Finch Foundry’s Summer House

A few pictures of the Summer House in the grounds of Finch Foundry.

Summer House 1Outside looking in

Summer House 3Sign in the Summer House detailing the history – a serge maker was a maker of woollen cloth – here is a link to the Uncle Tom Cobley story in which Tom Pearse perhaps features

Summer House 4Duty!

Summer House 2 Truth, faith and hope

Summer House 5Inside looking up – apex of the roof

Randall Page

Last week I went to  a couple of places which host Peter Randall Page’s art – he is one of my favourite sculptors and of course he is a Dartmoor resident – more details here.

PRP1Three pieces outside Plymouth University (opposite the Plymouth Museum)


PRP-Phyllotaxus Phyllotaxus

PRP-Fructus Fructus

PRP-2Three in a row

PRP-4‘Passage’ in Whiddon Deer Park – in the Teign Valley opposite Castle Drogo


Drogo weir on the Teign

Was down on the Teign yesterday and filmed theRiver Teign going over the weir below Castle Drogo – the salmon migration is underway – I saw 8 salmon trying to jump the weir – not sure how many were successful.

After last night’s thunderstorms I bet the river is roaring now!



The Whitehorse Hill Exhibition

Yesterday I went to the Whitehorse Hill exhibition at Plymouth Museum. I have written in the past about this archaeological excavation because it is so important in the story  of Dartmoor and gives us completely new insights into how people lived back in the Bronze Age and how sophisticated their lives were. See here for example – where I talked about the bear skin that found found in the cist.

Any one with an interest in Dartmoor should go to this exhibition – it is free and will take about 30 minutes to view. Unfortunately photography isn’t permitted so instead I have taken a few photos of the excellent DNPA booklet which accompanies the exhibition.

WH1Here are the details of the exhibition

WH2Plymouth Museum is close to the Drake’s Centre and opposite Plymouth University – full details here

WH3Here is the cover of the DNPA booklet – more details of the dig here.

WH4The story of the beads – made 0f shale from Dorset, amber from the Baltic, ceramic beads (clay not from Devon) and tin

WH5The story of the bear pelt

Try and get there before the 13th December.


The Ash Tree by Oliver Rackham

Oliver Rackham has published a new book – The Ash Tree.

The Ash Tree

Oliver Rackham is one of my heroes – I have studied his work in great detail all of my career starting with his amazing book Ancient Woodland first published in 1980. Amongst the other classic books he has written are the History of the Countryside (1986) and the Collins New Naturalist – Woodlands (2006). For me he invented historical ecology (the study of the past to guide the future) and coined the phrase ‘factoid’ – an incorrect piece of information believed to be true because it has been incorrectly and repeatedly repeated.

I had the privilege of going on one of Rackham’s Field Studies Council courses (based at Flatform Mill) in the 1980s and met him on and off at Hayley Wood when I was the Operations Director at the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northampton in the 1990s.

Those familiar with Rackham’s previous work will recognise his style in the first four chapters of his new book: The ash tree: what it is and how it behaves; The ash tree in prehistory and history; Veteran, ancient and exceptional ash trees and Cultural, spiritual and material ash.

These chapters catalogue in meticulous detail the rise of the ash over the centuries to a position where it has become one of our commonest and most resilient trees. I won’t try and summarise all the detail and stories – read it for yourselves and then consider what you have written as the definitive account.

Chapters 5 and 6 (Pests and diseases & Recent past and future) see an altogether more irritated and frustrated Rackham. In these chapters he covers deer browsing (more deer in the UK than for 1000 years which have stopped ash (and oak and hazel etc.) from regenerating; climate change – a phenomenon which is occurring but not one that will finish off ash and plant diseases including ash dieback (or ash disease as Rackham prefers).

His insights into ash dieback are very interesting, for example why was the fungus so impactful in 2012 but not in 2013 or 2014? He suggests that ash dieback may be a problem in the UK but it is unlikely to be catastrophic but another pest the emerald ash borer beetle which is currently not in the UK will cause havoc if it arrives from the US (it originally came from the Far East).

His message is that if we continue to trade and ship plants around the world as we currently do as if they were commodities such as ‘cars or tins of paint’ we will reap the whirlwind and our remaining tracts of historical ecology will be lost forever.

The last two chapters are not a comfortable read but they are essential reading. Rackham is clearly tired of repeating this core message and is completely frustrated by governments’ and bureaucrats’ unwillingness to act. Rackham concludes  ‘Homo sapiens have proved to be an increasingly unreliable guardian of the world’s trees’.

Suggest you read this book – its publication will help us all avoid factoids.

Sunshine and showers at Okehampton camp

On Saturday all 10 Tors team managers met at Okehampton camp for a day of briefing with the Army so that we are all prepared for the forthcoming 2015 10 Tors Challenge. A good day with lots of information and a chance to meet the new Army team. We also heard from a number of Dartmoor’s farmers who advised us on how to behave on Dartmoor so that we don’t interrupt their farming activities or disrupt their stock. Message from the day was ‘always shut gates – even if they are open’. Why? Much easier for a farmer to go and open a gate rather than retrieve stock that have gone through when they weren’t supposed to.

WelcomeThe last outing for the Wessex Regiment dragon – new Regiment being formed as we speak but life goes on!

RainbowA rainbow over Okehampton


West Mill TorWest Mill Tor above the camp


RowtorRowtor above the camp

We’ll be out this weekend – can’t wait

The Bovey Beauty

My friend and colleague Dave Rickwood from the Woodland Trust has asked if I would mind promoting a running race they are organising in the Bovey Valley on Sunday 19th October – my pleasure.

The race is called the Bovey Beauty and it is a cross country race over 10 miles (16km). It does involve a bit of climbing too 1800 feet (560m). The race starts at 11am.  You can download a race form here.

Bovey Beauty 1


I myself will not be entering …..  because I am already entered (and paid up) to run the Great West Run half marathon in Exeter on the same day – so perhaps next year.

For those of you who like your Dartmoor running races The Drogo 10 (The National Trust’s and South West Road Runners race) will be held on Sunday 16th Novemember at 10.30am. Further details here. Perhaps Dave and I should both run that one as it now runs entirely on land owned and managed by the National Trust and the Woodland Trust.