Bridford Wood

Every tree is assessed for its individual qualities poor ones are then marked for felling.

Every tree is assessed for its individual qualities poor ones are then marked for felling.

Our ongoing program of conservation woodland management has moved from Castle Drogo estate into Bridford wood this winter it has been some years since we have done work here.

Why are we doing it? This area of the wood has become more dense with the trees crowding each other and shading out the understory trees and plants on the ground. So our aim is to thin the trees favouring the best ones, this may be because they are tall and straight with a good crown and will make a good timber tree or are twisted gnarled with rot holes and lots of low branches which are great for wild life habitat. By letting more light in this will encourage more growth from ground level and this will help increase the value for wildlife by providing a more varied habitat.

 This work is grant aided by the Forestry Commission and as the woods are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) Natural England has also given its consent. The wood is being sold to help cover the cost of the work but as the timber is mostly small and of low quality it probably won’t achieve this. Some of the timber and the branch wood will be left in the woods this will look a bit untidy for a few years but it provides a great resource for wildlife providing shelter and cover for nesting birds and great habitat for insects and fungi. It will in time all rot down and return much needed nutrients to the soil all part of the natural cycle of a woodland ecosystem.

 In the mien time I apologise for any inconvenience the visitors to the wood may experience and hope that the work will be completed early in the new year.

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…

SHAREing our experience in volunteering


Last week, volunteers from dartmoors Teign valley rangers and Castle Drogo gardeners took part in a volunteering exchange to Gelderland in Holland. This was undertaken as part of the Safeguarding Heritage and Rural Economies (SHARE) project which aims amongst other things to increase the use of and improve the management of volunteers to care for areas of  importance. The team enjoyed 3 days working at Huis Severnaer, a small estate being managed along strict sustainability and organic principles and Castle Middachten, a stunning private family home to rival any National Trust property and which is open to the public. The message was very much about the Trusts approach to volunteer work and the many levels and types of role which volunteers take on with us. In return we were very welled cared for and mixed with some fantastic volunteers from Holland, France and Myrthr Tydfil, learnt some new work techinques and saw how other countries do things. On Wednesday we attended a symposium at Klarenbeek about the SHARE project, which enabled our volunteers to talk to people at all levels throughout Dutch society and really drive home what volunteering for the National Trust is all about.


Ragwort beauty or beast

A clump of ragwort growing unmolested in a glade in a forestry plantation.

A clump of ragwort growing unmolested in a glade in a forestry plantation.

Common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), has a very poor image listed as an injurious weed it is poisonous and although it is not illegal to have it growing on your land it is illegal to allow it to spread to agricultural land, particularly grazing areas or land which is used to produce fodder.

 Unfortunately a lot of people see ragwort and pull it up wherever it is even when there is no chance if it reaching farmers’ fields this is a shame as ragwort has significant conservation benefits.

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Rare migrant moth found at Parke

If you were in Parke on Friday night you may have seen lights climbing into the night sky, you may have heard the collective murmurings of a few members of the Devon moth group as they identified different moth species and if you were around at about 12.30am you may have heard a collective gasp.

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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.


R.I.P “Bruce”

Nature conservation this isn’t, but for those of you more familiar to Parke there may be a sight missing from your day. Often seen basking in a warm spot on the estate, stalking squirrels or standing up to visiting dogs, of any size, “Bruce” was a force to be reckoned with. Continue reading…

Launch of coastal appeal in bid to buy Bantham beach and Avon estuary

Our colleagues in the South Devon Countryside portfolio along with many National Trust Regional folk have been working really hard over the past few months on the ‘Bantham’ acquisition – things are beginning to really motor now so I thought I would share with you this really exciting news. Press here to see our press release issued today. You can donate to the appeal here.

Images By Steven Haywood - National Trust - Bantham Village,  South Hams Devon. Image of Bantham beach by Steven Haywood

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Dormouse monitoring

On Dartmoor, Castle Drogo and some other properties around the country the National Trust takes part in the annual Dormouse survey for the Peoples Trust of Endangered Species (PTES) taking the form of monthly checks between the 15th and 25th of each month between April and October.

You can get amazing moments like this when you find a very young Dormouse and mange to catch a quick photo.

You can get amazing moments like this when you find a very young Dormouse and mange to catch a quick photo.

In Hembury woods our management has helped produce a healthy population of dormice. To get to handle how they are getting on which helps us make sure our management is working we have 64 boxes spread through areas within the woods. These boxes are then used by the dormice for breeding, shelter, resting and hibernating this not only benefits the dormice by providing them with custom built ‘designer’ homes but it also means we can then find these elusive little creatures to survey them.

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