Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Monday, 22 February 2010
Things have gone full circle now and the oak woodlands on the Castle Drogo Estate are being harvested to produce wood energy for the first time since they were last coppiced 120 years ago.
Oak woods have a vital role in producing the beautiful landscape of wooded valleys around the edges of Dartmoor. The value of these woods to wildlife is also huge by providing a home for many insects, birds and mammals in a relationship that has been developing since the last ice age.
The National Trust are thinning the oak woods to hit a number of objectives:
- To provide wood energy to reduce our carbon footprint.
- To thin the woods so that the better trees can grow into mature trees with all their associated benefits to wildlife and as things of beauty in their own right.
- By letting more light to the woodland floor other plants will benefit with shrubs such as Hazel and Rowan growing to take their place in the woodlands web of life.
- To maintain the oak woodlands as part of the landscape of the Teign Valley for hundreds of years to come.
- To improve the experience for the visitors to the woods by releasing the gnarled old oaks that are getting swamped by younger trees. Allowing the trees to be seen for the wood.
- The river bank is also being opened up letting more light into the river, benefiting the plants, insects, trout and salmon.
- The removal of some of the riverside trees also give wonderful views up onto Drogo gorge and the rocky outcrops of Sharpe Tor.
- Some of the slightly larger trees will be cut up on a mobile saw bench to produce planks and posts to be used on the estate. Soon all the sign posts will be made from our own oak many already are. Some of the timber from the bent trees will be sold to go into traditional oak frame buildings where the natural bend of the trees forms the beautiful natural curves characteristic of these buildings.
The work is planned to take 5 years with about 3 ha of Whiddon Wood being thinned each year this limits the impact of what is a fairly heavy disturbance. Phasing the work also means that parts of the wood will develop differently over time increasing the diversity for the wildlife and producing a steady crop of wood energy.
Thursday, 18 February 2010
The appalling wet weather didn’t dampen enthusiasm and with a few sticks, bits of string, cast-off clothing & designer accessories and sackfulls of straw, over a dozen figures took on lives of their own. Here are just some of them leaning on the wall awaiting instruction from Herb-ert the resident scarecrow.
Some or them were taken home to guard the owners’ allotments or gardens, but most were taken to the Walled Garden to join the lonely Herb-ert who has worked tirelessly for the last year protecting the crops of the Bovey Climate Action gardeners from marauding crows and pigeons.
We’ve looked carefully at all the entries, and although it was very difficult we have decide that the winner of the day is…………..
Monday, 15 February 2010
Organic vegetable and herb seed for the discerning gardeners.
We will also have planters and other associated items for the allotment holders and keen gardeners of the area.
The shop is now open every day from 10.30 until 4.00 pm
Today we had our first youngbird watchers walk of the season and what a good one it was too. 24 children aged from two upwards and their parents joined our volunteer education assistant for a walk around the woods at Plymbridge. They were on the lookout out for any of the hundreds of different bird species we have here. Before setting out the children were introduced to a beautiful barn own and tawny owl. They were able to pet it and if they wanted they could hold it on the glove too.
They set off on the walk during which time they saw woodpeckers, dippers, nuthatch and the male and female peregrine setting up their nest for the new season.
Everyone said they really enjoyed the walk and were looking forward to coming back to Plymbridge for more events like this one.
If you want to make sure you don't miss the next young bird watchers outing put this date in your diaries. Wednesday 7th April or look out for it on this website and in Primary Times.
A big thank you to Kevin from KK Hawks and Owls for bring the owls out for everyone to see.
Friday, 12 February 2010
Beech tree at Burnham Beeches National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Buckinghamshire.
The large mature trees alongside the River Dart in Hembury Woods date from this period.
Thursday, 11 February 2010
In the National Trust walled garden at Parke there has lain for many years a handsome granite trough. The problem was that it was in the wrong place. However where there are lots of volunteers (and a willing photographer) there are never any more problems.
On his last day working in the Parke Walled garden (before he left to earn an honest shilling) Richard decided that “they” should shift the trough to a more appropriate position than in the middle of the brassicas.
Three crowbars, four log rollers and a lot of huffing, puffing and pulling later the trough moved about 80 meters and came to a spectacular site in the soon to be created cut-flower border.
Now don’t you agree that does look handsome? Fin thinks he does.
If you feel that you’d like to help in such mammoth, worthwhile undertakings or even simple gardening in spectacular surroundings, please contact us via
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Friday, 5 February 2010
We can now begin the process of replanting the areas cleared of conifer earlier in the year to provide wood chip for the Castle Drogo boiler.
We want to bring as much benefit as possible to the estate not only to produce biomass but also to improve the ecological value, the landscape and make the area more pleasurable to walk through.
We have therefore decided to replant with native broadleaved trees as this will bring the most benefits. The main species will be ash this grows quickly, produces excellent firewood, coppices well and is native thus benefiting wild life.
It is interesting to note that about 475 species of insect live only on the English oak which has been growing here since after the last ice age. Compare this with the Douglas fir which originates from the Pacific coast of Canada has been in this country for a couple of hundred years and has about 5 dependant species. It takes thousands of years for the intricate relationships between insect and plant and all the associated food webs to develop.
In addition to the ash we will be planting some oak which in the long term will develop into mature trees while the ash is coppiced for fuel.
To provide colour, interest and structure to the woods and to increase the range of foods and habitats for wildlife we will be planting native shrubs like hazel, crab apple, wayfaring tree and hawthorn. We will also help the local trees such as Silver birch, Rowan and willow to regenerate.
I prefer to plant using trees grown as 'plugs' or root trained. These trees are quite small, 20-40cm, and the roots have soil and some slow release fertiliser around them. I find these small trees get off to a much better start than larger trees with bare roots. The tree shelters then provide them with their own little greenhouse to promote their early growth and protect them from being eaten by rabbits and deer.
These little trees are being planted by our staff and teams of volunteers and will in time be cut, 'coppiced' to provide wood energy. The coppiced stems will then regrow and be harvested again in time thus providing a sustainable energy crop and a great habitat for wildlife.
So this rather intimidating heap of 7,000 tree shelters with their supporting stakes are waiting in our barn to have trees put in them and do their bit to save energy and enhance the wildlife of the Castle Drogo Estate and the Teign valley.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
Volunteers can either be involved singly or in groups, depending what it is they wish to gain. This may be a change of career, when volunteering could be to help strengthen your skills and improve work prospects. When retired or unemployed it can help you to make new friends.
Since Dartmoor NT properties are mainly countryside the largest number of volunteers are involved with Full Time Volunteering – countryside & woodlands …If you can offer over 21 hours per week and will be available for a minimum period of three months, this may interest you. On the job training combined with structured learning opportunities will allow you to develop personally and professionally. There will normally be certificated training available for such things as chainsawing, 4 x 4 driving, First Aid. In some cases you will be provided accommodation.
A selection of different opportunities –
Educational volunteers – assist staff with events involving public and school visitors
Archaeology volunteers – help with monitoring of Scheduled Ancient Monuments and other records
Cycle path & footpath ranger volunteers - aid wardens with ensuring the health and safety aspects are always in place
Industrial volunteers – helping demonstrate the fascinating machinery at the steam powered Finch Foundry
Weekend warden volunteers – ensure there is always a cheery welcome for weekend visitors whilst ensuring good H&S emergency cover
Garden volunteers- assist with the production of flowers and vegetables
Shop sales volunteers- back-up sales staff in busy periods
Raffle ticket sales volunteers- help raise funds
Mansion volunteers – help visitors and in conservation of furniture & artifacts
Office administration, fundraising, publicity volunteers- work behind the scenes
Volunteering Groups eg NT (South Devon) come into a property on a Sunday and tackle a specific task – such as rhododendron control.
Employee Volunteering – many companies, large and small, gain vital team building benefits from working with NT staff on specific projects for a day or so.
Friends of… groups have affiliation to a specific wood or country property and are involved with working , fundraising and general socialising.
NT Working Holidays - Working Holidays range from two to seven days and from £90 a week including food and hostel-type accommodation. No previous experience is necessary, as you will be led by trained volunteer leaders and staff. You just need to be team-spirited, enjoy being outdoors in beautiful locations and not mind getting your hands dirty!
School placement volunteers – two weeks working with a warden can help a school leaver decide on what career they can aim for.
So, if you ever thought of getting involved with some of Britain's most amazing countryside and historic properties, this is you chance. You can either contact your nearest local National Trust property or visit the website