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

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