Defending Parke against the invasion forces

Visitors to the National Trust Parke estate at Bovey Tracey might be forgiven for thinking they have strayed into a warzone. On some weekday evenings a group of Army Cadet Force youngsters can be found making their way stealthily through the undergrowth during their training procedures.

The ACF can trace its beginnings to 1859 when there was a threat of invasion by the French. The British Army was still heavily involved abroad after the Indian mutiny and there were very few units in this country. The Volunteers were formed to repel the possible invasion and this was the organization that was the forerunner of the Cadets.

However, the invasion did not materialize and a year later the Cadets were formally created. This was mainly due to many social workers and teachers seeing in it great value as an organization for the benefit of boys, particularly bearing in mind the appalling conditions in which so many of them then lived. Among these pioneer workers was Miss Octavia Hill one of the founders of the National Trust. She realized that cadet training was important for character training and although she was certainly not a militarist, she formed the Southwark Cadet Company in order to introduce the boys of the slums of that area to the virtues of order, cleanliness, teamwork and self-reliance.

Army Cadet Force ParkeOver the past three years, the Bovey Tracey ACF Detachment has had a cumulative total of 710 cadets and adults train in Parke. Training has been conducted during both day and night and subjects taught have included camouflage and concealment techniques, observation and basic patrolling skills, quick attacks, ambush and defence training, obstacle crossing and reaction to enemy fire, escape, evasion and survival skills, fire control orders and recognition of enemy targets, communications training, day and night navigation training, and manoeuvre exercises. The cadets get immense enjoyment from the manoeuvre exercises which have been planned around three fictitious counties, one enemy and two friendly, that border the River Bovey.

So if you should come face to face with one of these chaps – ”Don’t panic!”, but you may need to show them a passport!

Flower Power

To mention an interest of flowers in many circles is to perform social suicide. An aesthetic appreciation of landscapes however seems to be more acceptable. Only last week we had a group of work men from Plymouth volunteering with us. One bloke whilst looking across the teign gorge turned to his collegues and announced, “its alright here init”. Which was greeted with sage agreeement. Would that have happened had he pointed at a primrose?! but what about the flower as a landscape? I have yet to see even the most dissimissive of people fail to appreciate a British bluebell wood in spring.

In these parts there is an altogether rarer beast, the wild daffodil. I tracked my prey to a known hotspot Dunsford Woods and was not disappointed as the photo testifies. So get down to Dunsford wood in the next couple of weeks, but only if you’re man enough!

Going wild!

On Sunday the 6th March, we held the first of our “Wild Tribe” activity days at Fingle Bridge. The purpose of these days is to allow families to take part in various activities ranging from Bushcraft, Green woodwork and rural skills, Forest school and countryside management. Around 50 people turned up to our first event which was held at Fingle Bridge near Drewsteignton. Families tried out den building, fire lighting, nature walks, two-person saws, axes, green woodwork and more.

Wild Tribe will take place on the first Sunday of every month right through until October. Activities run from 10am until 3pm, costs are £2 for adults and £4 for children. Places can be booked by calling 01647 433356. Go wild with us!
Wild Tribe Fingle Bridge

Double whammy

Hi, we in the Teign valley are just coming to the end of our annual round of tree planting. 2,410 trees planted, 90 to go.
Last week we were helped in no small way by two groups, one new to us, the other old friends.

The first group were from advertising company JC Deceaux, and if you are anything like me you will say-never heard of them! However next time you are in an Airport, trainstation or supermarket look at the big advertising boards dotted around and you will soon realise that they are (or should be) a household name.
JC Deceaux

13 willing volunteers got stuck in for the day and planted…wait for it… 500 trees! thats a new record for any of our groups.
They were joined on the day by our friends the Sticklepath and Okehampton Conservation group (STOC) They planted hundreds more trees and left us with a paltry few trees which we will be planting this week with the Okehampton scouts and a group from Exeter college. Many thanks to all who took part and if you or a company that you know of want to get involved then get in touch on 01647 433356.
Planting trees

Introducing…Nick Baker

Wotcha, I’m Nick Baker; In case you think you’ve seem me before, I’ll put you out of your misery. I’m the Wildlife chap, best known for my broadcast work, on TV, Radio and in the written media. So what you may ask am I doing working for the National Trust? Well it is a good question, my wife puts it down to a mid-life crisis but I of course have other reasons and motive.

I’ve just taken on the post as seasonal part time ranger here at the Teign Valley property on Dartmoor; although best known for the imposing pile of granite we all know and love as castle Drogo, for me the attraction is Whiddon Deer park and the hanging Oak woodlands and heathlands that make up the Teign gorge. I live locally and this property and me go ways back.

Nick BakerIt started for me over 18 years ago; The Highbrown Fritillary was my first reason to visit the slope below the castle, sadly it no longer flies here, but if it does well elsewhere at other sites in the valley we live in hope that it will return, the NT are still working to keep the door open for them to return and still maintain habitat that is suitable; a subtle mix of Bracken and Dog Violets. It was also my ‘back yard’ when I first moved to the area and lived at Sandy park, I was on the dole then and the inspirational woodlands kept me happy and I like to think gave me the right attitude to life; and maybe even was responsible in a little way, getting me in the right frame of mind for the career that then unfolded. I even filmed several pieces for the Really Wild Show in the Teign valley itself.

I had always had a soft spot, for a particular location, and the soft centred, romantic part of me used to think what a great place it would be to get married. The place I refer to is an avenue of Beech trees here they form a natural leafy cathedral, framing the gateway to the deer park and a pair of granite sculptures by local artist Peter Randall-page. In 2009 I’m pleased to say I finally realised the fantasy one sunny May’s morning and a gathering of friends and relatives joined me and my wife (Ceri) as we tied the knot amongst the Blue bells and the beneath the fresh green canopy. The link with this magical place continues to this day, not only is it a regular place for walks with the family, I harvest the Sloes and Crab apples for Jam, Jelly and Gin and we even filmed my favourite tree for the BBC’s Autumn Watch here last year.
Anyhow now it’s a slightly weird but fine thing that I have joined the team responsible for the management and maintenance of this wonderful place. I figured it makes sense after so long appreciating the end product, to actually get down to the nitty gritty. I wanted to understand and learn about the tasks and skills required to maintain the countryside and of course try and get the message across to people that the NT is so much more than ‘Cream Teas and Country Houses’; although of course it is very good at those too.

So far it’s been a bit of a baptism of fire – I’m currently learning all about Chainsaws and how to use them and I’m worrying myself about how I actually enjoy using them! I’ve even been caught surreptitiously looking at some of those websites late at night, you know the ones – Husqvarna and Stihl. I’ve also entered a world where you’re not a man (or indeed a woman) unless you own a nice Billhook. So I’ve got me one of them too, and enjoy polishing it and bringing it into work where we discuss it’s pedigree (It’s a Morris – nice and local from Dunsford b.t.w) all I have to do now is learn how to use it! If my attempt at laying a section of hedge at Parke is anything to go by I’ve got a lot to learn.

This seems to be my lot at the moment, it’s a steep learning curve, but I’m having a blast (even if I can’t reverse a trailer yet or indeed get my hinges straight) I’m looking forward to the ‘bug season’ though where hopefully I can put some of my actual field skills to good use and maybe even share a little with the rest of the team here in the Teign valley.

Plym Valley gains two new Long Term Volunteers

Lucy and Jonathan at Plym ValleyPlym Valley has gained two new Long Term Volunteers to assist with the day to day running of the estate. Lucy Tozer and Jonathan Noades have now settled in to the volunteer accommodation at Miners’ Cottage.

Lucy is working alongside Steph Rodgers as a Community Engagement Assistant. She is new to the area, having moved from the south coast of Cornwall, where she volunteered with the local National Trust, Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Seal Group and the RSPB. Education and engagement is Lucy’s main interest and she is keen to discover the abundant wildlife that can be found in Plymbridge Woods and the Upper Plym.

Jonathan is assisting Plym Valley Ranger Peter Davies with the upkeep and preservation of this naturally diverse estate. Having recently graduated with a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Plymouth, he is already familiar with the area. Jonathan has taken a dedicated interest in the vast array of archaeological artefacts around the Dewerstone area and on the Upper Plym. He looks forward to working on preserving such treasures, as well as undertaking a variety of tasks, to conserve the natural vitality of the landscape.

If you see either of them, please do not hesitate to stop and say hello.

Spring is in the air

It’s that time of year to get back into the countryside and visit some of your favourite places, woodlands and coastal footpaths.
If you are a National Trust member then you will be already enjoying all the beautiful places in our care; discovering our stunning coastline, walking through unspoilt countryside, exploring magnificent country houses and being inspired by fantastic gardens.
National Trust membership gives free entry to over 300 beautiful houses and gardens and the most stunning coastline and countryside. On top of this you will also benefit from free parking in over 100 National Trust car parks plus members receive a free Welcome Pack including a Handbook to help plan your days out.
You will also regularly be kept up to date with events in your area – so you can really make the most of your membership.
However, If you are not already a member then maybe I can help.

Jeff BoveyHi, my name is Jeff Bovey, I am a National Trust Countryside Recruiter based at the Dartmoor Office at Parke in Bovey Tracey. You have probably seen me driving my little green van around Dartmoor and the nearby towns and villages. You may have also me at many local agricultural shows including Chagford, Okehampton, Dunsford, Lustleigh and Cornwood in our marquee along with our Dartmoor Rangers providing information and entertainment for both adults and children alike.
I not only able to sign you up as a new member of the Trust offering three months free membership but I am also able provide information and support to our existing members. If you would like to take advantage of this membership offer why don’t you pop over for a chat when you see me out and about or alternatively give me a ring on my mobile 07779-160764 (or phone our Dartmoor Office on 01626-834749) to find out where I am.
During the season, you normally find me on Bedford Square in Tavistock on a Tuesday; in Bank Street, Newton Abbot or Union Street, Torquay on alternative Wednesdays; the Main Car Park in Ivybridge on a Friday and Exeter Moto Services on a Saturday. I look forward to seeing you.

Archaeological surveys on the Upper Plym

Upper PlymNational Trust volunteer John Smith (pictured) is once again braving the elements of the Upper Plym to undertake the annual archaeological surveys. John has been monitoring the condition of the internationally renowned, historic and pre-historic remnants of the area for several years, reporting on their condition and strengthening previous survey work. Artefacts examined include hut circles, stone rows and cists dating back to the Bronze Age, as well as medieval farmsteads and rabbit warrens. The surveys form part of the estates management to ensure the survival of such archaeological treasures for generations to come. With John’s help, it is hoped a guided walk will be made available to download from the NT website, allowing any budding “Time Team” enthusiasts, to discover some of these amazing artefacts for themselves.