Common Wood: part 6
Today the Dartmoor Preservation Association volunteers returned to my land at Common Wood on western Dartmoor for the fifth day of gorse and bramble bashing to create a habitat for butterflies.
This was the first time the volunteers had visited in September, the previous workdays had been in late October, November and February. The slope looked different this time because it was covered in bracken which had not yet turned brown and died down.
We want the cattle, which graze in the fields above, to come down and trample the area we have cleared. Their tracks make a good habitat for the violets, betony and bugle on which the butterflies and their caterpillars feed. My common is in the Higher Level Stewardship scheme and the cattle are supposed to graze it, and it would be good if they ventured down the slope more often.
While we know we have some Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterflies there, we want to attract more of them as well as the rarer, and choosier, Pearl-Bordered Fritillary.
There were 11 of us in total, including Jenny Plackett from Butterfly Conservation’s Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project, who is advising us on the management.
Some of us fought our way through the bracken, cutting away the brambles to make tracks—which will be helpful to walkers as well as the cattle.
Keith Ryan did great work cutting down gorse with his chain saw.
It all looked quite daunting to start with, the vegetation was high and dense.
It wasn’t a scorched-earth policy, we left many trees, and gorse bushes to provide variety, and the tree stump and the bent ash-tree could provide a perching spot for birds of prey and owls.
I made a track through dense vegetation which I hope will be used by the cattle.
We stacked the gorse and brambles on the windrow, a natural hedge and windbreak which we are building along the contour, above the leat and below our working area.
When we had finished for the day we could see that we had made a significant difference.
We had thought that today was to be the last day working above the leat, but it became evident that we still needed to do one more. We don’t mind, the volunteers are great enthusiasts, and it is a happy and productive way to spend the day.
We headed back along the leat to Hillbridge for an excellent tea.
See also the DPA blog, with excellent photos, here.