Common Wood: part 13this item from the CampaignerKate Blog

It was a misty morning on Mon. 19 February, but that did not deter the Dartmoor Preservation Association conservation volunteers.  Fourteen of us came on the workday at Common Wood, my common near Horndon on Dartmoor which we are managing for fritillary butterflies.  Megan Lowe and Simon Phelps from Butterfly Conservation’s All the Moor Butterflies project also joined us.

1 arrival

Meeting in the mist at Hillbridge Farm

We gathered at 10 o’clock at Hillbridge Farm and walked along the leat to Common Wood.  We were working on the upper slope where we hope to attract Pearl Bordered and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries.  It would have been far too wet to have tackled the marsh in the bottom which is a potential site for Marsh Fritillaries.

We were to cut away brambles, hawthorn and gorse, leaving the bracken.  The volunteers are so used to attacking bracken (much of their work is to clear Dartmoor’s antiquities) that it must be quite difficult for them to leave it at Common Wood, but it is needed to provide the right habitat for the butterflies.

It was hard work on the slippery slope with brambles getting twisted round our legs.

4 work party

We dragged our cuttings down the slope to the windrow, a hedge made of the brash.  It runs just above the leat.

8 windrow


Claude Williams did great work with the strimmer.

3 Claude strimming

Claude strimming

And here is Simon Phelps tackling a tough gorse bush.

5 Simon Phelps

Simon and the gorse bush

We had coffee- and lunch-breaks, which were much improved by the range of homemade cakes offered by John and Elaine Viant.

6 lunch

Lunch break

By the end of the day we had certainly made a difference to the vegetation.

2 before


7 after








At around 3 pm we packed up our tools and headed back to Hillbridge for a sumptuous tea.

10 packing up

Packing up

We shall be back again in October, but meanwhile the volunteers can feel satisfied that they have made Common Wood better for butterflies, and some of them will return in the summer to see how many we have here.


9 after

Job done—for now