Revisting Parke as spring emerges

It must be well over a year since I was last at Parke – I used to work there as the National Trust’s General Manager for Dartmoor. I met up for a quick chat with a few of my old colleagues – good to see them.

My main purpose was to meet with Kevin Bishop, the Dartmoor National Park Authority’s Chief Executive and Ali Kohler, the DNPA’s Director of Conservation and  Communities to talk about my PhD and get some ideas and feedback from them. Very helpful.

Parke – looking across the parkland to Bovey Tracey

snowdropsThe snowdrops and cultivated daffodils are in full flower


Great to see one of the Moor Otter sculptures in the main reception – you will, I expect, hear a lot more about these when we get to the summer – see here for more details – there are going to be 100 of them (all different) dotted around the National Park later in the year

wild-daffodilOn the way home I drove down the Teign Valley and stopped to photograph the wild daffodils that are beginning to flower in profusion – those in full sunlight were flowering – those in shade will need a couple more weeks

hazel-catkinsAlso got to see the hazel catkins in full flower – I love it when they turn yellow



My last day with the National Trust on Dartmoor

Yesterday was my last day with the National Trust after 18 years as a Property Manager at Wicken Fen and General Manager on Dartmoor

This little converted barn has been my office along with several other members of the team

It has been very cosy with its log burner and Vespa the Vizsla

There was even a lovely double rainbow yesterday

And here is my computer screen showing my Outlook email account – no emails left in my inbox!

I will miss my friends and colleagues and I am sure we will keep in touch.

Love the National Trust too but its time for a change

A Walled Garden in winter

I spent a few minutes yesterday looking around the Walled Garden at Parke. It is a very different place now that winter has come but nevertheless it is not completely asleep or dormant. There is always something interesting going on which reflects the place and the world we live in.

Walled Garden 7
On the outside – looking in

Walled Garden 1
Looking down from the former ‘sun trap’ corner across the Walled Garden with the vineyard in the foreground and the vegetable plots in the distance

Walled Garden 2
The vines – a few leaves left but essentially bedding down and waiting for spring

Walled Garden 4
The leeks are however in full flow – how many of these will be on a Christmas Day plate?

Walled Garden 5
Chard – if only it tasted as good as it looks

Walled Garden 3
Preparation is everything

Walled Garden 6
I fear these figs have mistimed their appearance – the result of a hugely mild autumn stretching into November – the mildest on record

I’ve even got fruiting strawberries in my garden – they are green and will stay so before they disappear …. unless ….

Fixing the roof – well more like the guttering

Eddie and Jake from our Dartmoor building team have been at Parke this week fixing the Iron guttering which was smashed by a delivery van a few weeks ago- what seemed a simple task turned into a complicated one which needed a full scaffolding platform – fortunately the delivery company is footing the bill

IMG_3794They will also repaint the galvanised roof at the same time

IMG_3796The smashed guttering

IMG_3795The new guttering – thanks to Jake and Eddie

After the rain the bees and butterflies return

The weather over the last few days has been truly awful but don’t despair – after the rain comes the sun and with the sun comes bees and butterflies. Here are a few pictures I took in the Walled Garden at Parke yesterday afternoon. Nature is very resilient – we should learn from it!

Honey bee
A honey bee

Buff tailed bumblebeeA buff-tailed bumblebee

Common blue 2The underwings of a common blue

Common blue 1The same animal from above

Life and death in the meadow

I went for a short walk around the parkland at Parke yesterday after work in the evening sunshine. The grassland was alive with long-winged coneheads – it has a been a really good year for this bush cricket – they were ‘singing’ everywhere.

Longwinged conehead
Here is a male long-winged conehead

 And here is a recording of their song captured through a bat detector – which enables their very high pitched noises to become audible (recorded earlier in the week in a glade at Hembury Woods).


Wasp spiderOne of the main predators of coneheads and other grasshoppers – the wasp spider are also common too. You can see a female long-winged cone head in this picture which has been caught in the spider’s web and then wrapped up for consumption later….

Reminds me a bit of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings or was it Harry Potter?

Our new chestnut fence

We have just put up a new chestnut fence to replace an ugly old pig and barbed wire one. We have also added a gate so people can easily now get into the orchard to look around and have a picnic if they wish.

The new fence has a great rustic look

It may look simple but involves a great deal of craftsmanship

IMG_3727Through to the orchard with the Walled Garden to the right

Chestnut is not a native species to Britain but was introduced by the Romans. It now grows in a number of woodlands, particularly in Kent and Sussex where it is coppiced to produced timber for fencing. By actively managing these woodlands by coppicing it encourages all sorts of wildlife which otherwise would suffer. Coppcing as a traditional management practice has declined enormously over the past century but sweet chestnut coppice is profitable and productive – a nature win win. In Blean Woods in Kent where sweet chestnut is coppice the rare heath fritillary butterfly flourishes. ‘Our’ sweet chestnut came from East Sussex. The National Trust also manages sweet chestnut woods in Kent and Sussex and their products are also used for fencing. Here is a link to a Natural England Report on Sweet chestnut coppice.