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…


Managing land for conservation is a National Trust rangers bread and butter.  The general aim is to increase habitat diversity which then leads to wildlife diversity. The photos show a disused quarry which had become over grown.  Last week the team sensitively allowed more light in by selectively felling a number of trees and removing excessive debris from the water. The result is a mixture of habitats that caters for a range of species instead of less diversity and less wildlife. SIMPLES!

Not too Crabby

For those of you not familiar with Whiddon Deer Park in the Teign Valley, one of it’s many marvellous attributes is this fine old Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris). It was admired by some of the leading members of the Ancient Tree Forum on their last visit to the Park. The tree is so large and old for its species that the heavier braches are beginning to droop towards the ground (in other species this is known as layering). Unfortunately for this poor tree it is in an area frequented by the cattle which are essential to the proper management of the Park, and as such as soon as the branches droop to cow height, they are browsed upon. To stop this, the forum suggested fencing the tree off to protect it from the worst of the bovine appetite. As you can see from the pictures, it is a truly magnficent example of this species and hopefully will remain so for a long, long time to come, and the cows will  have to make do with grass.  


Click here to see the river Teign at Fingle bridge in full spate! This was the river Teign along the Teign gorge on Monday 3rd at 14:30. The Christmas period had not been dry, so when there was a prolonged deluge of rain from Sunday night until Monday lunch time, this was the result. The meadow was now a water meadow, weirs disappeared under thunderous white water and we had a hairy moment driving along a section of path 23 inches underwater. The arches of Fingle Bridge came close to being enveloped but the tough old bird has undoubtedly seen worse than this. I frequently marvel at how well engineered the bridges around Dartmoor are, and by the looks this, a good thing to!

Paths, Picnics and Pubs

Now that summer is with us the vegetation begins to take over many of our footpaths, making some nearly impassable to all but the most thick skinned. It is at this time of year that we begin our annual round of path cutting to maintain the paths and provide good quality access around all of our properties. For many properties, particularly coastal ones, this is a major task occupying most of the summer, with miles and miles of footpath needing to be strimmed perhaps twice a year. Here in the Teign valley we come off somewhat better as most of our paths are within woods which makes them less likely to become overgrown as light levels are lower. Never the less we still have our fair share of path cutting to do. We have also recently undertaken the annual haircut of fingle bridge meadows, having waited for the majority of flowering plants to finish seeding.  These meadows are incredibly popular at this time of year, particularly at weekends, with people walking, cycling, horseriding, picnicing, paddling in the river or just enjoying the atmosphere from the safety of the nearby Fingle Bridge Inn’s beer garden next to the river (not National Trust owned). If you have never visited before, you can find Fingle Bridge about 1.5 miles from the village of Drewsteignton, which is signposted off the A30 between Exeter and Whiddon Down. Come and see for yourself.

Setting the Benchmark.

I have posted before on the use of our own Oak for structures within the Teign Valley. Here is the latest example during creation, a memorial bench soon to join others near Fingle bridge. We like to keep our benchs rustic and in keeping with the landscape around them. The Oak used was felled  last year as part of our woodland thinning to promote better woodland structure and improve species diversity. The piece of Oak is still very much “green” as this wood will never truly dry out (season) in the round (as a log), it needs to be cut or split to begin the drying process which is reckoned to be 3 years for firewood use. We use an “alaskan” sawmill attached to our largest chainsaw to cut slabs of timber from the log. In a couple of months you will be able to visit Fingle and try out this bench for yourself. Green Oak- coming to a bottom near you!