Content taken from the Trustees’ Report for the year ending 31st March 2017
In June 2016, the Home Office and National Parks England (NPE) signed a Joint Accord to enable the creation of a network of masts to support “a resilient, cost-effective, emergency services mobile communications system” in the National Parks. So far, no changes as a result of the Accord have been seen on Dartmoor, but we will keep a close watch on how this develops.
The DPA was consulted by the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) as part of its review of the Dartmoor Local Plan and submitted a formal response in December 2016.
The government published its long-awaited Housing White Paper in February 2017 and the DPA worked with the Campaign for National Parks (CNP) to respond to the consultation process. We highlighted the importance of building for local needs not market housing; stressed the importance of placing quality of design over quantity of houses; and sought assurances that an adequate level of affordable housing should be included in any development application.
The DPA also worked with the CNP to respond to a consultation on permitted development rights. We argued for the exemption of National Parks from an automatic right to convert agricultural buildings to residential use, on the grounds that this could lead to significant numbers of new developments in completely inappropriate locations.
More than 700 planning applications were submitted to the DNPA during 2016 – 2017. The DPA reviewed all of them and commented on six.
Campaigns and Consultations
Norman Cowling (DPA Chairman) has continued to lead a CNP working party to formulate a national policy on uplands farming. This is especially important in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, as this could have a serious impact on farm incomes and hence the landscapes of upland areas.
In a meeting with the DNPA we raised concerns over the state of repair of certain footpaths and bridleways and a perceived lack of responsiveness when problems were brought to the Authority’s attention.
We also expressed misgivings over the Authority’s commercial and fund-raising ventures, including the Moor Otters project. These activities place the Authority in direct competition for funding with small charities such as the DPA and we questioned how the money would be spent and how much officer time and money is being spent pursuing them.
Projects and Partnerships
All the Moor Butterflies
This Butterfly Conservation project aims to save some of the south-west’s most threatened butterfly and moth species, by working with landowners to help them conserve these target species, as well as engaging with communities. DPA volunteers are working with Butterfly Conservation and we are also making a financial contribution.
Carbon dating of charcoal samples
The DPA is arranging for samples of charcoal found during an excavation on Dartmoor to be carbon dated by Oxford University. This will help establish a time line for the dig.
Dartmoor Conservation Garden
The project continued to meet all of the targets set for it in terms of events and visitor numbers. It now incorporates a “mini-mire”, as part of the work of the Magnificent Mires project to publicise the importance of the Dartmoor Peatlands. (see below)
This project is being managed by DPA trustees, assisted by one of our members, together with a professional archivist. Over the last year we received a variety of archive material. A Collections policy has been agreed and work has started on document storage.
We are working on this community engagement project in conjunction with the DNPA, the Duchy of Cornwall and Devon Wildlife Trust. Its aim is to highlight the importance of Dartmoor’s blanket bogs and the threats facing them. A number of events, including school visits, have taken place and a model illustrating the water holding properties of the mires is being made for use at Dartmoor shows.
In this third year of the project, we received a smaller number of applications from school children than in previous years. Even so, we made awards to nearly 30 Duke of Edinburgh award candidates, making a total of around 120 since the scheme’s inception. We may consider extending the scheme to more institutions in the next round of applications.
National Parks Societies’ Conference 2018
The DPA will host this conference on Dartmoor in October 2018. Work has commenced on finding a suitable venue and carrying out the large number of actions which will be needed to make this a successful event.
The DPA is part of a group of some twenty organisations which are building on the work of the SW Water Dartmoor Mires Project. The aim of the partnership is to review the condition of Dartmoor Peatlands, identify areas which have been especially badly damaged and investigate the feasibility of restoration work.
Pudsham Hay Meadows
Purchase of the Pudsham Hay meadows was completed in April 2016. Since then, DPA volunteers have taken over management of the lands, a Management Plan has been drawn up and we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DNPA, covering the support that the Authority will provide. The public will be encouraged to visit the meadows as part of the Moor Meadows festival and Open Day events later this year.
Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) – “Wild and wond’rous region” exhibition
The DPA has agreed to participate in funding a prestigious exhibition showcasing Dartmoor-related art between the early 18th and early 20th centuries, coinciding with the rise of tourism. A public programme will be created, including events on Dartmoor and at RAMM, together with a publication to go with the exhibition. There will be specific events at RAMM for DPA members and a tour of some of the sites featured in the artworks, to encourage ongoing engagement with Dartmoor.
Uplands Birds Initiative
This is another spin-off from the highly-successful Birds Conference in 2015. It involves a number of wildlife and conservation organisations and the Landscape Partnership, HLF-funded, “Moor than Meets the Eye” project. Its aim is to encourage awareness of the species on Dartmoor and the ways in which habitats can be maintained or improved to protect them.
“Blue plaque” scheme
During last year’s AGM a suggestion was made that buildings associated with key Dartmoor figures might be marked in some way to recognise their contributions. We will progress this through a pilot project in 2017.
It has been another good year for our volunteers, with about thirty people taking part in over 40 workdays during the year, despite some cancellations due to wet weather. Once again, their efforts have been split between clearance of archaeological sites and leats, and butterfly conservation projects on Roborough Down and Common Wood. A great deal of work has been carried out clearing bracken and scrub from Plymouth and Devonport leats and work continued at Leeden and Raddick Hill, Roborough Down earthworks, and Mardon Common.
Work started on Buckland Common in the autumn and the first four workdays resulted in the clearance of a good part of the central pound. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the DNPA, which will enable work to continue on this site for the next five years. This will be a funded activity, which will add to the other income we receive from the DNPA and from Roborough and Mardon Commoners, Kate Ashbrook and the South West Lakes Trust.
Although several work days had to be cancelled due to bad weather, a good number of surveyors completed three plans at Roundy Park above Burrator. This will re-commence in the spring of 2017. Volunteers also carried out work at Common Wood and Roborough Down to improve butterfly habitats and cleared bracken at Venford for the South West Lakes Trust.
Our volunteers were also very active on our own land. Numerous visits were made to the Pudsham hay meadows to repair fences and water systems, trim hedges and carry out other maintenance work, as well as the on-going work to clear bracken. At High House Waste a lot of gorse clearance and tree protection work took place, as well as a successful swale, and this was the thirteenth year in a row that this work has been carried out by DPA volunteers.
Walks & Events
Once again, our walks leaders organised around 30 fascinating events and guided walks in 2016 -17. Among them were a series of walks throughout the summer of 2016 based upon the ancient “Perambulation of Dartmoor” and a talk on Dartmoor’s crosses, which packed out the Princetown visitor centre.
As usual, the DPA had stalls at several of the Dartmoor shows, which resulted in new memberships and merchandise sales. When the money raised at the shows was added to the sums raised at the annual Christmas lunch, our sales team contributed over £4,300 to the Association’s income.