All the Moor Butterflies on Common Wood

Common Wood: part 11

On 20 February the Dartmoor Preservation Association’s conservation volunteers returned to my land at Common Wood, near Horndon on Dartmoor.  This was their eighth workday here, and there were 15 of us, more than usual.  

This was the first time that the work was done under the auspices of Butterfly Conservation’s new All the Moor Butterflies project.  This three-year project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with support from the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park authorities, Cornwall AONB and Natural England, among others.  It aims to conserve and restore suitable habitats for certain butterfly species on Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor, and involve local people in learning about them and helping to preserve them.  The target species include three which we hope to encourage to Common Wood: Marsh, Small Pearl Bordered, and Pearl Bordered Fritillary.


Volunteers at work

The project’s new conservation officer, Simon Phelps (@WildlifePhelps) and community engagement officer, Megan Lowe (@naturemeg) guided us in our work.


Simon and Megan

We set off from Hillbridge Farm along the leat and Derek Collins hung a notice so that people walking there would know what was going on.


We headed down the steep slope and across a stream to the bosky bottom of the common, near where we worked last February.  Here is an area of rare Rhôs pasture (acid to neutral grassland), an important habitat for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly, but it is being threatened by the spread of willow, birch and gorse.

So we set to work at the north-east end, close to my boundary, clearing vegetation to uncover grassland and the vital food species for the butterfly, Devil’s Bit Scabious.

Some of us hacked the vegetation.


Chris tackles the gorse


Stephen and Claude saw up a birch tree







Others cleared it away, while yet others created a windrow, or bank, out of the cuttings.


John piles material onto the windrow


Rachel and Sylvia move the cuttings








Further to the south-west, Christian made a huge pile of gorse, which we divided into a second windrow.


Megan shows the height of the gorse pile


Another windrow







The site was a scene of industry from 11 am to 3pm, with only short breaks for coffee (and Val Barns’ yummy cake) and lunch.


Coffee break

When we had finished, we really could see a difference, we had pushed back the willow and gorse.  It was another great day’s work, and I hope that we see some butterflies there this year. The intention is to create a corridor for the Marsh Fritillaries along the upper Tavy valley. Thank you to Butterfly Conservation and the DPA volunteers for all your help with this work.













About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
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