1952 was a landmark year for Yarner Wood and, as a fine example of an upland western oak wood it became England’s first ever National Nature Reserve. Over time, the area protected for Dartmoor’s wildlife has expanded and now the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve also includes the heaths, bogs and streams of Trendlebere Down that connect with ribbons of mixed woodland flowing along the Bovey Valley. After a significant 7 decades of protecting the habitats and species of East Dartmoor, the Nature Reserve team planned a celebration to mark the arrival of the 70th Spring in 2022. Under the theme of ‘Looking Wild’ an exciting day of wild adventure was planned and a sunny Spring day with a light breeze set the scene perfectly. The event was open to all, and birds, reptiles, small mammals, butterflies and other bugs would be searched for and recorded in a bio-blitz, covering the woods, heaths and streams of the reserve.
Andy Bailey of Dartmoor National Park Authority introduced the day, explaining that there would be different activities around the reserve including a search for reptiles on the heath, various walks to identify birds, stream dipping for aquatic invertebrates and a scientific study laboratory to look at small flying insects. The aim of the day was to enthuse visitors and children in family groups to have a close up look at the nature around the reserve. The first stop at Trendlebere Down was a stand where Barry Henwood, the county moth recorder was displaying the moths caught in Yarner Wood overnight.
A warm, sunny Spring day provided the perfect opportunity to search for reptiles on the heath. Walks led by experts from Devon Reptile and Amphibian Group discovered a number of slow worms, viviparous lizards and even an adder was recorded by one lucky group.
Dartmoor National Park’s Junior and Youth Rangers were busy all day enjoying expert led walks all round the nature reserve. They looked at the habitat management with Andy Bakere from Natural England and Sam Manning from Woodland Trust, spending some time examining natural flood management along the watercourses. They also enjoyed walks to learn about identifying bird songs and calls followed by a trip to the woods to discover the places where small mammals might be hiding. They then watched and asked questions as a bank vole that was trapped in the morning was released back to its home patch among the undergrowth.
As the warm afternoon continued, visitors started to show interest in either the sun loving butterflies or the coolness of the shade where the river dipping was carried out, all benefitting from their meetings with wild species and the ecological experts (most of the guides being volunteers showing off their knowledge) whose aims are to continue to protect them, particularly as threats to wildlife are becoming more pronounced than ever before. A broad list of species had been recorded on the day and the vital role of the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve and many others like it will hopefully continue for another 70 years.
by Matt Parkins
photos: Matt Parkins, Tom Williams and Niyaz Saghari
Find out more about the Junior and Youth Rangers here