Giving Lower Plants the Upper Hand

The mild, wet conditions in the south-west of England, brought about by the Gulf Stream and our proximity to the sea, have created perfect conditions for the establishment of Atlantic Woodlands. These moist, humid woods—also known as Celtic Rainforests—are brimming with lush green ferns, carpets of mosses and lichens covering tree trunks and hanging from the canopies. Building Resilience in South West Woodlands is a new Heritage Lottery-funded project—led by Plantlife—that addresses the challenges faced by the Atlantic woodlands ofRead more

A Lichen Tor

Lichens are so omnipresent that few people stop to admire the incredible variety among them. I myself was guilty of paying them little more attention than a cursory glance, before I, with a team of other Natural Sciences undergraduates from the University of Exeter, teamed up with Natural England for one of our modules. Two of the key lichen species that we recorded at sites across Dartmoor – Usnea articulata (left) and Bryoria fuscescens  On our first venture to Dartmoor, weRead more

No Boundaries – Broader Horizons

The wonderful wildlife of the eastern side of Dartmoor is not just found within the boundaries of the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve. Species of plants and animals often find places that suit their requirements in the surrounding fields, heaths and woods. The nature reserve managers, Natural England and the Woodland Trust, frequently work with neighbouring landowners to monitor and improve the habitats around this beautiful part of the moor. For example, in recent years, researchers from the University ofRead more

Sharing Expertise on Woodland Bats

During a long mid-summer day, with the woodland canopy glowing green in the sunshine, it was a perfect day for a walk in the woods at East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve, but this time, it was a walk with a difference. Conservation experts from around the SW had been brought together by the Woodland Trust to share the knowledge built up through recent research about a colony of barbastelles, a rare woodland bat species. Over recent years, this colony hasRead more

A Naturally Creative Partnership

Standing in Bovey Valley’s Pullabrook Wood are a number of mighty Douglas fir trees. Planted around 50 years ago they are now producing some fine quality construction timber and, this summer, a few of these weighty stems were selectively felled and transported to Hooke Park in Dorset for a uniquely creative project.  The skilful felling of the timber, was described in a previous blog ‘A Tall Order‘. In July, under the Architectural Association’s Visiting School summer workshop, a group of architecturalRead more

Saving a Rare Species – White-letter hairstreak

Following on from the good work of the East Dartmoor NNR volunteers to find and plot the wych elm trees in Rudge and Hisley Woods, a group of conservationists got together to learn more about a rare butterfly. The white-letter hairstreak is dependent on various species of elm as a food plant and the wych elms of the Bovey Valley Woods were believed to support a colony of this specialist tree canopy species. Though there have only been a fewRead more

Life in the Canopy

Since its designation in the 1950’s the diverse habitats and wildlife of East Dartmoor NNR have been studied by scientists with an interest in ecology.  But to study life in the canopy, takes both a strong head for heights and some highly specialised equipment. However a team at Plymouth University have become highly skilled at working in this challenging environment. Each year Biological and Environmental Science students from Plymouth University, visit the tropical forests of Borneo, to study the highRead more

Understanding Dartmoor’s woodlands

At this time of year the suggestion that a bunch of naturalists should spend time indoors is usually met with derision. Why be inside when you can be out and about watching Spring burst into action. So it was with a little trepidation that we decided to hold our first Woodland Festival Lectures programme at the National Park headquarters at Parke on Saturday right in the middle of the season. We needn’t have worried. There was a real appetite toRead more

Sun, Trees, Tools and Tall Tales

You can’t organise the sun, but if we could, we couldn’t have planned it any better. On the 25th March we had the sun, we had warmth and we had lots of people having fun and learning about how and why we manage our woods (in the past and in the present). Down in the glade – where the sun kept everyone warm – there was a lovely relaxed atmosphere whilst people ate their picnics and took part in variousRead more