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

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

From Wood to Moor – a Dartmoor Conservation Story (chapter 1)

When you walk through the wooded fringes of Dartmoor you may occasionally hear the rasp of a chainsaw followed by the thud of falling conifer trees. You may sometimes stroll by a stack of timber, perhaps wondering what that pile of logs could be used for. Following that train of thought, you might perhaps ask yourself the question, “Why are they cutting down these trees? Isn’t that a bit destructive?” Well, in many of these woodlands there is a plan,Read more

Elm on the Edge

The story of the wych elm trees in the Bovey Valley Woods has reached its final chapter. The volunteers of the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve began the adventure began back in 2016 when a hunt for the diminished population of elms took a painstakingly methodical route through the woods to find these elusive trees. The first stage of the project required the individual trees to be found, assessed for health, recorded and plotted on a map because, before thisRead more

One for the Record – Bovey Beauty 2018

The Bovey Beauty 10-mile fell race is becoming more popular by the year and, in September 2018, the number of entrants at the start line was a record 65. Though the forecast predicted wet and breezy conditions at the Pullabrook Woods start point, the race day weather was expected to clear and, sure enough, the Dartmoor weather obliged.   Following the Old Manaton Road and over the River Bovey at Hisley Bridge, the runners tackled the long, steady climb throughRead more