Common Wood: part 10
No prizes for guessing what Common Wood, my land near Horndon on Dartmoor, and the Forth Bridge have in common.
The Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA) conservation volunteers spent their seventh day here on Monday 10 October—back on the same patch we had worked on 19 November 2012, our first day at Common Wood.
The DPA has a smart new vehicle for transporting volunteers and tools. This was its first visit to Hillbridge Farm where we meet. Derek Collins parked it in the field and Squaddie the horse was intrigued and had a lick.
We walked along the leat to Common Wood where Jenny Plackett of Butterfly Conservation advised that we return to the section of slope where we worked four years ago. The vegetation had grown up and we needed to remove the encroaching gorse and bramble.
This is to provide a suitable breeding ground and food plants for the Pearl-Bordered and Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterflies and their caterpillars. The DPA volunteers are used to bashing bracken, but here they must preserve it because it provides shelter for nectar-rich violets and bugle, on which the butterflies feed.
Stephen Barrow and Derek Collins worked the brush-cutters to make paths through the site: helpful for visitors, and for the cattle which we hope will venture down from the top fields and trample the vegetation.
We worked all morning in glorious sunshine
with coffee and lunch breaks.
We carried the cut material down to the leat to build up the windrow which, four years on, had partially disappeared. The hazel stanchions were still there to provide the framework.
Jenny and I went down to marshy bit at the bottom, which is important Rhôs pasture, to see how the vegetation was doing. We hope to encourage Marsh Fritillaries and we did some work here in February. Jenny felt that the vegetation was pretty good (the cattle from fields on the other side of the river can cross when the water is low). It needs very little grazing for the next year or two, and another work day to remove encroaching willow and scrub.
Then it was back to Hillbridge for tea, after an excellent day’s work. But we know that our work at Common Wood will never be done.