Yarner Wood has a long history of colourful interpretation, dating back to the times a permit was required to visit the woodland.
From these early signs, a leaflet was then created – the first editions of which were black and white. Our leaflets and brochures have come a long way since then! You can find our current literature in each of the bird hides and in the office at Yarner Wood.
Alongside the first examples of signage and leaflets was a fascinating nature trail dating back to the early 70s. Along this nature trail through the woods were glass boxes displaying models, explaining different aspects of the site. Some of the glass displays are still on site and were exhibited this year.
This historic nature trail was updated many times over the years, and interpretation panels were added at the same time as construction of the office building in the year 2000.
On the nature trail was the Pavilion or Field Museum which was used to display items of interest. Here is a picture of it with an open front and a window at the back. Some of the old boxes where put up on display.
Sadly that building had to be taken down, but it was replaced by the green oak wood shelter we see today. Here with a display of lichens in it.
We were also able to add some more interpretation during the HLF funded Moor Than Meets The Eye landscape project. This included the wonderful new trail leaflets which can access from our main blog page.
One of the best ways to interpret a site is to give or attend a guided walk; see the recollection of such a guided walk, written by Andrew Smerdon.
This year a guided walk was one of a series of events held to mark the 70th Anniversary of Yarner Wood being designated Britain’s first National Nature Reserve. Yarner Wood, along with Trendlebere Down and the River Bovey Valley makes up what is now titled the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve (NNR).
Albert Knott – Natural England’s Reserve Manager Dartmoor NNRs – led a group of 19 attendees from the Bovey Tracey Local of Devon Wildlife Trust on a warm summer afternoon.
* Ancient Wood Bank
Sections of the original perimeter bank still exist, designed to exclude intruders, this would have been pollarded and high coppiced in places. There are records of Yarner House having an Estate as early as the 15th Century.
70 years ago the Estate was put up for sale and the woods could have been lost to forestry. The low quality timber, a product of a combination of poor acid soil, subsidence due to Sticklepath fault, and splitting of some trees due to WW2 incendiary bombs made the woods unattractive from a forestry perspective. Thankfully the Nature Conservancy intervened and the wood was saved.
In the 1970s Yarner Wood was the site of one of the country’s first Nature Trails (and all the trees were actually counted and measured to gain the volume!).
The wood is now one of 70 ancient woodlands protected as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy: https://queensgreencanopy.org/protecting-ancient-woodlands/
* Sessile Oak Canopy
The majestic oaks of Yarner Wood are testament to an ancient past and a long history of woodland management. In the past, large blocks of woodland were felled to make charcoal by itinerant charcoal burners. And the legacy of trees re-growing in similar-aged groups can still be seen today. Flat, circular areas about 5 metres across mark the many old charcoal hearths that still remain here.
Sessile oaks are the predominant species in the wood by far and are distinguishable from Pedunculate oaks by having no ‘ear lobes’ at the base of the leaf, and acorns with no stalks. Many trees are thought to be between 150 and 300 years old.
A complicated ecosystem exists with an understory of rowan and birch, including the incredibly valuable fungal web that links trees underground and gives ancient woodland its true value.
Natural England make efforts to maintain a natural balance of flora, utilising Dartmoor ponies as native large herbivores. They perform a vital role in natural woodland management; suppressing the growth of holly and other species which might otherwise spread, pushing over weaker or dying trees to help create a canopy of varied heights, and removing the need for mechanical maintenance of rides and glades.
* Former Reservoir
Sympathetic management of this site that was once hidden is helping to enhance a habitat for dragonflies and damselflies, herons and hopefully enticing kingfishers to breed. A population of small fish exists, with very big eyes!
* Pied Flycatchers
These UK conservation status: Amber Summer Migrants arrive from Africa each April, to coincide with emergence of Oak Eggar moth caterpillars. Some late broods can remain until July, but if you want to see them please come in May. Nest boxes have been surveyed since the 1950s and populations appear to be stable. New blog coming soon – time shows a success in nest box birds.
* Wood Ants
The Southern wood ant, Formica rufa is a species under threat with a limited distribution. There can be up to 500,000 individuals in a colony, which can be linked underground to others, forming massive super-colonies. Wood ants play a vital role in decomposition of organic material.
A colony will be entirely female, which Albert suggested aided their collaboration!
Nests are situated on South-facing aspects to ensure natural thermoregulation which allows the ants to maintain eggs at the correct temperature. Ants will even climb to the top of mature trees to milk aphids.
Green woodpeckers sometimes sit on an ants nest with outstretched wings to encourage ants to release Formica acid, thereby getting a parasite-freeing shower.
* Long-Term Datasets
Yarner has been actively studied for several decades, with focus on the woodland interest plus weekly butterfly counts and daily moth recording. Weather trends have been recorded since the 60s, and air quality is also measured, with trends published in a previous East Dartmoor NNR blog: A Focus on Lichens and What They Need | East Dartmoor Woods blog
* Young Dartmoor Rangers
The walk coincided with a meeting of this group of wildlife enthusiasts who had been involved in designing potential future interpretation boards for the Wood.
Early this year the same Youth and Junior Rangers came and burnt into discs of wood using the reserve’s new pyrography kit to create a large ’70 Years’ mural on the Yarner Valley bird hide.
The same kit has been used to create some new ride interchange markers and Tik Tok stations with the aim to involve younger members of society and help people not get lost. There are four to find, each revealing a special piece of wildlife.
(We are also re-signing our entrance and shelter so watch this space!)