Thursday, 24 February 2011

First Footing! - Spring breaks at Welcombe

20th February. A trip down to Welcombe Mouth, one of my favourite secluded coves on the wild North Devon Heritage Coast. Stong winds, good light, heavy ocean spray above high rolling surf. The first sighting of a number of Coltsfoot peeking through the undergrowth, sure sign that Spring is on the way. The flower heads, similar to a Dandelion, appear before the leaves on this hardy little plant which was once used as a remedy for coughs and colds. Coltsfoot is prevalent on the boggy grassland above the beach. Looks like it is also the first flight for an orange tailed bumble bee and two caterpillars are out for a walk. I am hoping that the motionless bumble bee hiding in the grass is just enjoying an afternoon siesta. Welcombe Mouth is located on the outer limits of the North Devon Area of Natural Beauty. A quiet spot, popular with surfers, photographers and walkers. The secluded beach has good sand at low tide and is surrounded by high cliffs. There is a superb panorama from high on the Southwest Coast Path. Welcombe Mouth is accessed by car from the A39, the road winds down to the scattered village of Welcombe which is home to the Yarner Trust, Welcombe Pottery and the Old Smithy Inn. The last part of the road is not surfaced so great care must be taken.

Welcombe Bytes: Spectacular rugged rock formations, big stepping stones across the mouth of the fast running stream linking one side of the South West Coast Path to the other. The water cascades down over the rocks. Waterfall visible from the beach and from the coast path. Site of Special Scientific interest.  In 1970, at the height of their fame, the band Deep Purple stayed at the Hermitage while writing their second album "Fireball". St. Nectan's Church St. Nectan was the first Devon Saint and Martyr. He was venerated in the Hartland area and the churches at Welcombe and Stoke are dedicated to him. Across the road from the Church is St. Nectan's Well. If you know what type of butterflies these will become leave a comment!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Appeal launched to extend charity nature reserve At Dunsdon

Devon Wildlife Trust has launched an appeal to its members and local people in the hope that it can raise money to extend one of its nature reserves and preserve some of the county's rarest wildlife. The charity has just been given the chance to add new land to its Dunsdon National Nature Reserve, which lies at the very heart of the Culm Measures in the north west of Devon. The five hectares of SSSI land for sale abut the eastern end of the existing 63 hectare site. The charity has been offered £43,000 towards the purchase by GrantScape, who have funded a wealth of groundbreaking conservation work in this area over the past four years. Devon Wildlife Trust is now looking for another £10,000 in order to complete the purchase. Gary Pilkington, DWT's Senior Reserves Officer said: "Dunsdon is a large reserve that buzzes and bursts with wildlife. Damp acid soils and a history of traditional, sympathetic farming provide ideal conditions for such rare plants as the lesser butterfly orchid, wavy-leaved St John's wort and three-leaved water crowfoot. This rich flora supports an amazing array of other wildlife. Twenty-six species of butterfly make their homes here, including a large nationally important population of rare marsh fritillaries. Breeding birds include herons, skylarks, spotted flycatchers, willow tits and grasshopper warblers. Barn owls hunt over the fields and can sometimes be seen roosting in the trees. The new parcel of land has fantastic potential for these and many other species." The site is also a strategic point on the map for DWT's Working Wetlands team who are helping neighbouring farmers to restore and re-create a network of wildlife habitats on their own holdings around Dunsdon. This gives the new land huge importance as a key link in a chain of joined-up Culm grassland sites. To donate to the appeal either call Devon Wildlife Trust on 01392 279244 or visit

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Peppercombe in the Mist.

Peppercombe Chronicles 19th February Yet another dank, dismal February day but mid-morning a sea mist rolled in, not great light this time of year for photographs but there is always something happening down Peppercombe Valley. The grey mist made for a very ethereal experience. A single yellow flowering lesser celandine amidst the new green shoots beside the path was the only colourful sign of Spring. The catkins and smattering of snowdrops have been out for a couple of weeks now. An occasional flaming red elf cup can be seen snuggling down amongst fallen twigs and branches. I hardly recognise the place which seems strangely empty due to fallen or lopped trees and flattened bracken. For the first time ever I am aware of the precipitous drop from the path and unusually can see clearly over to the lower track and the fast running stream. Spring Beauty, Wood Sorrel, Bluebell Spikes, Daffodil shoots and Dogs Mercury rising.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Bideford Railway Tracks…..

I thought I would share these pictures with all you Bideford Railway history enthusiasts. The photos are dated 1976 and 1993 and were contributed by Philip Lindhurst, whose lifelong interest in Railway Stations was instigated in 1976 while on holiday at his Aunt and Uncle’s in Landcross. His Aunt took him on a trip to see the old Bideford station and Philip, who lives in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire has “walked many an old railway line” since. One of the photos taken on that day was of the old Booking Office which was, for many years occupied, by the Midland Bank. In the photo you can see the name over the door. This building is now the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre and the local office for the North Devon AONB. Many of the old stations across the country are now private homes but Philip finds that people are only too happy to share memories or show him round. One such occasion was in Frongoch, North Wales when a lady allowed him to go round the back to photograph the platforms. He was especially pleased to see the old signal box was still standing and she kindly opened it up so he could take more pictures inside. She said that at one time this particular station had two waiting rooms, one for the ladies and one for the gents. The “Gents” is now her front room and the “Ladies” is now the kitchen!  Philip has worked on the London Underground for the past forty years but still enjoys hunting out old railway stations and has built up an extensive archive of photographs, remnants of a bygone age when the Railways were the most important mode of transport especially in rural areas. Some of Philip’s photos are on display in the old Bideford Railway Carriage which is open for refreshments in the holiday season. Philip has taken pictures of Bideford Railway Station in 1976, 1993 and 2008. The old Bideford railway line now forms part of the 180 mile Tarka Trail. Click here to Explore Bideford Railway Station and the Tarka Trail with the North Devon Focus - All images, articles on this site copyright North Devon Focus. Photos of Bideford Station copyright Philip Lindhurst

Later this year Philip and twelve friends will be taking photographs "off the beaten track" on a trip to see the old nuclear power station at Chenobyl. They will also be visiting what is now the ghost town of Pripyat which once had a population of around 49,000.
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986, at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union). It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history and is the only level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Click here for Chernobyl Disaster Wikipedia Stub

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Ruined farmstead uncovered in conservation project at Knowstone Moor

Scrub clearance work currently being carried out at Devon Wildlife Trust's Knowstone Moor nature reserve has uncovered a long-lost farmstead hidden from view for decades. The 120 hectare reserve near Rackenford is a mixture of grassland, heathland and bog is split by the A361 Devon Link Road. It was known that the ruins known as Little Comfort Farm existed at the site, but work this month to remove scrub as part of the GrantScape funded Culm restoration project has unveiled a large area of walls and foundations thought to date back to Elizabethan times. Ian Chadwick, the nature reserves officer for the site who has been in charge of the  work said: "We knew there was suppose to be a farmstead in the area, but until now had never had the funding to really get on top of the thick scrub in the area and fully discover it. Now with the help of contractors and volunteers the site has really opened up and we can see the layout of the farmstead, its out buildings and walls." Along with opening up this ruin, the conservation work is due to benefit a widerange of rare species that exist on the nature reserve including birds such as curlew, nightjar, whinchat and hen harrier. Its insects include two rarities; the marsh fritillary butterfly and the narrow-bordered bee hawkmoth. The charity is now interested to hear from local historians who may be able to shed more light on this ruin.
Leave a comment if you know anything about the history of Little Comfort Farm

Friday, 4 February 2011

Culm restoration project's Christmas tree clearance begins

Clearance work at an overgrown Christmas tree plantation near Rackenford in Devon gets under way this month as part of Devon Wildlife Trust's Working Wetlands project.The 3.5 hectare site includes Norway Spruce trees of varying ages which have passed their commercial peak. It is hoped that by clearing the trees the site will return to being Culm grassland. In turn, this should enable habitat connections between several key wildlife sites in the vicinity, and help important species to move around the landscape.The initiative is due for completion by the end of March 2011 and is being funded through Natural England's Higher Level Stewardship scheme. The project site is owned by Tim & Andy Paxton and represents part of their Rackenford Manor Farm. Situated close to Rackenford Moor, it forms part of a larger area of internationally important Culm grassland habitat.The Paxton's holding sits within the Working Wetlands project's Knowstone and Witheridge priority area. Stuart Coleman, DWT Working Wetlands project advisor said: "Although not a large site, the removal of this derelict conifer crop is a key strategic boost for us. The wildlife rich habitat which will be recreated here will link nicely with other areas of Culm grassland, and aid the recovery of many
important species, such as curlew, and marsh fritillary." Working Wetlands is a seven year landscape scale project and this is just one of many initiatives being undertaken by the scheme across 65,000 hectares of the Culm Natural Area. It has been supported by South West Water, Tubney Charitable Trust, The Environment Agency, Devon County Council, Devon Waste Management, Grantscape and Natural England.