We’ve got a new gig boat!

Exmouth Gig Rowing Club has managed to acquire a new gig boat – we now have two.

Yesterday we launched our new boat – Avocet. Here are a few pictures of the launch day – see here for my photo gallery from the day.

Gig 1Here is the new boat before it has been named and blessed on the beach at Exmouth

Gig 13Here is the Vicar James Hutchings blessing the new gig with holy water

Gig 24And it’s launched

Gig 26Off the Exmouth beach

Gig 21Ben and Carrie – the driving forces behind the Exmouth Gig Club – without them we wouldn’t exist!

Gig 33The new boat Avocet back with Rodney Bey – our first boat

Want to get involved too and try gig rowing?  Contact us – here

A visit to Wooston Castle

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours showing a researcher for a Welsh Channel Four (S4C) natural history programme around parts of the Teign Valley. In May S4C are coming back to Dartmoor to make a programme with Iolo Williams. As I understand it the programme will be in Welsh and only shown in Wales. One of the places we visited was Wooston Castle, here are a few photos from a rather overcast morning.

Wooston2 Wooston Castle was built in the Iron Age c 1000 BC – here is part of the ring ditch

Wooston3Pretty major excavations – at the moment we don’t know exactly how Wooston Castle functioned – as it exists in a landscape with at least 2 other Iron Age Hills Forts nearby

Wooston1Inside the ditches – the place where people would have lived – now inhabited by pearl bordered fritillaries and managed by the National Trust and the Woodland Trust

Lydford Gorge’s health and safety

My job can be very varied. Yesterday I spent the day at Lydford Gorge with our Area Ranger Adrian Shaw, a couple of people from the Trust’s Operational Risk Team, a lady from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and another lady who is an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) representing local authorities with regard to the National Trust in England. The aim was to detail our approach, at Lydford Gorge and therefore the National Trust as a whole, to visitor safety. I suppose it is natural to be anxious whenever the HSE or an EHO visits one of our properites but on this occasion it was for a fact finding visit opposed to an enforcement one!

Gorge 1 On the viewing platform in the Devil’s Cauldron
Scarlet elf cup On the way round we found some scarlet elf cups (Sarcoscypha coccinea) which are becoming rare in Britain and Europe and as a result have been red listed!

Fungus_We also found this rather splendid and common bracket fungus on a fallen tree by the White Lady Waterfall
Gorge 2The White Lady Waterfall
Gorge3The White Lady again accompanied by one of our winter reindeer

All in all the meeting was very successful. However I had to mention to the four Health and Safety specialists as they left the Gorge that they had in fact been rather fortunate as the Gubbins tend not to like their type and couldn’t have noticed their visit!

Off to Molland Moor in search of black grouse

I spent the day yesterday in Molland (Devon Exmoor) at a meeting organised by the Heather Trust. The meeting was all about Natural England’s ‘Outcomes Framework’ in the uplands. So what is that all about?

In the past on designated upland habitats (that is, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation) Natural England have granted consent for what they wish to see happen – this has included how many animals may be grazed on a common, when they can be grazed – all year round or only in the summer, whether swaling can occur etc. This has been controversial in many places and to be honest hasn’t led to universal improvements in upland biodiversity quality.

The new approach – ‘Outcomes’ means that the stakeholders such as the landowner, the commoners, local community and Natural England decide how they would like the area of upland to look e.g. a grazed wet heath with 50% heather cover or an  area of blanket bog with sphagnum mosses and 20% heather cover etc.

The farmers / commoners then carry out the management i.e. grazing which they think will lead to the outcomes that have been agreed. In return for this the commoners / farmers / land owners receive money from the agri-environment schemes which  makes the whole process financially viable and keeps farmers on the hills.

Molland5Here we are on the field trip around Molland Common

Molland4 20 years ago Molland Common was 50-80% heather dominated

Molland3 Today it is dominated by Purple Moor Grass

So the question is can we agree how we want Molland Common to look e.g. 50% wet heather moorland and then let the local owner and graziers manage it so that it returns to heather and loses the moor grass?

Molland2We had lunch in this fabulous pub in Molland – the London Inn – well worth a visit

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On the way home I passed this pub just down the road from Molland before you get to the North Devon Link Road. The black cock is also called the black grouse and is a nationally threatened species which we now tend to associate with the north of England the the Cairngorms.

Well it wasn’t that long ago that black grouse lived and bred in Devon. Here is what Michael Tyler’s book ‘The Birds of Devon’ has to say “During the period 1930-1955 they were regularly recorded at several localities on Dartmoor as well as on Devon Exmoor….”and “After a trip to Molland with Mr and Mrs Ward we returned past the ‘lek’ and were amazed to find 10 cocks indulging in quite a spirited display” – that was in 1954 and obviously why the pub is named as it is.

Unfortunately black grouse are now extinct in Devon and are in trouble nationally.

The hope is that the “Outcomes Framework’ will help land owners, farmers and statutory bodies turn the tide in the uplands and begin to make some real progress and maybe just maybe one of those outcomes might be the return of the missing black grouse to their former haunts

Lydford Gorge’s Spirit of Place

The Dartmoor team along with a number of Regional colleagues have just completed our Spirit of Place statement for Lydford Gorge. It is based on how we all feel about the place and what our visitors like about it too. I hope you like it too – we will now use it to bench mark everything we do at Lydford Gorge thus ensuring we keep it a special and magical place.

Walking through the gorge is a challenging but rewarding adventure. The only way through is on foot where you will discover mystical woodlands with cascading waterfalls, tranquil pools and gurgling streams, a timeless treasure which has ignited the imagination since Victorian times and before.

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The river Lyd has carved potholes and whirlpools over thousands of years, sometimes thundering and tumbling and in other places gently gliding with its moods ever changing in rhythm with the seasons and the weather. The sound of dripping water, birds singing and trees and rocky crags towering above you makes you feel you are in a primeval world.

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The gorge defended all who lived in Lydford with the deep chasm acting as a natural barrier to any invading threatening forces. Imagine people who over many hundreds of years harnessed the natural power of the river through milling and tin streaming with their history and lives now shrouded by layer upon layer of vegetation.

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Mysterious yet romantic and enchanting; myths, legends and folklore abound. Wild flowers, fungi, garlic and bluebells mixed with the scents and sounds of wildlife in their natural habitat capture your senses as you walk. This is a ‘temperate English rainforest’, luxuriantly green and humid, cut off from civilisation yet available for visitors to experience and enjoy.

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