5 down, 45 to go!

Plym Valley Rangers, volunteers and visitors to Plymbridge woods all combined today to help with the National Trust 2013 launch of  ’50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4. A wet  start to the day could not dampen spirits and before long a number of children were walking off with a copy of the ‘Adventure Scrapbook’ under their arm.  

Between us all, we managed to ‘Roll down a really big hill’, ‘Skim a stone’, ‘Play Pooh sticks’, ‘Hunt for bugs’ (including an impressive Oil Beetle), and ‘Go bird watching’ at the Plym Peregrine Watch. Five down,  45 to go! 

Dry-Stone Walling with Plym Valley Conservation Volunteers

This Sunday Pete Davies led a small team of volunteers in Plym Bridge Woods, reinstating some of the local archaeology. The wall which follows the Plymouth to Dartmoor tramway along the Western edge of the woods has slowly fallen foul of time and misuse, causing the majority of it to fall away degrading the aesthetic value and leaving loose shale on the path. Under instruction from Pete; Jim, Steve, Tony and the two Joes removed any loose shale and unstable rocks from the top of the wall and meticulously replaced them, reinforcing the base where necessary. The centre was filled in with the loose shale and soil which had slowly built up alongside the wall. Aside from the biting wind the weather was pleasant and didn’t hinder the team, allowing them to make serious headway into improving the site.

The work undertaken on Sunday was the first of many steps; the wall runs for miles and will be a long term project. The important thing is that the first Plym Valley Conservation Volunteers meet was a success. For the first day it was a respectable turn out and everybody enjoyed themselves which bodes well for the future.

The next meet will be on Sunday 12th May 2013 and will involve post and rail fencing in Plymbridge Woods. The group will be meeting at 10am in Plymbridge carpark; if you’re interested in helping out this would be greatly appreciated.


Improved access to the Dewerstone

Plym Valley Rangers and volunteers have been working on improvements to the footbridge over the River Plym at Shaugh Bridge. By re-hanging the access gate and removing the ‘step’ from the northern end, it is hoped that the access for all visitors to the Dewerstone will be improved.

The views from the top of the Dewerstone are well worth the 150ft climb from the car park.

Can you guess what it is?

On entering the National Trust car park for the Dewerstone at Shaugh Bridge, you are confronted by a large stone building nestled in the hill side. For those you who aren’t aware of its past, this archaeological feature can turn your thoughts into an episode of “Time Team”, giving rise to questions like what, when and why? Further clues of its function, including a ceramic pipeline, a number of stone structures and spoil heaps, can be found along the south eastern side of the river Plym, between Cadover and Shaugh Bridge.

This network of infrastructure represents what was once a thriving China Clay Industry in south west Dartmoor, operating from around the 1870’s to the 1950’s. Starting further up the river Plym close to Cadover Bridge, china clay was extracted from pits at Shaugh Lake and Wigford down. The resulting clay suspension was then fed by pipeline down to a mica drag close to the village of Shaugh Prior. Here any sand particles were removed before the remaining clay slurry was piped down to settling tanks at Shaugh Bridge. The water was drained off and the china clay dried in the pan kiln, before being cut into blocks and transported up to Shaugh Bridge platform on the Tavistock to Plymouth railway line.


From the car park you can clearly see the loading bays at the front of the building, where blocks of clay were loaded onto carts. The pan kiln was situated on the level above these, with the large settling tanks located above the kiln. The steps on the right hand side of the building will lead you onto a footpath to Cadover Bridge, and offer you a chance to explore the upper levels of the china clay works.


Efforts to preserve such archaeological features are a regular occurrence in the Plym Valley Ranger’s annual calendar of work. Recently for example, a group of 26 student volunteers from the University of Plymouth, including members of the Student Union’s Musical Theatre Group and the Environmental Society, assisted with scrub clearance and vegetation removal from the mica drag near Shaugh Prior. A large pile of garden waste close by was also cleared thanks to their efforts.


Student volunteers clearing scrub in a highly efficient manner.

Student volunteers from the University of Plymouth inside the cleared mica drag.


Throughout the year we hold a number of archaeological guided walks in the Plym Valley, including some taking in the Shaugh Bridge China Clay Works. If you would like to know more please ring the Ranger team on 01752 341377.


To reach the site…


By Bike: Use National Cycle Network Route 27 from Plymouth. Leave the route at Shaugh Bridge platform on the right (SX 527 636). Follow the short stretch of road down to the small t-junction and turn left. Follow this road round to Shaugh Bridge. The NT car park is on the left immediately after the bridge over the River Plym.  Visit www.sustrans.org.uk or www.devon.gov.uk/cycling


By Bus: Target Travel Bus Route 59 stops right outside the NT car park at Shaugh Bridge. Buses run seven times a day, Monday to Saturday, between Plymouth, Plympton, Sparkwell, Bickleigh and Plymouth’s George P&R. Bus times available at www.transportdirect.info or http://targettravel.co.uk/59-plympton.html.


By Car: From the A38, exit at Manadon Junction and take the A386 towards Tavistock. At Bickleigh Cross (immediately after the Belliver Roundabout), turn right onto New Road (signposted Bickleigh, Shaugh Prior). Continue on this road through the village of Bickleigh and after passing the barracks, take the next left signposted Shaugh Prior, Wotter and Lee Moor. Follow this road for a couple of miles round to Shaugh Bridge. The NT car park is on the left immediately after the bridge over the River Plym.


Plym Valley Volunteers 1 – 0 Laurel

Volunteers were out in force last weekend in Plymbridge Woods assisting the Rangers with the continuing task of laurel bashing and burning.

On Saturday, we were joined by students from Plymouth University including members of the Environmental Society from the Students’ Union. This formed part of our new programme of volunteering opportunities available to the students throughout the academic year. Sunday saw South Devon National Trust Volunteers lending a helping hand, as they regularly do with many tasks here in the Plym Valley and other NT properties. Both groups attacked this prolific invader of native woodlands with great energy and determination, making a considerable dent in our efforts to eradicate this species from Plymbridge Woods.

Students from the University of Plymouth

South Devon National Trust Volunteers

Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is native to the Balkans (Southeastern Europe) but has been grown for ornamental purposes across Europe and has become naturalised in open woodland. Due to its vigorous growth habits and adaptability to varying climatic conditions, it out competes our native plant species for space and light. It also has limited value to our native fauna. Eventually, we will replant areas previously dominated by laurel with native tree species in order to enhance the biodiversity of the woodland.




Students escape a warm library for an afternoon in the rain….!

Last Wednesday (9th November) afternoon, students from the University of Plymouth braved the continuous down pour of rain, to help the Plym Valley ranger team remove fly tipping and garden waste around the boundaries of Plymbridge Woods. Such refuse poses a threat to the natural balance of the woodland, with garden waste in particular likely to introduce non-native invasive plant species.

The student volunteers worked enthusiastically to help complete the work, despite the weather. The dumped material was collected and taken back to Plym Valley HQ, where a fire was burning ready for the garden waste, as well as a highly earned cup of tea and biscuits for those involved.

Students from the university are becoming more and more involved with the management of the Plym Valley estate. Many have undertaken research projects on site, which in turn have deepened the management team’s understanding on subjects ranging from peatlands to bats. For the last three summers, some have undertaken an 8 week work placement on site and more recently, have assisted with fund raising events such as the Halloween trail. In connection with the volunteering department at the university’s students’ union, it is hoped that we will have a helping hand from students at least once a month, with the practical management of the property.

Exeter University rolls into Parke

Despite an unpromising weather forecast, a group of staff from University of Exeter, (Research & Knowledge Transfer), descended on National Trust, Parke at Bovey Tracey for a day of Employee Volunteering.

Their task was to lay the paths in the newly renovated walled garden and for this they were met and assisted by a team of National Trust and  Dartmoor National Park Authority rangers.

In preparation for the undertaking the Parke team had levelled the paths with the aid of a mini digger and lined them with a total of 400m of edging boards.  This wood all came from oak grown, felled and milled on the estate.

There were 33 volunteers and between them they managed to move 32 tons of stone and then rake it level; an astonishing average of over one ton per person!  Their abilities were doubtless helped by the mountains of cakes, sandwiches, teas and coffees that were consumed at regular intervals

At the end of the task, having taken the final victory picture the site was cleared and the group claimed they were off to the pub but it was more likely that what they really meant was they were going back to the office for a couple of hours work – such was their amazing capacity for hard work!

Many thanks to all involved – volunteers and staff alike.  It was a task that has improved the garden beyond belief and will enable visitors to enjoy this lovely garden to its fullest for many years to come.

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

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.