Children Celebrate the Granite Railway – 200 years on   

We are in the 200th year since the Granite Tramway from the Haytor Quarries to Ventiford Basin on the Stover Canal was opened as Devon’s first railroad on Dartmoor. It was an incredible engineering achievement rolling 7 miles across the landscape and, unusually, its rails were hewn from the granite rock of Dartmoor in 1820. In 1813 George Templer inherited Haytor Quarry as part of the family business empire. One of his tenants, John Hatherly was working the Haytor Quarry onRead more

A Woodland Cycle of Renewal

February is a month of lighter mornings and lengthening days, bringing an innate sense that, though we have not seen the last of the frost and snow, a new cycle of renewal is beginning. Some days have that fresh smell of sunlight warming the cold earth, where hints of spring emerge, raising flashes of yellow celandine and spears of green bluebell leaves that break through last year’s leaf litter. Nature’s inevitable cycle starts an annual awakening of wildlife but carriesRead 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

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

Crucial Connections – Lichen on Wood Banks

Volunteers in the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve have been taking the chance to do some real science; citizen science that is going to contribute to a better understanding of lichens across the ancient woodlands of the South West. The “Atlantic” woodlands around Dartmoor are under pressure and, in some areas, becoming isolated or disconnected from each other. But there are some remnants of ancient woodland, draped like threads across the landscape that provide a lifeline of natural habitat betweenRead more

Pullabrook Wood Boundary – Lost in Time?

Ancient boundaries can maintain a vital link to the past; across Devon there are many miles of earth banks with different characters. Some stand stony-faced while others are draped with a display of wildflowers. Some have a shrubby hedge running along the top and others remain bare-backed. Some may be hundreds of years old while others began their existence back in the mists of history, maybe even thousands of years ago but, for all of them, their original purpose inRead more