As part of an on-going  programme of improving habitat for endangered  High Brown and Pearl Bordered fritillary butterflies, Jenny Plackett of The Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project had asked us to carry out a second day of conservation work on Roborough Down, on the slope above the River Tavy to the west of Double Waters.

The first day, back at the beginning of June, had been very hot, however the weather forecast for the October day was rather wet. 16 members of the DPA conservation team and Jenny Plackett arrived at the car park in traditional Dartmoor drizzle.

1 Strimming paths through bracken

Strimming paths through the 2-metre high bracken.

2 Raking and collecting bracken from paths

Raking and collecting bracken from the paths.

Fortunately on this occasion we had transport to take tools to the work site, courtesy of Derek Collins’ son Christopher, so having retrieved tools from his Landrover, we made our way to the work area where Jenny outlined the required tasks, the drizzle by now having stopped.

3 Cutting & pulling up young saplings

Cutting & pulling up young saplings.

4 Roborough 1 30 Oct 2015

Pulling up invasive saplings, close-up.

Tree thinning with some removal of smaller trees along the leat at the bottom of the slope together with clearance to reduce shading was carried out by 2 chainsaw teams.

5 Felling trees from the edge

Felling trees from the edge.

Since our last visit the bracken in some places now exceeded 2m high, but was dying back and creating a thatch which is not compatible the correct butterfly environment.

Clearance of bracken was carried out by 3 brush cutter teams to create stock access paths and improve environmental conditions for violets to grow for caterpillar feeding.

6 Roborough 2 30 Oct 2015

Felling small trees that would cast unwanted shade on the butterfly site.

Invasive saplings, which would develop and create unwanted shading, were removed, some with the assistance of mechanical sapling pullers, although there were mixed views as to the efficiency on a time and effort basis of using these tools as apposed to cutting and treating the stems – no doubt further trials will be required.

7 Roborough 3 30 Oct 2015

Cutting an offset felling notch on a forward leaning tree with a lot of side weight.

The threatened wet weather passed us by, and the day even became unseasonably warm during the afternoon. Jenny was very pleased with the progress that had been achieved and is expecting the work area will now produce an increase in the butterfly population next year.

8 Roborough 4 30 Oct 2015

Using a rope to guide the awkward tree – stand by for felling!

Following the usual tidy up of the site, we loaded tools back into the Landrover and made our way back up hill to the car park.

9 Tree on the way down

The awkward tree falling successfully onto the sloping site.

Thanks to all those volunteering for the project – Chris Francis, Claude Williams, Derek Collins, Christopher Collins, Elaine Viant, Hilary Luce, Hilary Marshall, John Lucas, John Viant, John Watson, Keith Ryan, Peter Butcher,  Rachel Watson, Sylvia Hamilton and Val Barns.

A special thanks to Val for the cakes, and to Christopher for giving his time and providing the transport.

Photos by Jenny Plackett (The Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project) and Rachel Watson DPA Volunteer).

Further information on the Butterfly Project can be found on:

Stephen Barrow