Hele’s School Stops the Clock with the National Trust

The National Trust welcomed over 100 students from Hele’s School to undertake conservation tasks on Friday 23rd September. Plymbridge Woods, Saltram, and Wembury took part in the day, in which Year 11 were invited to have day out of school learning about nature conservation.

The group working at Plymbridge Woods created a glade next to the Railway Cottages. Advice was sought from the National Trust’s Archaeology expert and the vision of an open glade between the ruined Workshop and Railway Cottages was agreed. The students were given the big task of beginning the clearance operation. The area was thick with brambles, vines, nettles, shrubs, and saplings. They surpassed all expectations by clearing the whole area. The other activity involved working alongside Plymbridge Wood’s Ranger team in the task of laurel felling and burning. The students learnt a great deal about practical conservation management, and the safe and correct use of tools to do the job.

The Plym Valley team arranged for the rest of the year group to visit other National Trust properties nearby. At Wembury the pupils began by cleaning the beach, and after lunch they joined the Rangers clearing gorse. Meanwhile at Saltram the pupils assisted the Head Gardener in managing the hedgerows, and worked alongside the Rangers whilst they cleared and thinned an area of scrub.

There was also time for each property to lead an educational walk, in which plenty of trees, plants and wildlife was spotted and identified.

It was a wonderful opportunity for the pupils of Hele’s School to get some hands on practical conservation experience that will help to broaden their career horizons. They worked really hard and achieved an enormous amount at all three properties. We’d certainly be happy to have them again!

Europe’s smallest bird arrives

Two goldcrests were spotted and heard in woods yesterday afternoon, indicating that autumn has arrived. Plymbridge’s habitat of broadleaf woodland with nearby conifers is perfect for the UK’s smallest songbird.

Goldcrests weigh around 5-6g and travel distances exceeding 1,000km. Last year a ringed goldcrest was recorded crossing the North Sea from Norway, to Lincolnshire in just two days. That’s 665km, from a bird 9cm long, with a 15cm wingspan!

They’ll often associate with foraging flocks of tits, nuthatches, and treecreepers. The goldcrest’s call is thin and high-pitched (listen to it here), and they spend most of their time in the tree canopy. (Photograph taken by Nigel Climpson)

Now you see it, now you don’t!


Plym Valley Rangers and volunteers spent an interesting flew days last week clearing this Beech from the River Plym. This ‘unofficial’ crossing point and temporary dam was removed allowing wildlife to move more freely  up and down this important river corridor. Our resident Kingfishers seemed particularly happy with our efforts.



As I mentioned in last weeks blog Sunday 2nd October I will see me taking part in the National Trusts penultimate cycling sportive this year. Go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cycling/ for full details. I’ve always enjoyed riding bikes and had the good fortune to cycle all over the country but Devon and in particular Dartmoor are my favorite.  The National Cycle Network route 27 runs north to south down the west side of the moor and is an endless succession of stunning views, interesting places, great ridding and a host of National Trust properties!  These include Lydford gorge, Buckland Abbey, Plymbridge woods and Saltam House.  Plymbridge Woods is perhaps the best introduction to this route, for more details see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-plym_cycle_trail.pdf. Next weeks blog: tour of Britain comes to Dartmoor!


Plym Valley Staff and Volunteers Take A Dip

Last week, NT staff and volunteers in Plymbridge Woods were found taking a dip in the River Plym, to repair existing revetments close to the weir. As a popular picnic and paddling area for families and dog walkers, the river bank receives a lot of wear and tear. Such repairs are required to maintain the weir’s function, as well as to allow people to continue enjoying the location. Phase 1 took a full day to complete using a tractor, some shovels and a lot of elbow grease. The remaining repairs are to follow soon.


Before                                               After

Woodland Art – Plymbridge Woods

Thursday 28 July, 10am-1pm

Come and play in the woods and explore the outdoors using art and crafts (materials supplied).  Meet at  Plym Bridge, grid ref SX 524 585.

Child £5.  Booking essential on 01752 341377 or dartmoor@nationaltrust.org.uk.

Peregrine Chicks Take to the Wing


by Steve Waterhouse


Peregrine falcons have bred again successfully in the Plym Valley much to the delight of the volunteers and 17 000 visitors who have been following their progress this year. The nest site in Cann Quarry, Plymbridge Woods has been watched by a committed team of volunteers for 10 breeding seasons. This year the peregrines had two healthy chicks which flew the nest on Sunday 10th July.

The chicks will still be calling Cann Quarry their home for now while they test their wings and learn to hunt for themselves. They are still reliant on the parents for food and can be seen (and heard!) around the quarry perfecting their flight skills and nagging mum and dad. They will finally become independent in the Autumn when they will be chased from their natal territory.

For the first 3-4 years of their lives, the juveniles will have no fixed abode but will travel around different areas (Peregrinus is Latin for wanderer, traveller or pilgrim). A young peregrine that is ready to breed will find a suitable territory (the presence of other peregrines will be a good indicator of this) and hopefully a mate.

The Plym peregrine chicks were ringed this year and last. This involves putting small plastic and metal rings on their legs while they   are in the nest and greatly contributes to our understanding of the peregrine’s movements, life history and population status. We hope that the chicks hatched at Cann Quarry will one day go on to breed somewhere else in the country and a glimpse of a yellow ring by an interested observer will lead to us finding out where the Plym chicks spend the rest of their lives after leaving Plymbridge Woods.


The public viewing platform and telescopes on Cann viaduct will be in place until Friday 22nd July for a last close up view of the newly fledged chicks. But the volunteers and NT staff will be keeping an eye on the family until the youngsters leave for good in the Autumn. There is still a good chance for you to see the birds flying around the quarry and making a racket so don’t forget to stop and look as you stroll or cycle across Cann viaduct.

Redstart and spotted flycatcher

A spotted flycatcher has been sighted feeding around the river Plym at Plymbridge Woods. Masters of the air, they hunt butterflies and other insects with an audible snap of the bill. Recently the numbers of spotted flycatchers has dropped dramatically, so they are now high on the Red List.

The redstart is breeding near Cadover Bridge at the Upper Plym. This bird is much easier to identify due to their bright orange-red tails. Like the spotted flycatcher, the redstart is a migratory bird, and spends the winter in northwest Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Photographs taken by Nigel Climpson)

Orchids in the Plym Valley

South Devon National Trust Volunteers were in the Plym Valley yesterday helping the Rangers with their annual orchid count and some Himalayan Balsam pulling.

The lower meadow at Plym Bridge is managed for its wild flowers and includes the Southern Marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa).

Despite the heavy rain, that stayed all day, a determined group of volunteers and Rangers scoured the meadow and successfully found 99 orchids.