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.
The weather was grey and slightly damp, with a mist hanging over the valley.
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.
We tackled the gorse with bow saws and the brambles with loppers.
We enjoyed coffee and lunchbreaks on the side of the hill.
We kept going for about four hours, cutting and dragging.
The stumps are difficult to remove, but John and Elaine Viant do a brilliant double act.
We left this stump because it could provide a useful perch for birds.
Hil Marshall found a caterpillar which Megan later identified as an early instar (pre-hibernation) Drinker moth.
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.
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.
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.