Some different sheep at the magical Challacombe

I was up at Challacombe Farm yesterday afternoon for a site visit to see and discuss the work of Naomi Oakley and Mark Owen who farm this Duchy Farm. It was a field visit which was part of a 2 day workshop entitled ‘Locally led agri-environment schemes – from a farmer’s perspective.’ I’ll report back on the workshop at a later date – in the meanwhile here are a few photos I took at Challacombe.


Naomi showing the extent of her farm and its large number of associated archaeological features.


Reporting back on the bracken management project


The slopes of the valley showing the Mediaeval lynchets – see here for more details on these.


From the barn up the valley to Hameldown Tor


In the barn Naomi shows of three different breeds of sheep which are being kept for their wool – the little dark one at the front is a Black Wensleydale – a very rare breed – see here. The white sheep at the back are Wensleydales – see here.


The sheep with the black and white faces are Zwartbles – famous for producing  an excellent fleece – really good to see wool coming back into profitability again (assuming you use the correct breeds) – see here for more details.


Here are a few Wensleydales out on an in-bye pasture.And this a hardy Welsh Black Mountain Sheep – small but very efficient at grazing around the Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

We also visited the amazing Rhos pastures at Challacombe –  wet valley mires – in the summer they are buzzing with life – I’ve written about these before – see here and here.

 

Finally …. can really recommend this book – tells the amazing story of sheep in Britain – from the times when wool created the country’s wealth right through to the dominance of sheep for lamb. The last chapter won’t be to everyone’s taste as Philip Walling is clearly very angry of the recent controversies regarding ‘overgrazing’ and the subsequent reduction in the national sheep flock. The book though does give a wonderful introduction to sheep breeds, where they came from and where they now survive.

A great afternoon at a magical place.

The Rhos pastures of Dartmoor

I visited some Rhos pasture meadows near Challacombe yesterday. Dartmoor National Park Authority describe Rhos pastures as follows:-

“Rhôs pastures are enclosed species-rich purple moor-grass and rush pastures. On Dartmoor they are found in valley systems away from the open moor, usually in a mosaic together with wet woodland, other species-rich grasslands and oakwood. Dartmoor has 1,200 hectares of this habitat, representing 20% of the English resource 

The most distinctive plants of this habitat on Dartmoor are the meadow thistle, devil’s-bit scabious, heath spotted orchid and saw-wort, all colourful plants. They grow in amongst either purple moor-grass or sharp-flowered rush and there may be some creeping willow present. Other plants that can be found include ivy-leaved bellflower, lesser spearwort, marsh thistle, sneezewort, greater bird’s foot trefoil and marsh violet .

Rhôs pasture is home to marbled white butterflies, which can be abundant, small pearl-bordered fritillary and the highly protected marsh fritillary which is found in colonies representing about 20% of the English resource. One of Britain’s rarest damselflies, the southern damselfly, also occurs in a single Rhôs pasture on Dartmoor. The rare narrow-bordered bee hawkmoth, which feeds on devil’s bit scabious can also be found, often in association with marsh fritillary.”

Marsh marigold
The pastures will be in their full glory in a few weeks but already plants such as marsh marigold are flowering

Large red damselflyLarge red damselfly was on the wing

Small Pearl bordered fritillarySmall pearl bordered fritillaries were feeding in the fields

sericomyia lapponica 2The hoverfly Sericomyia lappona was quite common

willow warblerWillow warblers were singing from the hedges

Common buzzardBuzzards were flying overhead

Green hairstreak 4And green hairstreaks were on the scrub and bracken

Glorious meadows, beautifully managed for their wildlife by the local farmers – I will be back later in June to have another look!