Monday, 23 September 2013

Reptile restoration work making a difference

A leading South West charity is working hard to improve the lot of the region's reptiles and amphibians. Species including adders and common frogs, slow worms and toads may not always enjoy the best public profile but, says Devon Wildlife Trust, they are a vital part of our wildlife and one which faces an uncertain future. Over the past 18 months The Trust has set about improving several of its own nature reserves specifically to cater for the needs of these special animals. Thanks to generous funding from Biffa Award - a multi-million pound fund which awards grants to community and environmental projects across the UK - work involving Devon Wildlife Trust and its volunteers has been taking place at the charity's land at Bovey Heathfield and Chudleigh Knighton Heath nature reserves (both close to Bovey Tracey), and Lickham Common and Ashculm Turbary nature reserves in the Blackdown Hills. Devon Wildlife Trust's Steve Hussey commented: 'We are concentrating our efforts on reserves where we know there are existing populations of amphibians and reptiles. What we've been doing is ensuring that we can offer them tip-top conditions in which to flourish.' 

The work for reptiles and amphibians has included: 
  • Digging two new ponds, while improving seven others. The ponds are providing homes and breeding places for amphibians including frogs, toads and newts, as well as hunting places for grass snakes. 
  • The installation of ten artificial hibernation (known as 'hibernaculum') nests to allow reptiles including sand lizards, adders and grass snakes to survive the cold winter weather. 
  • The construction using decomposing plant material of three heaps which provide egg laying places for grass snakes.
  • Bracken clearance and scrub removal at each of the four nature reserves designed at checking the spread of plants which threaten to shade out areas used by reptiles to bask in. 
The effectiveness of the project is being monitored through a series of surveys. These surveys should provide an accurate picture of the distribution of reptiles and amphibians on the four nature reserves, as well as revealing how effective the work has been in encouraging rises in their numbers. Steve Hussey commented: 'It's still quite early in the project to draw firm conclusions about how much difference we are making, but the signs are encouraging. At Bovey Heathfield nature reserve, for example, one recent survey revealed large numbers of smooth newts in a pond which had been re-dug by the project team.' Steve continued: 'The winter ahead will see further work done for reptiles and amphibians on Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserves. We're delighted that funding from Biffa Award is allowing us to make a positive difference to such well-known but struggling species as adders and toads.'
Photo: Common Lizard copyright Chris Root

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Charity receives vital backing for Dartmoor project

Leading conservation charity Devon Wildlife Trust is celebrating the news that it has received a £38,000 funding boost from SITA Trust to support its Emsworthy Mire Restoration Project. Emsworthy Mire forms part of Devon Wildlife Trust's beautiful Emsworthy nature reserve. The reserve sits between Haytor and Widecombe-in the-Moor, in the heart of Dartmoor. It is a very popular spot with walkers and other visitors. Emsworthy's Mire is a particularly good example of a valley mire: areas of water-logged deep peat in valley bottoms with characteristic acid wetland plant communities. The valley mires on Dartmoor, including Emsworthy's, are of international importance to wildlife and are of high quality with many rare plants. Devon Wildlife Trust's Steve Hussey said: 'Emsworthy's mire is especially rich in wildlife. Some of the characteristic plant species which are supported there are bog asphodel, round-leaved sundew, pale butterwort, bog bean, cotton grass and marsh lousewort. In summer, the mire is home to many dragonflies and other insects including keeled skimmers and the rare marsh fritillary butterfly. In winter, it is wading birds such as snipe and golden plover that visitors will see.' However, the mire and its plant and animal communities are at risk because it borders semi-natural grassland and open moorland grazed by livestock. Stone walls and fence boundaries which once kept livestock well away from the mire have fallen into disrepair and this has led to the site being over-grazed and its condition has deteriorated. Now, funding from SITA Trust will allow Devon Wildlife Trust to restore the valley mire. Specifically it will allow: 
  • Re-building and repair of the historically important dry stone walls between the mire and surrounding fields 
  • Installation of new fencing along the mire's other boundaries 
  • Control of encroaching scrub woodland 
Steve Hussey added: 'These works will allow grazing levels in the mire to be fully controlled so that the sensitive wetland plants can recover. It will also allow us to promote the growth and spread of the plant Devil's-bit scabious which supports two of the nature reserve's rarest inhabitants, the marsh fritillary and the narrow-bordered bee hawkmoth.' Marek Gordon CEO and Chairman of SITA Trust added 'We are delighted to have been able to support this project through the Landfill Communities Fund. This important source of funding has been available since 1997 and has provided such worthy projects with more than £1.2 billion.' SITA Trust provides funding through the Landfill Communities Fund. Funding is available for projects that enhance communities and enrich nature.

 'Devon Wildlife Trust's beautiful Emsworthy nature reserve on Dartmoor is set to see a make-over' - Photo copyright Simon Williams. 

Monday, 16 September 2013


To celebrate ten years of north Devon’s Biosphere Reserve a series of lectures will take place looking to its future. Each lecture will focus on different features of the Biosphere and will be delivered by an expert in that particular field. Full details below:

THE FUTURE OF THE CLIMATE Dr Matt Palmer, Wednesday 16 October 2013 - 8.15 pm, Bideford College Abbotsham Road Bideford Devon EX39 3AR
The Future of the Climate  - Dr. Matt Palmer leads sea level research at the Met Office. His research focuses on how the oceans and wider climate system will shape future sea level rise - both globally and regionally. The Future of Climate: Human-induced climate change is now widely accepted, but how will it affect us? We will review the current knowledge and explore some of the changes we can expect to see over the coming decades.
THE FUTURE OF FARMING  - Prof Michael Winter, Wednesday 23 October 2013 - 8.15 pm, Bideford College, Abbotsham Road, Bideford, Devon EX39 3AR
The Future of Farming - Michael Winter chairs the Biosphere Partnership. He is Co-Director of the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter and Director of the Food Security & Land Research Alliance (a joint initiative of the universities of Bath, Bristol and Exeter and Rothamsted Research). Michael’s research work has been funded by UK research councils, Defra, environmental agencies, charitable trusts, and local and regional authorities. He has published many research papers, books and reports. He is a past Countryside Agency and Commission for Rural Communities board member and is currently a member of the National Ecosystem Assessment Expert Panel. The Future of Farming: This lecture will examine the factors – physical, economic, social, political – that shape the distinctive farming of the Biosphere. What is the future for agriculture in this part of Devon? Will the global food security priority find expression in greater emphasis on production or will environmental considerations and concerns predominate? What will be the role of local food or organic production? And socially, will more or still less people be involved in farming in the future and will the traditional family farm survive?
THE FUTURE OF CULM GRASSLANDS  Dr Philip Murray, Wednesday 30 October 2013 - 8.15 pm Okehampton College, Mill Road, Okehampton, EX20 1PW
The Future of Culm Grasslands - Dr Phil Murray is Head of the North Wyke Campus and Associate Head of the Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems Department of Rothamsted Research. North Wyke is the foremost grassland research station in England and is the home of the North Wyke Farm Platform, a major investment in research infrastructure by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council that aims to better understand and develop sustainable grassland systems. The Future of Culm Grasslands: In his talk Phil will explore the future of culm grasslands and how the underpinning research is helping us to develop sustainable grasslands in the South West.
THE FUTURE OF LANDSCAPE - Prof Peter Howard, Wednesday 6 November 2013 - 8.15 pm, The Plough Arts Centre, 9-11 Fore St, Great Torrington, Devon, EX38 8H
The Future of Landscape - Peter Howard is a member of the Biosphere Partnership, and a Visiting Professor of Cultural Landscape at Bournemouth University. He works closely with the Council of Europe and the European Landscape Convention, and has recently published An Introduction to Landscape (Ashgate) and has co-edited the Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies. The Future of Landscape: The coming into force of the European Landscape Convention urging the participation of all in landscape matters, and the importance of ordinary landscapes, inevitably produces clashes, not least with the renewable energy industry. Whose landscape will it become?
MARINE FUTURES - Dr Simon Ingram Wednesday 13 November 2013 - 8.15 pm, The Plough Arts Centre, 9-11 Fore St, Great Torrington, Devon, EX38 8HQ
Marine Futures - Dr Simon Ingram is a Lecturer in Marine Conservation at Plymouth University and Associate Editor for the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. His PhD research, at Cork, was concerned with the conservation of bottlenose dolphins, and he has worked with cetaceans and seals in many waters. His current research project is based in Lundy. Marine Futures: His talk will look at current conservation issues concerning marine life, and the future for the health and biodiversity of waters around the UK.
ENVIRONMENTAL SECURITY - Dr Mike Moser, Wednesday 20 November 2013 - 8.15 pm, The Plough Arts Centre, 9-11 Fore St, Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8HQ
Environmental Security - Mike Moser chaired North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve Partnership from 2008-12, and now chairs the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area steering group. He manages a 75 acre farm near Chulmleigh which includes a woodland County Wildlife Site. Mike also works as an international specialist on ecosystem management, and has advised long term projects of the United Nations Development Programme and Global Environment Facility in Iran and the Maldives, as well as many other international initiatives. He was formerly Director of the NGO Wetlands International, and Acting Chair of English Nature. Environmental Security: In his talk, Mike will explore how an ecosystem approach to managing land, water and the seas in north Devon can enhance our environmental security, and explore what lessons we can learn from other Biosphere Reserves.
ENVIRONMENTAL CAREERS - Dr Eirene Williams, Wednesday 27 November 2013 - 8.15 pm, Okehampton College, Mill Road, Okehampton, EX20 1PW
Environmental Careers - Dr Eirene Williams was a Principal Lecturer in Rural Resource Management at Seale-Hayne College. She started her career in Malawi and returned to buy a farm in South Devon and taking up various teaching and research posts around Exeter. Eirene now teaches part-time at Duchy College, and is a Governor of Petroc. She also took on the chairmanship of Devon FWAG and the Vice-Presidency of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) and consequent place on the Board of the Society for the Environment. Her recent work for IEEM contributed to it being granted Chartered status in 2012. Eirene was born and brought up in North Devon and has returned to live in what is now the Biosphere Reserve. Environmental Careers: Eirene’s talk will explore the many and various opportunities for working in the environmental sector and the qualifications and qualities required in these careers, with special emphasis on those that are likely to be available in Northern Devon.

A series of  7 anniversary lectures celebrating 10 years of North Devon's Biosphere Reserve at 3 locations. Wednesday Evenings during the Autumn of 2013 - all lectures begin at 8.15pm. Tickets can be booked for ALL lectures via The Plough Arts Centre Box Office by telephoning 01805 624624 or calling in person.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Green haying leads to shoots of new growth

A South Hams landowner has turned to an unusual method to encourage a greater range of bees, butterflies and birds onto his land. Dave Halsall is the owner of Singing Paddles, a canoe and kayak adventures company based near Kingsbridge. Now 2 acres of land at Green Park Farm, Aveton Gifford is being used as a 'receptor site' for a technique known as 'green haying.' Devon Wildlife Trust's Lynne Kenderdine helped coordinate the innovative operation and explained how it works: 'Green haying involves taking newly cut hay from a site which is rich in wildflower seeds and transporting it to another local site where there are fewer wildflowers. The green hay is then spread on the 'receptor' site and left to set seed. It's a technique which Devon Wildlife Trust has used successfully in the north of the county and now we want to use it here. If we get similar good results here we'll try other sites next year.' The green haying day took place in good weather on Wednesday 11 September. Wildflower rich hay full of flowers like black knapweed and birdsfoot trefoil was transported from a 'donor site' at Longmarsh, Totnes to Aveton Gifford. Staff from Devon Wildlife Trust and the South Devon Nature Trust, along with volunteers, then spent an energetic afternoon spreading the hay by fork. Devon Wildlife Trust's Lynne Kenderdine looked back on a successful day, 'We need to thank South Hams District Council, as the owners of Longmarsh they've been a willing source for the green hay and helped us get volunteers from The Conservation Volunteers who did a fantastic job in raking up. The seed we've spread will now lay dormant for the winter months, but we hope that next spring and summer we'll see the fruits of our labour. We should find a wider range of wildflowers establishing themselves here, and with them should come a wider range of insect, mammal and birdlife. This place should be buzzing with life in the future.'
Lynne Kenderdine and Devon Wildilfe Trust staff get to work green haying

Friday, 6 September 2013


The name of Liz Shakespeare has become well-known in the South West as an author who brings to life the people and landscapes of Devon. Her first three books, The Turning of the Tide, Fever: A Story from a Devon Village and The Memory Be Green: An Oral History of a Devon Village are still selling well and she has now written a fourth book. ‘All Around The Year’ is a collection of twelve poignant stories, deeply rooted in the Devon landscape, and each linked to a month of the year from January through to December. The reader is transported from a sleepy village square to the wilds of Exmoor and from a summer beach to the narrow streets of a small Devon town, and introduced to a variety of memorable characters. In January, a young Croyde surfer tries to come to terms with her uncertain future. As signs of spring appear in the hedgerows, a farmer’s wife starts a new venture. In August, a bereaved woman is deeply affected by an unexpected sight on Lynmouth beach. In November, a red rose on a grave leads to memories of an enigmatic aunt. All are at a moment of reckoning in their lives as they experience the subtle but significant events that make up everyday experience. These stories of love and loss, of separation and reconciliation, stay with you throughout the year. Liz has previously concentrated on historical research for inspiration, but this new collection is set in present-day Devon and brings to life characters that are so convincing, the reader soon feels that they are personal friends. Liz was born and brought up in Bideford and has a long Devon ancestry; she feels that the sense of being deeply rooted in the area has given her a good understanding of Devon and its people. For each story, she has created a character whose life is influenced by the landscape around them. With stories set in North, South and Mid-Devon, All Around The Year is sure to be popular throughout the South West and beyond.
"All Around the Year" is available from: and from bookshops.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Sea Ilfracombe. Entertaining weekend ahead for everyone at Ilfracombe's Maritime Festival

With a huge range of entertainment and activities throughout the weekend, from Pirate Fun Activities for the younger children at the Museum on Friday morning to an open-air Songs of Praise at Preacher’s Rock on Wildersmouth Beach on Sunday evening, no-one can say that there’s nothing that will interest them! There’s a Visual Arts Extravaganza, opening at 2.00 on the Friday at the Landmark Pavilion, displaying all sorts of marine-inspired art work, and providing workshops as well. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be occasional sea-based musical entertainment while you peruse the exhibits, or enjoy a coffee. There will also be musical interludes in the Landmark Café. On Friday evening, the Oldenburg will be moored in the Harbour, and provide the venue for a Maritime Party, with a bar, canapés and musical entertainment. Tickets are available through or over the weekend at the Sea Ilfracombe office on the Pier. For those of an active bent, you can climb Capstone Hill for the Sea Watch (and hopefully at least see our local dolphins), you can try out pilot gig rowing, or take a guided ramble to the famous Torrs or Hillsborough: you could even put together a team of six and take part in the Sea Ilfracombe Skittles Match on Sunday afternoon. And if you don’t want to be quite that active, there’s a Fun Fishing Competition For those who like messing about with boats, you can take a trip on the old lifeboat, Hampshire Rose (tickets available as above), watch the Y-Sail Round the Island race, instituted last year, or have a go at sailing model boats in Bicclescombe Park.There are, of course, lots of opportunities to hear our performers, who this year include (in no particular order): Ian Hudson, Pam’n’Al, Roger Cockram, Malcolm Ward, Helen North, Anchors Aweigh, Tom & Barbara Brown, Monkey’s Fist, Four’n’Aft, LocTup Together, Martyn Babb & Andy Barnes, Old Gaffers, Steve Dawes & Helen Pitt. As well as performing The Landmark, they can be found on The Old Quay, in The Ship & Pilot, at the Yacht Club, and the Lifeboat Shed, plus they’ll be guiding open sessions at which anyone is welcome to have a sing on the Oldenburg and in The Ship & Pilot. And then there’s the food – ah, the food! The Yacht Club are running a Crab Day on the Saturday – so all things crab there! You can find traditional Devonshire Cream Teas with fresh strawberries at Larkstone Gardens – OK, not maritime, but it is traditional. And on the Sunday, there’ll be Fore Street Fish Festival, with pavement seafood dining, entertainment and a whole lot more. On Sunday evening, there’s the Gourmet Restaurant Trail, taking your starters, main course and dessert in different places, finishing up at Damien Hirst’s 11 The Quay. Oh, sorry, forgot to mention that the Restaurant Trail’s sold out – have to get in earlier next year! Last but by no means least are the children’s events, the first of which was mentioned at the beginning. On Saturday, Ilfracombe Aquarium and Coastwise will be guiding a Rock Pool Rambles, Ticklish Allsorts will be entertaining in the afternoon, and on Sunday morning running a creative workshop at the Landmark Pavilion, as well as Punch & Judy on Sunday afternoon. Sunday also sees a Pirate Fun Day in Bicclescombe Park at which Ticklish Allsorts will also be in evidence. So, all in all, a brilliant weekend is in store! 
For more information, you can go to the Sea Ilfracombe website at, or call in at the Sea Ilfracombe office during the day over the weekend. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Hidden habitats of Exmoor to be explored

During August through to March, surveyors from the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre (DBRC) will be working with Exmoor National Park staff and local landowners to uncover hidden gems within the National Parks's diverse range of habitats. The Hidden Habitats and Sites of Exmoor project is funded by the Exmoor National Park Authority's Partnership Fund and DBRC. No new County Wildlife Sites have been identified on Exmoor since 2003, and with growing pressure on the parks landscape, these field surveys will help future planning of resources and projects to help protect its rich biodiversity. Devon Biodiversity Records Centre is the central repository for species, habitat and geological data within the county. Although a lot of habitat data is provided to DBRC by partners, groups and individuals, they also have an active programme of survey and monitoring which specifically focuses on local sites such as these. DBRC staff know that surveying on Exmoor can throw up unique challenges. Emma Magill who is leading the survey commented: 'Many sites are hard to access and include steep-sided river valleys so it can be physically very demanding and the weather can have a real influence on our progress. The continued dry spell has also made grassland sites more difficult to survey this year, but thankfully many sites show signs of recovering during September'. County Wildlife Sites contain some of Exmoor's rarest habitats including flower-rich meadows, lowland heathland and ancient woodland, many of which are of importance in a national context. A County Wildlife Site is not a statutory designation, unlike a Site of Special Scientific Interest, but is identified according to strict criteria and form part of the Local Sites Framework. They complement the already existing large suite of Sites of Special Scientific Interest on Exmoor. Exmoor's status as a National Park already offers large areas a level of protection through designation as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). However, SSSI were designated prior to the birth of the Local Sites Framework and it is recognised that if Natural England were to consider designating new SSSI, numerous Local Sites would meet the criteria. Ian Egerton, DBRC Manager, concluded that: 'it is important we record the species present on these sites not only for their protection and future land management, but because these sites provide a way to monitor the health of the park if revisited over time. Many of the sites represent corridors through which mammals, butterflies and invertebrates can travel and connect. Climate change and land use change has put increasing pressure on many of the parks iconic species and maintaining a network of local sites will be important to ensuring Exmoor can continue to be home to species such as the heath fritillary butterflies and nightjar.
Heath Fritillary Butterfly - Coyright Chris Root

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Sea Ilfracombe. Maritime Festival for the whole family from 6th-8th September

The Sea Ilfracombe Festival is back for its fourth year, and as a celebration of all things maritime there are activities and events to entertain the whole family at venues across Ilfracombe. The festival will run from the 6th to the 8th September. Here’s a quick taster of just some of the festivities in store this year:
  • Music, Arts and Entertainment: Visit inspiring exhibitions and drop-in workshops at the Landmark Theatre (including glass, painting and textile pieces from renowned South West artists), follow a ceramic Fish Trail around the town, or be enthralled by coastal themed street processions and live performances. And if it’s music you’re after, you can enjoy uplifting sea songs, storytelling, humorous anecdotes and acoustic renditions by local and national acts throughout the weekend. 
  • Food and Drink: Ilfracombe’s fishing heritage and popular restaurants lend themselves to a celebratory feast! With the Yacht Club’s Crab Day on the Saturday and Fore Street’s Seafood and Beer Festival on the Sunday there’s sure to be something to tempt you. And don’t forget the festival’s ever-popular Gourmet Restaurant Trail – 3 courses at 3 different restaurants, available to book now! 
  • Children’s Activities: There’s a mix of exciting kids’ events on offer at this year’s festival too – from pirate themed sessions, rockpooling and a youth sailing race, through to creative workshops, entertaining performances and maritime themed activities at the Fore Street festivities. Come along and get involved! 
  • Contests and Taster Sessions: Sea Ilfracombe offers the perfect opportunity to try something new: amongst other things you can row a Pilot Gig boat, join a guided Sea Watch session or a local walk, get creative with drop-in workshops and open singing sessions, or be competitive in a skittles contest or sea fishing competition! 
SEA Ilfracombe 2013 Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 6, 7 and 8 - Ilfracombe, United Kingdom
To find out more and see full programme listings please visit or 
Sea Ilfracombe Maritime Festival 6th - 8th September 2013
(Not for profit organisation)