Monday, 4 April 2011

New site for Dartmoor NT blog

Please note this blog  (National Trust on Dartmoor) has moved to a new location.

Please bookmark the new site -

The old site will be maintained for a few months as an archive

Many thanks for your support

Sunday, 3 April 2011

10 Tors goes to Exmoor!

This weekend saw our 10 Tors training locate to Exmoor - Watersmeet & Lorna Doone with wind, drizzle & sunshine! See here for details

Monday, 28 March 2011

Lizards Emerge at Plymbridge Woods

Common lizards are creeping out from their winter homes and basking in the sunshine. Juveniles and mature lizards need to warm their cold-blooded bodies because they’ve been hibernating since October. A female common lizard (pictured) tends to have stripes and males are spottier. They come in a variety of colours, from black to brown and green.

When you hear a rustle in the autumn leaves you might think it’s a mouse or a wren, but it could well be a lizard on the hunt. As Spring arrives, so does their food supply. Common lizards eat small insects, usually flies, spiders and other invertebrates such as centipedes, worms and small snails. They tend not to eat black insects such as beetles. Common lizards use regular feeding routes so if you spot one it’s worth going back to see if you can find it again. The lizards here have plenty of predators to worry about: foxes, hawks, crows and jays.

Common lizards are active between mid-March and the end of September. April and May is the peak time for mating and some males will change the colour of their skin to bright blue-green to attract a female. The young will be born in July and August. During the summer, lizards don’t need to bask for long so this is the best time to go out and find them. On a warm and sunny day they can be found throughout the UK, in open woodland habitats like Plymbridge Woods. (Photograph taken by Lucy Tozer, Long-term Volunteer.)

Friday, 25 March 2011

Trust defends its woodland work

There was a recent article in the Okehampton Times regarding whether the National Trust was managing its woodlands properly.

Adrian Colston, National Trust General Manager for Dartmoor comments on the piece and explains the Trust’s approach to woodland management in this podcast.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Have you seen an Oil beetle?

Violet oil beetle - Meloe violaceus

If you have seen one of these fascinating beetles then please help Buglife's national survey of them.

At one time the UK used to have 9 species, but now there are only believed to be 4, the Black oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus), the Violet oil beetle (Meloe violaceus), the Short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis) and the Rugged oil beetle (Meloe rugusus).

These are fairly large beetles that can be up to 40mm long and can be seen anytime between April and August. The female lays hundreds of eggs in the soil close to a solitary bee nest. The eggs can take a year to hatch upon which the larvae climb plants, such as Lesser celandine, to wait for a visiting bee whereupon they hitch a ride back to the bee's nest where they spend the rest of their development feeding upon bee eggs and pollen. Linked as they are to declining bee species this is one fear as to causes for the decline of all oil beetles.

Its vital this survey is undertaken as only 3 of the 4 species listed have been seen recently and these are all declining. The Short-necked oil beetle (seen below) was thought to have been extinct in Britain since 1948 till it was seen in 2007 at Wembury in South Devon, and that place on this very day is where the new survey is being launched. If you want to take part go to the following link to register. My thanks to John Walters for these fantastic photos.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Defending Parke against the invasion forces?

Visitors to the National Trust Parke estate at Bovey Tracey might be forgiven for thinking they have strayed into a warzone. On some weekday evenings a group of Army Cadet Force youngsters can be found making their way stealthily through the undergrowth during their training procedures.

The ACF can trace its beginnings to 1859 when there was a threat of invasion by the French. The British Army was still heavily involved abroad after the Indian mutiny and there were very few units in this country. The Volunteers were formed to repel the possible invasion and this was the organization that was the forerunner of the Cadets.

However, the invasion did not materialize and a year later the Cadets were formally created. This was mainly due to many social workers and teachers seeing in it great value as an organization for the benefit of boys, particularly bearing in mind the appalling conditions in which so many of them then lived. Among these pioneer workers was Miss Octavia Hill one of the founders of the National Trust. She realized that cadet training was important for character training and although she was certainly not a militarist, she formed the Southwark Cadet Company in order to introduce the boys of the slums of that area to the virtues of order, cleanliness, teamwork and self-reliance.

Over the past three years, the Bovey Tracey ACF Detachment has had a cumulative total of 710 cadets and adults train in Parke. Training has been conducted during both day and night and subjects taught have included camouflage and concealment techniques, observation and basic patrolling skills, quick attacks, ambush and defence training, obstacle crossing and reaction to enemy fire, escape, evasion and survival skills, fire control orders and recognition of enemy targets, communications training, day and night navigation training, and manoeuvre exercises. The cadets get immense enjoyment from the manoeuvre exercises which have been planned around three fictitious counties, one enemy and two friendly, that border the River Bovey.

So if you should come face to face with one of these chaps - ”Don’t panic!”, but you may need to show them a passport!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Another sunny day on Dartmoor

An account of my exploits 10 Toring on Sunday on the Upper Plym and around Shipley Bridge


To mention an interest of flowers in many circles is to perform social suicide. An aesthetic appreciation of landscapes however seems to be more acceptable. Only last week we had a group of work men from Plymouth volunteering with us. One bloke whilst looking across the teign gorge turned to his collegues and announced, "its alright here init". Which was greeted with sage agreeement. Would that have happened had he pointed at a primrose?! but what about the flower as a landscape? I have yet to see even the most dissimissive of people fail to appreciate a British bluebell wood in spring.

In these parts there is an altogether rarer beast, the wild daffodil. I tracked my prey to a known hotspot Dunsford Woods and was not disappointed as the photo testifies. So get down to Dunsford wood in the next couple of weeks, but only if you're man enough!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Going Wild!

On sunday the 6th March, we held the first of our "Wild Tribe" activity days at Fingle Bridge. The purpose of these days is to allow families to take part in various activities ranging from Bushcraft, Green woodwork and rural skills, Forest school and countryside management. Around 50 people turned up to our first event which was held at Fingle Bridge near Drewsteignton. Families tried out den building, fire lighting, nature walks, two-person saws, axes, green woodwork and more.

Wild Tribe will take place on the first Sunday of every month right through until October. Activities run from 10am until 3pm, costs are £2 for adults and £4 for children. Places can be booked by calling 01647 433356. Go Wild with us!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Th most exciting time of the year

The most exciting time of the year - my latest blog post