Common Wood: part 8
The Dartmoor Preservation Association conservation volunteers returned to Common Wood on 22 February. This was our sixth day here. We had spent five days, spread over three and a half years, on the slope above the leat clearing the vegetation to make way for Pearl Bordered and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterflies. This time we climbed down through the wood below the leat to the marsh to improve the habitat for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly (see previous blog).
In the bottom there is a fairly large open patch of rare Rhôs pasture and, a little way upstream, a much smaller patch. The plan is to remove the scrub to make a larger open patch, to restore the Rhôs pasture and increase the area of Devil’s Bit Scabious (Succisa Pratensis) which is the food plant of the Marsh Fritillary.
We were led by Jenny Plackett, Butterfly Conservation’s Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project Officer, who advised what vegetation to remove and what to leave. After an initial discussion we got to work.
As we didn’t have a chain-saw we left trees which we might otherwise have removed, but with a power-strimmer our workers made a significant impact on a patch of large gorse. We made two windrows from vertical hazel stakes and stacked the branches around them, creating a hedge-like structure. This is a neat way of dealing with the waste.
Jo Loosemore from BBC Radio Devon joined us for part of the day, to interview us for her Sunday morning programme. She spoke to Sylvia Hamilton, our co-ordinator, Jenny Plackett and me, and got some sound-effects of us sawing wood. (The programme was broadcast on 6 March and you can listen here; it starts 2 hours, 8 minutes in and is in three chunks with music between.)
By mid-afternoon we had achieved all we could in that part of the marsh. We had created a broad corridor between the two open patches, to encourage the Marsh Fritillaries to spread and mix with neighbouring populations, which is good for the gene pool.
And so we packed up our gear and headed back up the hill and along the leat to Hillbridge, where a welcome tea awaited us.