Spring in the Walled Garden

Glorious sunny day in the Walled Garden at Parke yesterday – here are a few photos.

Parke 1Little bowl of daffs

Parke 2The almond is flowering – pretty spectacular

Parke 3It was swarming with honey bees and hoverflies – this one is the drone fly Eristalis tenax.  These were the first honey bees and hoverflies I had seen this year

Parke 4And  here is an almond from last year

Photographing birds and mammals – it’s all the rage

Pictures of birds and mammals are all the rage at the moment and were certainly very popular on Twitter yesterday. Search on  #weaselwoodpecker or #woodpeckerweasel for example. If you don’t know what I’m talking about I assume you are not on Twitter, are new to Facebook or perhaps this is your first day on Earth? See here for a clue if you are baffled.

To be honest it had made me feel rather inadequate – my offering today is indeed a mammal and a bird but firstly they are not even in the same frame and secondly one is not getting a ride from the other…. otherwise I hope you enjoy them.

House sparrow 1A male house sparrow

Squirrel 1A ground feeding squirrel

Squirrel 2BUT to cap it all a squirrel riding on a bird …………… feeder

 …….. Just joining in all the fun!

An adder on Dartmoor in February

I mentioned in my Sunday blog that some of the lads on our 10 Tors training day had seen an adder – see here.

Well very kindly Reef Dow has sent me a photograph and a commentary.  “James  saw it as he almost stepped on it. We all then recognised it as an adder and then I photographed it. It is not the best picture in the world as I did not want to get too close in case I scared it away before the photograph was taken!”

The team saw the adder near to Moorlands Farm just over the Dart from the Dartmoor Training – interestingly this is exactly the same place that one of our 55 mile teams saw two last year!

Adders are reasonably common on Dartmoor but February (especially as the temperature was only 6 degrees) is early.

Adder 1Great photo Reef – thanks for sharing it. This is a male adder.

Here is a bit more information on adders if you are iterated.

March is the month for rooks

Spring starts on two different days! The meteorological date is the 1st March and the astronomical date this year is the 20th March – so you can take your pick. See here for a full explanation. Either way it is now March and to me that means rooks!

Rooks nest early – they have probably already finished making their nests and are about to lay their eggs. Listen to Bill Oddie talk about rooks here.


10 Tors – it doesn’t always go to plan

National Trust Wild Tribe and Torquay Boys Grammar School were out this weekend training for 10 Tors. This was our first weekend of the year when we were to camp overnight. Well it doesn’t always go to plan – I am back home again now …… Here is the story along with some photos.

Everything started perfectly – the various teams set off from Postbridge around 9.30am on Saturday morning. It was overcast but dry – the north moor was enjoying intermittent sunshine whilst the south moor was enveloped in mist. Along with Pete and Tony I was check pointing the 45 and 55 mile teams. We met up with the teams first at Peat Cot south of Princetown where one of the teams reported (and indeed photographed) an adder – amazing – it was pretty cold and we were still in February!

10 Tors 3Peat Cot is a tiny ‘settlement’ which also boasts a Methodist Chapel which is now closed – how life has changed!

10 Tors 4Here is the Devonport Leat at Peat Cot – with grey skies but still dry

10 Tors 1

 In the car park near to Peat Cot we met up with another team from Colyton Grammar School – I was intrigued (and still am) by their logo on their minibus. Esse Quam Videri means “To be, rather than to seem (to be)” – fair enough – I get that but I can’t see what the crest on the shield is or is meant to be? Three angry people with a sink plunger in front of their faces? Any ideas?

10 Tors 5From Peat Cot around to the Yelverton Road – with Sharpitor on the right and Leather Tor on the left.

10 Tors 6Waiting to ‘checkpoint’ at Black Tor with Tony and Pete.

10 Tors 7From Black Tor down to Burrator and onto Sheep’s Tor

From here we went to set up camp in Evil Coombe – at the top end of the Plym a couple of miles south of Nunn’s Cross. We’ve camped here several times before – its a great spot overlooking  Calverslake Tor which is part of the National Trust’s Upper Plym property. On our walk in it started to rain – not heavy rain but persistent drizzle – we pitched our tents and then waited for our teams to arrive. Everyone was in by 5.30 and all the tents were up – it was now pretty windy and the rain was still falling.

10 Tors 8A boil in a bag meal was cooked in my Jetboil – at around 7 everyone was preparing to sleep….

Ironically the rain was now easing but unfortunately the damage had been done – the ground was sodden, the water table was high and rising and as a result water started to come into everyone’s tents through the ground sheets and within minutes most tents contained standing water, sleeping bags were soaked and people were getting cold.

Roy quickly made the decision to evacuate and cancel the result of the weekend. There is something rather character building about having to quickly put back on wet clothes just after you have taken them off and then take down tents in the dark and walk back to the minibuses.

Many phone calls occurred to tee up parents to be at the pick up points at the allotted times – I finally got home at 1.30am but we successfully got 44 young people off the moor and safely home.

I have never seen water rise up through the bottom of tents like that before and strangely when camped at Evil Coombe last year it rained much harder and  for much longer and we never had any problems.

I guess that is Dartmoor for you.

Finch Foundy, Start of Season and repairs

We had our Finch Foundry Start of Season meeting for staff and volunteers yesterday – lots of new faces  – welcome everyone.

Finch SoS5Here is Ben the Foundry Manager running through the agenda

Finch SoS4Behind the scenes various repairs to the machinery and waterwheels are taking place – these bolts have rusted through on the hammer waterwheel

Finch SoS2They are being replaced with some new stainless steel ones

Finch SoS1Specially manufactured for Finch Foundry in Exeter

Finch SoS3Eddie one of our building team has been working on the water wheels and in this picture he has inserted some wedges to help the wheel run true

Finch Foundry opens for the season on the 14th March

The Roborough Rock

A week or so ago I was over at Buckland Abbey – to get there you have to cross Roborough Down on which is located a very large rock / Tor known as Roborough Rock. It is perhaps the easiest of all the Tors to visit as it is right beside the road by a car park!

Roborough Rock


All around the Rock and the Downs there are the remains of RAF Harrowbeer which was constructed as a Second World War fighter station for the air defence of Devonport Dockyard and the Western Approaches. Spitfires, Mustangs, Naval rescue and naval attack planes were all based at some point at Harrowbeer.

Roborough Rock was located at the end of one of the runways and apparently there was talk of blowing it up as it was a hazard to aircraft.

70 years on the Rocks remains and the fighter station has gone – it think that is the right way round.