On 23 October,  the Dartmoor Preservation Association’s conservation volunteers returned to my land at Common Wood, near Horndon on west Dartmoor, to improve the habitat for butterflies.  We were accompanied by Megan Lowe, the community engagement officer from Butterfly Conservation’s All the Moor Butterflies project. 

Eleven of us gathered at Hillbridge Farm at 10 o’clock and sorted out the tools.  Then we walked along the leat to Common Wood.

The gathering at Hillbridge Farm

The gathering at Hillbridge Farm

 

The weather was grey and slightly damp with a mist hanging over the valley.

The view across the valley, lost in the mist

The view across the valley, lost in the mist

 

Derek Collins put out our ‘at work’ sign by the leat.

DPA Conservation work sign

DPA Conservation work sign

 

We worked above the leat, clearing large clumps of gorse, or ‘scalloping’ as Megan called it.  By creating an uneven edge to the gorse we increase the sheltered area where the butterflies can feed.  Our aim is to encourage Small Pearl Bordered and Pearl Bordered butterflies to breed here.

Claude Williams cleared some paths with the strimmer so that we could drag our cut material down the hill more easily.

Claude and the strimmer

Claude and the strimmer

 

We tackled the gorse with bow saws and the brambles with loppers.

Cutting the gorse

Cutting the gorse

 

Cutting brambles

Cutting brambles

 

 We enjoyed coffee and lunchbreaks on the side of the hill.
Lunch break

Lunch break

 

We kept going for about four hours, cutting and dragging.

Hil Marshall tackles a gorse bush

Hil Marshall tackles a gorse bush

 

The gorse has gone

The gorse has gone

 

The stumps are difficult to remove, but John and Elaine Viant do a brilliant double act.

Double act

Double act

 

We left this stump because it could provide a useful perch for birds.

Bird perch

Bird perch

 

Hil Marshall found a caterpillar which Megan later identified as an early instar (pre-hibernation) Drinker moth.

Drinker moth caterpillar

Drinker moth caterpillar

 

We also noticed an interesting deep-blue fungus on some of the dead branches.  It may be Terana caerulea (Cobalt Crust) which, according to this website, is uncommon.

Possible Terana cerulea

Possible Terana cerulea

 

We dragged our cuttings down the hill to pile onto the windrow. We had made this on previous occasions and the material had rotted down.  Derek tidied it up to make a neat job.

Sylvia Hamilton takes cuttings to the windrow

Sylvia Hamilton takes cuttings to the windrow

 

We made significant inroads into the hillside that day, and it was rewarding to see the difference we had made.  We plan to return in February.

At the end of the day

At the end of the day

 

The material in this blog entry is taken with permission from the CampaignerKate blog.