Common Wood: part 5
On 27 October 15 volunteers from the Dartmoor Preservation Association, and butterfly expert Jenny Plackett from Butterfly Conservation, set off from Hillbridge Farm, along the leat to my land at Common Wood on western Dartmoor. We ignored the clock change and started at 9 am to give us a longer day.
This was our fourth day at the site, and we expected it to be the last one working on the slope above the leat. We had moved some distance south-west from our starting-point in November 2012. After an introductory explanation from Jenny of what we were doing and why we were doing it, we set to work.
It was pretty tiring, working on a slippy slope, using bow-saws and loppers to cut away dense gorse, hawthorn and brambles. The aim is to expose grassy areas where bracken, violets and bugle can flourish. These are the food of the Small Pearl-bordered and Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterfly caterpillars and adults. We dragged the cuttings down the slope to a windrow which two volunteers constructed along the bottom. This is a natural hedge which enables us to leave the site tidy without having to remove the material, and it acts as a windbreak too.
We were sorry that Keith Ryan, who operates a chain saw, could not be with us, but we tackled the gorse with our hand-tools with gusto. By 3 pm we had made a significant difference.
However, we were not surprised, nor sorry, to learn that we still have another day’s work on this slope, probably in the spring.
Then, next autumn, we may tackle the willow which is encroaching on the flat land in the valley bottom, a potential site for Marsh Fritillaries, to provide a corridor for them along the Tavy valley. I can’t wait.