Wood Ants in the Winter

Ants are the most numerous creatures on the planet and there are many millions of them living around the woods of East Dartmoor, but why is the species of red wood ant (Formica rufa) such an important part of our woodland ecosystem? These wood ants that build the familiar ‘thatched’ nests are a familiar sight during the summer and, occasionally, it can be quite difficult to find a place to stand where these centimetre centurions aren’t crawling all over yourRead more

On a Winter’s Day

All the leaves were down and the sky was grey, we went for a soils walk on a winter’s day… On the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve we joined soil specialist, Rob Parkinson, to look at what is going on below the leaves – in the soils around Haytor and Yarner Wood. Following the route of a new walking trail, we looked at how soils are formed, and how the soils’ physical and chemical properties can be determined by theRead more

Yarnia comes to Yarner

Over 80 people braved the rain one wet Saturday before Christmas (8th December) to take part in the Yarner Wood Christmas Pantomime Walk, to discover that there really is “more than meets the eye” to Dartmoor’s woodlands, even in the winter. They were treated to performances from colourful pantomime characters, who all looked strangely familiar, as they entered the world of Yarnia through an old upcycled wardrobe. Once in the land of Yarnia everyone had to work together collecting natural treasure to defeatRead more

Letting in the Light

This summer and autumn, a group of volunteers have been  assisting Dr Alison Smith from Plantlife, to carry out a citizen science survey of some of the ancient woodland boundaries in the Bovey Valley. They have been recording the lichens found growing on the ancient oaks that span some of the old boundaries and they have been helping to photograph the canopy cover of the trees, using a 360 degree fisheye lens camera. These photographs can be used to measure the amount of light reachingRead more

Picking the Bones out of an Otter’s Lunch

Very few of us are lucky enough to have seen a real live otter though they frequently swim, hunt and raise cubs along the River Bovey and its tributaries. They are the apex predator in the food chain of this watery world and, though they have an elusive reputation, will leave us regular clues about where they have been and, if you look closely, what they have been eating. Please excuse the direct approach to getting down to business, butRead more

John and the Robin

  John Clare was a 19th century English poet who loved the countryside. He lived in the sweeping rural landscape of Northamptonshire and, working as a farm labourer, grew up in poverty without any formal schooling. Paradoxically, his poetry left us with a rare insight into an important period of rural life after the Enclosure Acts which radically changed land ownership, bringing in newer forms of agriculture. John Clare recorded, in his own, self-educated words how he saw the welfareRead more