ranger Parke.

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…

 The Devon hedge is one of the deffining features…


 The Devon hedge is one of the defining features in the landscape here, they give structure to the lowlands and blend into the stone walls as they approach the heights of Dartmoor. They provide shelter for the animals, corridors for wildlife and sanctuary to many wonderful trees out of the reach of nibbling farm stock. Many are archaeological features going back to the middle ages, marking landownership and parish boundaries. Many are dilapidated now and their future is not bright but the National Trust is not just about restoring and maintaining old buildings we do the same for the countryside using the old skills part of this is training people the picture shows a group from the Devon Rural Skills Trust who I was teaching turf hedging with a restored section behind them. Continue reading…

Dartmoor’s Leadership – who we are

Thought it would be a good idea to introduce ourselves! We are the National Trust’s Leadership Team on Dartmoor. Below we tell you what we all do.

Front left to right: Adrian Colston (General Manager), Gus Fergusson (Lead Ranger – South Dartmoor), Ben Shapcott (Foundry Manager – Finch Foundry) Debbie Halls (Administrator) Catherine Maddern (Visitor Services and Enterprises Manager) and Mick Jones (Lead Ranger – North Dartmoor). 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…