The day the Commons came alive

Over night the Commons on Dartmoor turned green. I was at this exact spot on Thursday and the landscape was brown – a bit of rain and sunshine and the grass starts growing. A late spring but nevertheless a natural miracle. Magical Challacombe, magical Dartmoor.

When there is grass – the sheep come – I could have been standing here 900 years ago and seen the same sight. The sheep leave their in-bye (enclosed fields) and head for their summer grazing on the Commons.

Hundreds of sheep passed – Welsh Mountains and Scotch Black faces

Chivied along by two Dartmoor horse riding shepherdesses

Nearly there

Job done for another year (well, at least getting the sheep to the Common).

And right beside the drove are the rhos pastures – Dartmoor’s very, very special wet meadows – the Shire without the Ringwraithes – heaven on earth if you don’t mind wet feet. This is my favourite place on the  moor. I have spent hours and hours here over the years – it is truely magical and it never disappoints.

Marsh fritillary – one of our rarest species – I saw 20 today

And small pearl bordered fritillary – also very rare and threatened

A spider on a cotton grass flower head

The exquisite flower of the Bog Bean

What a day – epic – never let anyone tell you Dartmoor is wrecked – it is fabulous and has a history, which you can see today, going back thousands of years.

Up to Great Links Tor

The weather on Dartmoor yesterday was fantastic – much too good to not go for a walk. I started from the hidden car park behind the Dartmoor Inn in Lydford.

Down to the stepping stones across the River Lyd – with Bray Tor in the background. Bray Tor is also known as Brat Tor but I prefer the former.

I then headed up to Arms Tor which is definitely a ‘red zone’ climb.

But once the puffing and blowing is over the views become amazing. This is Bray Tor from Arms Tor.

And this is Great Links Tor from Arms Tor.

The walk up to Great Links is much easier. The trig point on Great Links.

Looking over to High Wilhays and Yes Tor from Great Links Tor. High Wilhays is the highest point on Dartmoor but as ever Yes Tor (to the left) looks higher.

Down from Great Links is Dick’s Well – a huge area of tin workings. It is also a great place for wild camping – secluded and sheltered.

On to Bray Tor with the Widgery Cross.

From Bray Tor you can see Chat Tor to the left and then Hare Tor with Doe Tor in the middle distance on the right.

Down in the valley by the River Lyd is an area of in bye land that is gradually rewilding – lots of trees and shrubs regenerating. I listened to a cuckoo here for over an hour.

Highly recommended area to explore.

A second visit to St Agnes

I am now back in Exeter but here are a few pictures from my visit to St Agnes last Thursday.

One of the first birds we saw after landing was this marsh harrier

A little bit later it re-appeared

A cracking male and female turnstone on the beach

A starling by the church

Fabulous stained glass windows by local artist, Oriel Hicks – the St Agnes Lighthouse

The original use of Pilot Gig boats

Two crosses

This is one of my favourite places on Scilly – Gugh Bar

But this is my favourite spot – full stop – having a pint at the Turks Head on Agnes looking over to Gugh and St Marys

This tweet has nearly 49k impressions and 78 likes – seems I’m not the only one who likes it!

 

 

10 Tors 2018

The culmination of months of training happened over the weekend – the 2108 Ten Tors Expedition. I am the Team Manager, along with Pete Davies, of the National Trust’s team ‘Wild Tribe’. We work and train very closely with Torquay Boys Grammar School led by Roy Colvile. Over the weekend we had five teams out who all successfully completed their routes. It is a massive effort involving dozens of volunteers and young people – a huge thank you to all the people who make it happen, a special thanks to Neil Parsons and Tony Owen and of course Roy Colvile without whom the Wild Tribe couldn’t be involved. Here are a few of my pictures from the weekend.

Dawn – 5.30 am Saturday over our camp site

Getting ready and having breakfast

Two Merlins bring in the starting gun.

Walking up to the start with West Mill and Yes Tor in the background

Paratroopers set the scene

Flying the flag

Spot on target

The canons start the event

And they are off

Different teams on different routes

Time for some of the team of volunteer Team Managers to reflect and have a rest

Some time later on Sunday …. TBGS 35 mile team – 4th team in overall – wow

TBGS 55 mile team – first 55 mile team in ….. even bigger wow

National Trust Wild Tribe 35 and 55 mile Team arrive at the finish together before noon

Wild Tribe 35 mile team

Wild Tribe 55 mile team

Wild Tribe 35 milers – all smiles at the finish

55 miles in under 29 hours – that is some achievement and you can see the happiness and relief in their smiling faces

Wild Tribe 45 mile team approach the finish

Impressive achievement again – they were in just after 2.30pm some with some staggering blisters and aching muscles – 10 Tors is all about resilience, team work and grit – they nailed it

Finally a huge thanks to the Army for organising it with a lot of  support from the Royal Navy and RAF. In my view the organisation was the best ever – smooth and slick. And boy were we blessed with the weather – no rain on either Saturday or Sunday, and Sunday was a sun fest!

And next year we will do it all again and help to transform and build another generation of brilliant young achievers.

St Mary’s – more landscapes and birds

Another day on St Mary’s

At Peninnis

Looking back to Porthcressa

A Scillonian post-agricultural landscape

Yellowflag

A  cormorant

An Oystercatcher

Brightly marked starling

Herring gull

Iceland gull with herring gulls

The Iceland gull

Again

A peregrine

 

A trip to Bryher – landscapes and birds

Went to Bryher yesterday – it is such a beautiful and rugged island – here are a few pictures.

This is Shipman Head at the north end of the island

And this is Hell Bay – it takes the full unimpeded force of a westerly gale

Thift flowering beside Popplestone Bay

A maze beside Popplestone Bay

Rock sculture

Steve enjoying the view and snapping a few shots

There was a flock of four Dunlin on the Pool

They were very tame which implies they hadn’t seen people before

Birds from the wilderness

Smart bird in summer plumage

A whimbrel amongst the thrift

On its way to breed in the far north on the tundra

A stonechat

A smart male

Wrens are perhaps the commonest bird on the Islands

Bryher is well worth a visit – you won’t be disappointed.