Finally found the secret waterfall

Been on Holme Moor today doing a ‘reccy’ and finally found the secret waterfall below Venford Dam. Here are a few pictures. The waterfall is down from the dam but be careful it is a 300m plus walk down the river – the ‘path’ is tricky and there is no phone reception. Unlike me – go with a friend – you could easily end up in the river or twist your ankle or worse. Do as I say, not as I do …

This video doesn’t exist

This video doesn’t exist

Beavers – the Roadford project- fabulous

Just had one of those brilliant evenings that you don’t forget – been to the Enclosed Beaver Project north of Roadford Reservoir. As an ecologist and conservationist I was blown away – I had heard and read what beavers do to the landscape and indeed I have seen it with my own eyes in Latvia but now I have seen it in Devon! Not only did we see the work of the beavers, their impact and their benefits we actually saw a beaver too! My first in the UK.  A big thanks to John Morgan, the site owner and Peter Burgess, Director of Development, Policy and Research at the Devon Wildlife Trust for showing us around – feel privileged – this project will prove ground breaking.

At the top of the 3ha site – ie where the water comes in – apparently before the project this was an even aged block of tall willow woodland – it isn’t now!

This may look like a man-made culvert – it isn’t – this is a channel created by beavers as they drag vegetation around the site to make their dams and lodges – wow wow wow. Due to the recent dry weather the site is very dry – this channel will be full of water again when the rains come again.

The front paw print of a beaver.

A wetland pool created by the beavers – this wasn’t here before they arrived – it is very dry at the moment due to the drought but you can see how rich this is for wetland wildlife compared to an even aged dense willow copse.

The Lodge i.e. the beavers’ home – they live in tunnels and under trees where the marsh thistle is growing. You can see even in this photo their footprint are everywhere in the mud.

Then there is the research …. courtesy of Prof Richard Brazier at Exeter University. This is the clincher – this is why we need beavers back in the countryside – they will make a real difference to us and our lives. This picture and graph shows how beaver can reduce downstream flooding. The blue line on the graph i.e. the spike (above beaver) shows an enormous rise in water levels following a rain episode – the red line (below beaver) shows what has happened to that spike once the rain has flowed through the area managed by the beavers – they have removed the spike and massively reduced the chance of a flash flood downstream.

And here are the benefits beavers generate regarding water quality: a reduction of sediment in the river (and eventually in Roadford Reservoir) and a reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus (i.e. fertilisers we dont want in our drinking water). Dissolved organic carbon does increase but this shows that although more carbon is released than from farmland (which is depleted of carbon in the soil = bad), wetland are very carbon rich (= good) and therefore release some to the water. Carbon rich soils help us fight climate change but do lead to browner water which then has to be treated. Overall though the beavers have done us a massive favour here regarding water quality.

Tremendous Devon Wildlife Trust summary report download here.

In my view this project and the research associated with it will see the beaver back in the English countryside as a free living animal within 10 years – it is long overdue, they will save us as a society a fortune in ‘hard’ flood defence works and they will give us huge pleasure when we see them for ourselves doing  their thing.

I really hope I am right – if you agree with me join the Devon Wildlife Trust – they have got us to this point and they want to take it forwards. They are also leading on the River Otter beaver project see here.

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.