On the final day of national Volunteers’ Week 2020 I raise a glass to the Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA) Conservation Volunteers. They cheerfully undertake a range of projects on the moor: clearing bracken from ancient monuments, restoring leats, and working on the DPA’s own land at High House Waste, and on mine at Common Wood.
Twice a year since November 2012 (except on the few occasions when the weather was bad), led by Sylvia Hamilton, the volunteers have come to Common Wood. We have been supported by Butterfly Conservation and more recently its All the Moor Butterflies project.
The volunteers have bashed bracken, gorse and hawthorn to recreate a favourable habitat for butterflies, with devil’s bit scabious, violets and bugle. The result is that Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary and Marsh Fritillary butterflies are returning here.
In February 2016 we were joined in the rain by Jo Loosemore from Radio Devon who recorded us on site for her Sunday morning programme.
Our volunteers are versatile. On Friday 5 June, three of them were on the DPA’s land at Sharpitor where, during lockdown, someone had sprayed a graffito ‘tag’ on the summit rocks. Apparently this tag has been sprayed elsewhere, including an ancient monument in Cornwall so English Heritage is keen to catch the culprit.
Our three volunteers, Stephen Barrow, John Howell and Phil Hutt, climbed to the top in a blustery wind, carrying cleaning gel, water sprays and wire brushes. It took them a couple of hours of scrubbing, with water being driven in all directions by the wind, and after applying some gel they managed to remove the graffito.
It was a proud moment for the DPA when our very own Derek Collins won the 2017 National Parks UK volunteer of the year award. This was well deserved: Derek undertakes much physical work and manages the tools and keeps them in top condition, as well as running the DPA stall at shows, selling merchandise and memberships.
So I salute our enthusiastic Dartmoor workers, who make such a difference.