A Year at East Dartmoor

Looking out across the woods this morning it seems that spring is well on its way with lots of birdwatchers in the hides and brimstones on the wing. I have shared a year in the life of Yarner Wood and have watched it change through all of its four seasons. Of all the seasons’ spring is a time for new beginnings and for me that means a new start in Bristol. As I draw towards the end of my traineeship at East Dartmoor NNR I look back through the seasons and reflect on some of the highlights of my time here.

SPRING
When I first started in spring 2018 the survey season began to kick off and I soon came to discover the rich ecology of the reserve. I learnt numerous new species of plants and lichens and surveyed for oil beetles, otters, butterflies and bees. Here are a few photographs of my early discoveries.

A rare blue ground beetle (above) Images below, from left): tree lungwort, early purple orchid and yellow pimpernel

SUMMER
After a month away in June I jumped back into some long summer days doing a variety of management tasks on and around the reserve. We spent a few days brush cutting the pottery leat in preparation for the Bovey Beauty race led by the Woodland Trust and another sunny day clearing bracken from the Foales Arrishes hut circles beyond Haytor rocks.

I continued to build my ecological knowledge and experience throughout the summer months. In July, Crystal and I joined Rob Large from the Natural England Field Unit, on a two day site visit to the Braunton Burrows SSSI, where we conducted fixed-point vegetation surveys.  Back on the reserve I teamed up with Matt Parkins, Tom Williams and the other trainees to monitor river flies in the river Bovey.  To get up close and personal with these inconspicuous yet incredible species was an eye opening experience and one which highlighted the true diversity of the ecology here on the reserve. 

Botanical survey at Braunton Burrows

AUTUMN
Practical management tasks increased in the autumn months. Some memorable experiences include planting elm saplings in the Bovey Valley with Matt Parkins, thinning conifers with Jim White and his team at Fingle Wood and attending a hedge laying course run by the Moor than meets the eye Devon Hill Farm project. I thoroughly enjoyed learning these practical skills and I hope to put them to good use in the future. I have already started laying the hedge on my own piece of land!

Hedgelaying
Laying a hedge at Scorriton

WINTER
With the colder, wetter weather setting in we moved indoors to do some desk based work.  Each member of the trainee team has been assigned a NNR Management Plan to update. Katherine and I have been working on the East Dartmoor Woods and Heaths Management Plan, it has been an interesting process and one which will prove useful if I go on to a managerial position in the future. Despite the weather we still got out a lot with some cold, but rewarding, days installing new interpretation signs across the NNR with Steve Pocock (Woodland Trust contractor), tree planting with Jim White and clearing willow scrub for curlew habitat at Princetown with Alasdair Kirkpatrick. 

Ed and Katherine tree planting at Holsworthy
Steve, George and Crystal installing an interpretation board in Pullabrook car park

I would like to thank all of the people I have met and worked with over the year for their time, knowledge, patience and friendship for it is you that have made my traineeship so memorable and enjoyable. East Dartmoor NNR will forever be on my map and I can guarantee I’ll be back to visit before long.

Written by James Lawrence-King, Conservation Assistant

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