Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Charity provides unique opportunity to explore wildlife haven from the water.

A conservation charity is promising a day of water sports and nature discovery on one of its top North Devon reserves.

Devon Wildlife Trust is teaming up with Encompass Training SW to explore the lakes at Meeth Quarry nature reserve near Hatherleigh by canoe, kayak and raft! This is a unique opportunity as the lakes are not normally open to water sports activities.

The event takes place on Thursday 1 September with two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Sessions cost £12 per person and booking is essential.

Devon Wildlife Trust's Jasmine Atkinson said:
"The upcoming Water Sports Day is a unique opportunity to get out on the lakes and explore Meeth Quarry from a watery angle. Families will have the chance to kayak and canoe around Woolladon Lake and test their creative abilities with raft-building!"

"We'll be on the lookout for some of Meeth's amazing wildlife. Dragonflies will be patrolling the lake edges and we'll be joined by many water birds including little grebes and tufted ducks!"

A free family day will run alongside the water sports activities. Visitors can explore the wildlife of Meeth with pond -dipping, bug hunting, trails and crafts. There will also be two guided walks at 11am and 1pm to delve deeper into nature.

Devon Wildlife Trust's Lucy Flatman is looking forward to welcoming visitors:
"Our Open Day at Meeth aims to introduce families to this wonderful reserve and it's diverse wildlife. Meeth is a reserve with an unusual history which we feel makes it all the more special. We will have activities, trails and crafts available to visitors on the 1st September and we hope to see a good turnout."

Meeth Quarry only became a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve in 2013. It was formerly a clay quarry but ceased work in the early 2000s after 100 years of production. Despite its industrial past the reserve is a wildlife hotspot being well-known for its dragonflies, butterflies, birds and deer.

At 150 hectares Meeth Quarry is one of Devon Wildlife Trust's biggest nature reserves. It is also one of its most easily accessible. The Tarka Trail cycle route runs through its heart. Bike trails, footpaths and easy access trails allow visitors to explore. The reserve is also served by toilets and a large car park, located via an access lane from Meeth village and the A386, four miles north of Hatherleigh
Meeth Quarry Water Sports Day
Meeth Quarry Water Sports Day
Meeth Quarry Water Sports Day
To find out more about the Meeth Quarry Water Sports Day go to the 'What's on' pages of 
or ring 01392 279244 to book your place!
Location: Meeth Quarry,  Hatherleigh, Devon, EX20 3ER - Grid referenceSS 547 078 

Butterfly Effect Films 'Captures the Magic' with their first film

Following the success of the boat stories film series, Jo Stewart-Smith (producer) and Simon Vacher (director of photography) formed the partnership Butterfly Effect Films to make more powerful short films which will fly far and wide. They've delivered their first film, 'Creating New Farm Wetlands' for North Devon's Biosphere

The film covers the hot topic: how to prevent agricultural runoff which can pollute the river system, force closure of fledgling shellfish businesses in the estuary and lower water quality on bathing beaches. The teams made a decision early on to ask the farmers to tell the story in their words (just like Boat Stories did with the fishermen.) Jo Stewart-Smith says, "I did wonder whether farmers working in the hills would want to talk about pollution in the estuary, but as soon as I listened to the farmers, a different picture emerged and I realised we rarely hear their side of the story."  As Phil Morrish from Stoneyard farm, near Barnstaple says "the last thing we want to do is lose precious sediment and nutrients into the river. By digging a simple sediment trap, we can actually return this nutrient-rich soil to the farm."

Jo adds, "initially the farmers may have felt outside their comfort zone speaking on camera, but their passion for the project overrode any worries and they were walking and talking us through like professional presenters." As Phil digs a series of ditches, he explains "the important thing I learned is slowing the flow of water gives the sediment and nutrients time to settle out and at the same time reduces the flash flood risk to nearby Barnstaple." The result is a positive, inspiring film which reveals that creating new wetlands brings numerous other benefits to the farm like saving electricity on the dirty water pumps or needing less bedding in the sheds. Andrew Mather's new wildlife ponds now form one of the attractions for caravaners visiting Hallsdown farm on the fringes of Exmoor. Tom Hynes, biodiversity officer for the biosphere, outlines the long term gains for all of us as the patchwork of new wetlands matures and the water quality in the estuary improves. As Phil Morrish says "this project benefits the farm and the river environment so it's a win win situation." Director of Photography, Simon says, "To make the link between the hills and the estuary we followed the course of the river Yeo weaving its way through some of the most scenically beautiful parts of North Devon to the wide open ocean. This area of the South West is a film-makers dream." Dawn Murphy from Morte Wildlife Group said "I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film and was interested to learn about the win win perspective the created wetlands have achieved.  The film has captured the ' magic ' of Boat Stories all over again!"
Simon Vacher filming Tom Hynes & Andrew Mather by the new pond - Photo copyright Butterfly Films (All rights reserved)
Simon Vacher filming Tom Hynes & Andrew Mather by the new pond - Photo copyright Jo Stewart-Smith (All rights reserved)
Photos copyright Butterfly Films (All rights reserved)
Simon Vacher filming Chris & Phil Morrish for North Devon's Biosphere 
Andrew Mather in the sheep sheds and Digging the new ponds
All Photos copyright Butterfly Films (All rights reserved)
 The film can be viewed on the biosphere's estuary project page  or on butterfly effects   
It was made to inspire other farmers to create wetlands and take up available grants so don't forget to watch and share.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Wildlife Trust welcomes back long-lost crab

A species of crab which had not been seen in Devon for more than 30 years has been found living on a popular stretch of coast close to Plymouth.

The crustacean in question goes by the scientific name Clibanarius erythropus but is more commonly known as the St Piran's crab. The find was made in Wembury Bay by Devon Wildlife Trust volunteer John Hepburn on one of the many regular rockpool safaris run by the charity from its popular Wembury Marine Centre.

The last record of a St Piran's crab in Devon was made in 1985. Once common along the southern coastline of the South West it's thought that the crab, which measures no more than 15mm long, fell victim to pollution resulting from environmental disasters including the wrecking of Torrey Canyon oil tanker in 1967, along with other factors including changing sea temperatures.

Wembury Marine Centre's rockpool safaris have been running for 25 years bringing a unique insight into marine life along our coasts to thousands of holidaymakers and local people. John Hepburn has been volunteering at the Marine Centre for 13 years helping with hundreds of safaris. However, on this occasion he came across something very special among the seaweed and sand of the Bay's tidal rockpools.

St Piran's crab is a type of hermit crab which uses the empty shells of other molluscs to make a home. Spotting what he thought was a relatively common find in the shape of a 'netted dog whelk' shell, John made his amazing discovery. He said:
"Picking up the shell I realised it was not empty. What I assumed was a hermit crab was more confident than usual and came out a long way to examine the end of my finger. Being colour-blind I asked the family I was showing around the rockpools if the crab was red, and having been told it was reddish, I thought it worthwhile trying to get a picture in case it was a St Piran's crab."

Once back home John examined his picture, comparing it with on-line videos of St Piran's crabs. His find matched the videos, a fact confirmed later by the Marine Biological Association of the UK. This Devon discovery of a St Piran's crab follows its re-discovery in March in Cornwall, close to Falmouth. The Cornish find was the first in the UK since the 1980s and generated widespread media attention. Viewers of BBC's Spring Watch programme were asked to give the crustacean a 'common' name which up until that point had only been known as Clibanarius erythropus. St Piran, the patron Saint of Cornwall, was the popular response.

Now St Piran's crabs have also been found alive and well living in Devon and their proud discoverer John Hepburn said:
"This is a pretty special find. There were lots of other people hoping to be the one to discover the first St Piran's crab outside Cornwall. That it's now making a comeback after being absent from our shores for so long shows that it is always worth making the effort to save our seas."

Coral Smith, Marine Education Officer at Devon Wildlife Trust said:
"John's discovery came during one of our regular rockpool safaris. It just goes to show that our local marine wildlife still has the capacity to surprise and how important places like Wembury are, it's why it holds one of the highest forms of statutory protection as a Special Area of Conservation. We're honoured that Devon's first St Piran's crabs have been found here - they are certainly very welcome back!"

The answer to the question of how these small crabs may have re-established themselves in the South West after an absence of decades remains something of a mystery. However some marine biologists think the new populations of St Piran's crabs may have been carried across the seas as plankton from existing populations on the west coast of France.
Wembury Marine Centre's rockpool safaris continue through summer into the autumn. For more details visit

St Piran's crab - Photo copyright Devon Wildlife Trust volunteer John Hepburn (All rights Reserved)
St Piran's crab  - Photo copyright Devon Wildlife Trust volunteer John Hepburn (All rights Reserved)
A rockpool safari at Wembury Marine Centre. Photo copyright Nigel Hicks (All rights reserved)
A rockpool safari at Wembury Marine Centre. Photo copyright Nigel Hicks (All rights reserved)