Scalloping at Common Wood

Common Wood: part 12

On 23 October  the Dartmoor Preservation Association’s conservation volunteers returned to my land at Common Wood, near Horndon on west Dartmoor, to improve the habitat for butterflies.  We were accompanied by Megan Lowe, the community engagement officer from Butterfly Conservation’s All the Moor Butterflies project. 

Eleven of us gathered at Hillbridge Farm at 10 o’clock and sorted out the tools.  Then we walked along the leat to Common Wood.

1 getting ready

The gathering at Hillbridge Farm


The weather was grey and slightly damp, with a mist hanging over the valley.

11 view

The view across the valley, lost in the mist

Derek Collins put out our ‘at work’ sign by the leat.


We worked above the leat, clearing large clumps of gorse, or ‘scalloping’ as Megan called it.  By creating an uneven edge to the gorse we increase the sheltered area where the butterflies can feed.  Our aim is to encourage Small Pearl Bordered and Pearl Bordered butterflies to breed here.

Claude Williams cleared some paths with the strimmer so that we could drag our cut material down the hill more easily.

2 Claude and strimmer

Claude and the strimmer

We tackled the gorse with bow saws and the brambles with loppers.

4 cutting gorse

Cutting the gorse

3 clearing bramble

Cutting brambles








We enjoyed coffee and lunchbreaks on the side of the hill.

5 lunch


We kept going for about four hours, cutting and dragging.


8 Hil in the gorse

Hil Marshall tackles a gorse bush

9 Hil after

The gorse has gone







The stumps are difficult to remove, but John and Elaine Viant do a brilliant double act.

7 double act, Viants

Double act

We left this stump because it could provide a useful perch for birds.

6 perch

Bird perch

Hil Marshall found a caterpillar which Megan later identified as an early instar (pre-hibernation) Drinker moth.

Instar Drinker moth

Drinker moth caterpillar

We also noticed an interesting deep-blue fungus on some of the dead branches.  It may be Terana caerulea (Cobalt Crust) which, according to this website, is uncommon.

Terana caerulea perhaps

Possible Terana caerulea

We dragged our cuttings down the hill to pile onto the windrow. We had made this on previous occasions and the material had rotted down.  Derek tidied it up to make a neat job.

10 windrow

Sylvia Hamilton takes cuttings to the windrow

We made significant inroads into the hillside that day, and it was rewarding to see the difference we had made.  We plan to return in February.


At the end of the day

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.
This entry was posted in butterflies, common land, Common Wood, commons, Dartmoor and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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