Ash Moor habitat restoration

This 40 hectare site has a troubled past. In 2002 it was chosen as a burial site for cattle infected during the foot and mouth crisis. Fortunately the site was never used and the reserve has been transformed into a wonderful network of meadows, ponds and wetlands.

Paths are cut each year through themeadow and around the pond, making great butterfly and insect highways.The site is grazed with cattle (mixed including rubys, south devon and
longhorn cows) with the occasional Exmoor pony grazing too – who will eat some of the scrub that the cows aren’t that keen on. Recently the stream had broken its bank so a channel was put back in, to ensure continued flow. A woodland copse had been planted, which will help to create a diverse structure with more varied habitat. Some aftercare was recently needed including the removal of tubes and stakes, which have now done the job of protecting the young plants through their early stages of growth.

All of the ongoing work DWT do at this reserve ensures we are enriching the habitat and allowing wildlife to thrive. Some of the species found here include a wide range of dragonflies and damselflies, an odd sighting of a marsh fritillary butterfly a UK BAP priority species, that mainly feeds on devil’s-bit scabious. Management of the site is increasing the amount of devil’s-bit scabious, so we hope we may get more marsh fritillaries in the years to come. Of special note are also some bird species such as hobbies and tree pipits this year. A barn owl has also been seen hunting for food in this area and both jack and common snipe have been visiting in winter, and we hope to see some of these again in 2021.

Restore were happy to provide funding at the beginning of this programme of restoration.

 

 

 

Dunsdon Nature Reserve

Devon Wildlife Trust purchased Dunsdon Farm in 2000, shortly after which it was declared a National Nature Reserve (one of only 4 in Devon).

This 63 hectare Reserve, near Holsworthy  site of Culm Grassland also enjoying SAC status under the EU Habitats Directive – the highest form of environmental designation. This internationally rare wet grassland is a very diverse wildlife habitat extremely rich in wild flowers and supporting an immense range of other wildlife. It was named Devon`s Coronation Meadow in 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of HRH The Queen.

With such wonderful wildflower areas, this has also become a seed donor site – each year we harvest some of its wildflower seed to create new wildflower meadows nearby. Such an important legacy and ensuring that we can have more areas with such diversity for insects
and other animals that rely on them.

The site is vitally important for its colony of Marsh Fritillary butterflys (one of the ten most threatened spicies in Europe). Restore Our Planet have helped fund the Devonshire Wildlife Trust in its activities to regenerate the biodiversity of the area through scrub clearance and by re-establishing light grazing by cattle and swaling (controlled burning).

An example of some of the work carried out since 2015 as follows.

Grazing
The internal stock fencing and some internal boundaries have been removed to allow cattle access to the site in three large grazing blocks including woodland and scrub areas.
This has resulted in more natural grazing behaviour where the cattle will favour some areas and avoid other parts of the grassland.

Marsh fritillary butterflies appear to be thriving in this new regime. Other grassland species are also doing well, with plants such as petty whin, three lobed crowfoot and devil’s-bit scabious being recorded in new areas. Work carried out to reduce scrub in some of the grassland areas has enabled the spread of lesser butterfly orchid, a nationally
important population.

In the woodlands, where no cattle have had access for 50 years or more, the ground flora is developing and becoming more diverse, as the layer of low bramble which covered much
of the woodland floor is becoming more broken through the actions of browsing cattle. The cattle themselves are also more calm as they are able to avoid excessive wind, rain and sun by grazing in the woodland areas.

Scrub clearance
The ongoing work to remove some larger areas of scrub and also create areas of succession
along the scrubby boundaries of some fields is progressing well. Most of these areas will now be left to develop naturally and will respond to the ongoing management regime of grazing and swaling.

Andrews Wood Reserve

Andrew’s Wood Reserve, near Loddiswell is a 45 hectare site of important UK biodiversity full of wildlife and wonderful views.

Plants such as ragged robin, wild angelica, lesser spearwort,devils-bit scabious, watermint, sneezewort and many other plants have become really abundant especially where areas have cleared  of bramble and gorse that were threatening to smother the whole site.

A new pond was put in 2019 and this now has tadpoles, and many dragonflies/damselflies using it including broad-bodied chasers, common blue damselflies and Emperor dragonflies.

In 2015 some reptile hibernaculum were built  and  about 250 slowworms were `rehomed” onto the field  as part of a mitigation program from a nearby housing development.

Grass snakes have been seen occasionally here and common lizards are often seen basking on some of the big quartzite rocks.

Two Dartmoor ponies – Trigger and Shy graze Cuckoo field throughout the year and do a great job of helping to control the grasses and where their hooves create areas of bare ground, this allows the spread and germination of many  uncommon plants all of which are important for insects and other animals.

Barn owls have occasionally been seen in the winter feeding over this area. Rough grassland and grass strips alongside the edge of woods are important hunting habitat for barn owls, and without these within a certain distance of their roosting and nesting sites, the owls would not thrive.

Greater horseshoe bats are often seen feeding over Cuckoo field in the summer. They rely on these meadows packed with wildflowers because they are well stocked with their favourite insect food – cockchafers, moths and craneflies. These rare bats also feast on beetles attracted to the meadows by horse dung.

Native bees and moths are important pollinators of wild and agricultural plants too, and these meadows provide the copious nectar that they need for their very existence. The diverse array of plants here also attract many butterflies – clouded yellows, brimstones, speckled woods, large skippers, common blue and holly blue are just some of the species found here.

Harvest mice nests have also been found on this reserve in the brambles and long grasses. They feed on grass seeds, fruit, berries, grain and sometimes insects in the winter. The
ideal habitat is brambles, long grass and hedgerows, all of which can be found at Andrews Wood. This is a nationally rare species, in part due to suitable habitat decline making reserves like this extremely important.

Restore were pleased to provide funding for this important reserve..

Curlew Action

The aims of Curlew Action are to inspire and enable the conservation of curlews, Europe`s largest wading bird, alongside other farmland and wetland wildlife across Britain, whilst advocating for curlews and the landscapes that support them.

It also aims through education, from primary through to degree level, to increase the connection between people and nature encouraging appreciation and protection.

The curlew is a symbol of the wild and is much loved across the UK. By supporting work at a local level, but based on a national network of knowledge, the conservation of curlews can be ensured throughout Britain. As curlews are a bioindicator species this work will also help a whole suite of farmland and wetland wildlife.

Local people know their land best but often need advice and support on the ground and most landowners are committed to not only keeping curlews on their land but ideally increasing their numbers. Curlew Action will support the work that needs to be done.

Fieldwork requires training of volunteers, especially in the breeding season, building relationships between landowners and conservationists and provision of hardware eg. electric fences, nest cameras, data loggers etc.
Regional conferences and meetings will provide networking and information sharing.

A free-to-all website will provide a focus for knowledge sharing, conservation advice, scientific research and training videos. It will act as a national hub to encourage those in the field and for the collection and sharing of data.

From an education perspective there is a disconnect between people and the natural world with children and adults alike knowing little about the plants and animals that surround us. We lack an understanding of migratory and invasive species, seasonal change and the losses that have occurred over the last few decades. A GCSE in Natural History is the first step to put this right encouraging a fascination with nature throughout secondary school and beyond. The aim would be to extend the programme to A Level, then to university degree level.

Curlew Action will be involved in the production of textbooks and other educational material to back up these courses.

The Trust will also build and operate crowd-funding software which allows individuals to buy land that supports curlews for the Curlew Trust, which would in turn manage that land for the benefit of the curlew and for education.

Restore Our Planet has provided funding which has resulted in the creation of Curlew Action.

In 2022 Curlew Action started a scheme in Lancashire for junior schools under the Junior School Network project. Schools will be taken, fully supervised and accompanied by an expert, to the nearby moors to learn about the birds in the breeding season and at Morecambe Bay in the winter. The children will learn to identify curlew,understand their ecology and appreciate their importance as a bioinficator.

Restore are pleased to help with the supply of suitable binoculars.