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GAP and Devon Wildlife Trust Conference Field Trip Descriptions 2009

News Date: 22.04.2009

Field Trip Descriptions


Two Field trips are being led by Devon Wildlife Trust:


Background information for Devon Wildlife Trust Working Wetlands Project.


Devon Wildlife Trust have been providing whole holding farming and wildlife advice in the Culm Natural Area of Devon for over 25 years. The Working Wetlands Living Landscape project is the culmination of this concerted effort, the largest landscape scale project the Trust have managed to date.


Working Wetlands aims to restore robust terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that are able to function in a more naturalistic manner having greater resilience to our changing climate. We aim to secure 2040 hectares of Culm grassland habitats (purple moor grass and rush pastures) in good condition by 2013 (equivalent to 75% of the Culm grassland county wildlife site resource within 3 priority areas). We are not addressing these habitats in isolation. By taking a whole farm approach, a long term favourable condition can be achieved.


Field Trip 1: Affeton Landscape

Green hay sowing at Affeton Moor

This field trip will provide delegates with the opportunity to visit the largest wet grassland habitat recreation projects that Devon wildlife Trust have overseen. All projects have taken place on land in private ownership. Landowners will be on hand to provide their perspective on the operations, discuss their relationship with Devon Wildlife Trust and to discuss what has driven the radical change in their land management. The Trust has worked closely with private landowners and a range of partners including Natural England and Butterfly Conservation to provide whole holding farming and wildlife advice. Projects to fell over 53 hectares of Sitka spruce in order to recreate wet species rich Culm grasslands have been initiated.


Felling operation underway at Lutworthy Moor Culm recreation site

There are currently three sites where felling has occured. Currently sites are ready to be mulched to remove stumps and level the ground post harvesting. Works to restore grazing are underway including the installation of cattle handling facilities, water bore holes and fencing. These projects have been funded by Natural England Higher Level Stewardship special projects. This method of funding will be discussed with Natural England advisors. 




Other large scale habitat restoration projects will be visted including a 23 hectare wet grassland restoration project using green hay sowing. The field trips will provide an opportunity for discussion on strategic targeting of farms, wet grassland restoration methodology, successes and problems that have been encountered. Landowners have developed their livestock herds to include Long horn and Devon Red Cattle, the local native breed, as well as mixed beef herds. All will be viewed and discussed during the day. Pristine Culm habitats will be visited to provide awareness of this flagship habitat that Devon Wildlife Trust are championing. 



Field Trip 2: Dunsdon Landscape

Soil stripping underway at Vealand Farm reserve

At the heart of the Dunsdon landscape in the headwaters of the river Tamar is Dunsdon Farm Nature Reserve. This is our flagship Culm grassland reserve. Whole farm conservation and land management advice has been targeted to landowners within this landscape, where the reserve is treated as a hub from which wider landscape conservation benefits our linked.






The field trip will provide opportunities to visit the most diverse range of field scale wet grassland restoration and recreation operations that are being undertaken. The focus of these operations is a private farm. The farm is being developed this year as a wet grassland habitat restoration and demonstration farm. Your views will be sought on how this could be run and reach its full potential. Operations that have already taken place in 2008 include:

  • Coniferous deforestation 5 hectares.
  • Soil stripping.
  • Deep ploughing.
  • Shallow ploughing.
  • Green hay sowing.

Also a wide range of reseeding techniques including sowing of purchased seed mixes, green hay sowing and also natural regeneration.


Our herd of White Park cattle grazing Culm habitats and other native breeds grazing Culm habitats. This herd has been purchased by Devon Wildlife Trust but they are managed by a private landowner who will eventually at the end of five grazing seasons own the herd. This model, its benefits, opportunities and threats will be described and discussed. Attendees will also be given the chance to see Culm grassland at its most diverse supporting a wide range of species including a large marsh fritilliary population.



Field Trip 3: Neroche Forest Grazing Project


Longhorn herd grazing newly created meadows

The lottery funded Neroche Landscape Partnership Scheme runs from 2006 to 2010. At its core is an ambitious programme of landscape scale habitat restoration within the Forestry Commision Neroche Estate on the Blackdown Hills in Somerset.


The FC through this programme is putting the landscape scale approach to biodiversity conservation into practice by taking advantage of a large single owner estate. This allows them to experiment with low intensity naturalistic grazing. The aim of which is to establish an economically sustainable model for conservation grazing which in the future may have relevance to farmers and estate owners in the Blackdown Hills.






The project has harvested large areas of plantation conifer across 300 hectares of previously open land or PAWS. This has established a series of six large, closely linked grazing units. These units encompass open rough pasture, wet heath, scrub and wood pasture through to closed broadleaved woodland. The Neroche grazing units have extended and linked a series of woodland glades which support colonies of a suite of rare butterfly species. Butterfly species include Marsh Fritillary, Wood White and Duke of Burgundy.


The FC using Lottery funding has established a 90 strong breeding herd of English Longhorn cattle that are owned by the Commission and managed locally by a farmer. The farmer return for the investment of manpower is taking the yield of surplus male animals to finish and market locally as Neroche Forest Beef.


The field trip will allow delegates to view grazing areas established between 2006 and 2008 and also the reestablishing vegetation in those areas. In addition to viewing the Longhorn herd itself the trip will include a visit to the woodchip based over wintering corral which the project has built.   



Field Trip 4: The Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project. A landscape scale project addressing the declines of threatened Fritillary butterflies on Dartmoor and Exmoor.  


Emsworthy Mire, Dartmoor (Norman Baldock)

The Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project began in 2005 and is a partnership project lead by Butterfly Conservation who employ a full time project officer. Funding and support is also provided by Natural England, Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities and the Sustainable Development Funds, the Environment Agency, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.





Dartmoor and Exmoor support important populations of three rapidly declining butterfly species. The Marsh Fritillary is found in wet grasslands on Dartmoor and Exmoor. The Heath Fritillary uses sheltered heathland combes on Exmoor. The High Brown Fritillary uses acid grassland with a bracken component on both moors. Although habitat requirements are different these populations are threatened by habitat change, loss and fragmentation caused by changes in grazing and agricultural improvement.


The project is working at landscape scale within priority areas to restore large well connected habitats that can support priority Lepidoptera and other wildlife in the long term.


In these priority areas we work with the landowners to provide support and advice on: habitat management, availability of agri environment grants and liase with graziers and contractors. Grant applications for Environmental Stewardship are submitted for key farms and training events are organised for contractors, landowners and conservation professionals. We work with volunteers to monitor the impact of the project on priority species. A detailed leaflet has been produced for land managers. The leaflet is used to provide further information on habitat management advice given during a site visit.


To date more than 140 sites have been visited and the project has provided advice on habitat management for over 1500 ha during the last four years. 880 ha of habitat have been managed for fritilliaries across 67 sites. Scrub has been managed at 41 sites (a total area of 26 ha) and more than 15 km of fencing has been erected to aid grazing. The project has secured Higher Level Stewardship agreements for 20 holdings.


The field visit will focus on Dartmoor visiting areas where the project has been working to restore and manage habitat for the Marsh and High Brown Fritillary. Part of the day will be spent visiting the Tor Valley priority area for the Marsh Fritillary. This consists of a network of sites in multiple ownership where the project has enabled grazing and scub management totalling 47 ha. We will then visit Fernworthy Reservoir to view the pony handling facility and habitat restoration in this area (100 ha in total with 3.1 ha of scrub clearance). The rest of the day will look at habitat for the High Brown Fritillary within the Dart valley priority area exploring issues that the project has had to address regarding management of bracken and grazing of Dartmoor commons.


The field visit will be led by the Project Officer and members of the Project Steering Group from Dartmoor National Park and Natural England. There will be input from the relevant landowners, graziers and commoners throughout the day.



Field Trip 5: Wembury Point and Fowlescombe


The National Trust estate at Wembury Point includes the former Fort Nelson Gunnery. Dartmoor ponies are being employed to carry out restoration grazing on this coastal grassland site. Once the restoration phase is complete the National Trust intend to graze the site with other native breeds in addition to the ponies. We will look at some of the practicalities of restoration grazing on former military sites in a coastal setting and the use of native ponies for conservation grazing.


Fowlescombe is a 191 hectares mixed organic farm owned and managed by Richard and Barbara Barker. Richard is a trustee of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and Barbara is a strong advocate of conservation grazing with native breeds.


Fowlescombe is the central part of what was once an important medieval estate in the catchment area of the Erme. The manor house was abandoned over a century ago. The ancient field pattern and network of hedges is still substantially present, now farmed in an environmentally sensitive way with wildlife habitat being a priority. The organic farm has arable land, and extensive old and modern grassland on which pedigree Aberdeen Angus and Devon Ruby Red are run and also several types of rare breed sheep, goats and chickens. We will have our lunch break in the award winning Fowlescombe Visitor Centre or its garden, which is used for a wide range of educational activities for small and medium size groups. After lunch we will view the native breeds.



  A few points of interest at Fowlescombe