The Water of Life

After a night of heavy rain, yet another Dartmoor deluge, I’m waiting in the Postbridge car park to meet David Leach. He is the Dartmoor Peatland Restoration Project Officer and, after introductions, we get kitted up for a two-mile trudge in full waterproofs to check on the progress of the South West Peatland Project, a habitat restoration project covering Dartmoor and the uplands of Exmoor and Bodmin Moor too. Our journey begins with a typically wintry walk, but conversation isRead more

The Timber Trail – History in the Making

Weaving through the narrow lanes on western Dartmoor, I’m heading up a dead-end, single-track road. As I arrive at Lane End, the hard surfacing gives way to open windswept moorland. Oh no! I’ve gone too far! I need to go back and look for a small track … and there it is, guiding me between two age-old stone walls. It feels like I’m going back in time; this landscape has hardly changed in hundreds of years, but it is veryRead more

A Win-Win for Nature

Woodland restoration is a slow process requiring a determined approach and, with good planning and dedication, Houndtor Woods in the Bovey Valley is showing real signs of progress. For decades, the dense cover of introduced conifer trees has been casting shade over the ancient woodland soil below, suppressing the wild flowers and reducing the range of insects and birds that once thrived there. To remedy this habitat conservation problem, the Woodland Trust is using a step-by-step method; thinning out theRead more

Sprucing Up Houndtor Ridge

During a spell of sparkling weather in February a few hints of Spring began to show in Houndtor Wood. This south facing sun trap was once an ancient woodland, part of the network of Atlantic ‘temperate rainforest’ that is native to the western side of Britain but, since the 1950s, has been cleared and planted with a timber crop. These conifer species include Sitka spruce, western red cedar and Douglas fir, all introduced from the west coast of North America.Read more

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

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