CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

A helping hand: Matt Parkins spends a day as woodland volunteer

PUBLISHED: 13:00 10 April 2015

FINGLE WOODS ON DARTMOOR

FINGLE WOODS ON DARTMOOR

Archant

On a misty March morning we’re bumping along the lanes of north Dartmoor, stopping off to collect a set of hand tools.

On a misty March morning we’re bumping along the lanes of north Dartmoor, stopping off to collect a set of hand tools.

The weather forecast gives us cause for optimism as we arrive in a clearing at the top of the valley.

Climbing out of the cab, we’re greeted by the muffled flow of the river Teign in the valley below, though the source of the sound can’t be seen through the fog.

In fact, we can’t see much beyond the extensive banks and ditches of this Iron Age hill fort.

This is the impressive Wooston Castle, part of Fingle Woods, and walking around this archaeological relic I can feel the dominance of the towering hand-built earthworks.

As the sun burns through the haze we unload the essential equipment; starting with tea bags, kettle and cups. Our work for the day will also need the bow saws, loppers and billhooks we collected earlier.

In managing this vast forested valley the Woodland Trust and their partners, the National Trust, are improving the public access and we’re here to reveal a view down the valley by cutting some unwanted fir tree and gorse regeneration.

The original occupiers of this fort would have needed clear sight along this valley too. These strategically placed ramparts provided obstacles to hold back attackers; clearly a place of great importance over 2000 years ago, and worthy of protection.

The aim of the current owners is to continue the protection of the valley as a wild haven for plants and creatures; a long-term but worthy ambition. As we cut away some of the dominant plants a greater diversity appears. Green stars of emerging bluebell leaves provide a hint of what is to come and with conservation in mind, it is hoped this site will be home to populations of fritillary butterflies.

So, my next task is to light a fire. Carefully avoiding damage to the archaeology, we set up a platform of reused corrugated steel sheets. With one match, some dry bracken and a handful of sticks, we have our thermal vegetation management system blazing nicely.

Our small team of volunteers starts lopping and burning the brash. As the gorse is cut and dragged, the flowers emit their sweet coconut aroma – a contrast to the smoke of the fire. On go the branches and the heat builds up, sending smoke signals down the valley.

When the heat drops again we can get close enough to put the kettle in the embers; almost time for tea break.

Sitting with cups in hand we chat, listen to the spring birds and watch the mist clearing from the tree tops.

A really peaceful experience and a world away from the battles that took place here in the past.

The only territorial skirmish here today is enacted between buzzards and ravens, until they broker a temporary truce and go their separate ways.

After a memorable spring day the sun starts to dip and turns the whirling smoke a deep orange and we stand back to appreciate the view towards Castle Drogo.

There are two other Iron Age forts in the valley, perched on their respective vantage points. We wonder why this was such a heavily defended position back then. It had a great strategic value, but for us, we’re happy to be a part of the gradual conservation effort.

You may be able to help too. Look out for volunteering events hosted by the Woodland Trust and National Trust and play a part in restoring one of the largest accessible woodlands in the county. n

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Friday, December 7, 2018

Devon Life received this heartfelt letter from Mr Michael Thompson, of Torbay, which is felt particularly poignant to share with our website audience at this time of year

Read more
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Bursting with festive inspiration, KATE WILLIAMS seeks out the best presents for a perfect Devon Christmas

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devon has had more than its fair share of high achievers over the years but how well do you know our county’s singers, authors, sportspeople, explorers and TV personalities? This is an edited version of a quiz compiled by MARGARET BRECKNELL in the December 2018 issue of Devon Life

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

PHILIP DALLING recalls two Exmoor legends who shared a deep love of the moor and its natural resources, and gained national fame through the media

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

In the month when we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, STEVE ROBERTS highlights the terrible cost in human lives it inflicted on the county of Devon

Read more
Friday, November 16, 2018

Actor Tom Burke talks to JUDI SPIERS about his production of Don Carlos staged by his own theatre company Ara, in association with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In the latest in her series throughout 2018 profiling inspirational women, KATE HASKELL talks to England Women’s Cricket Captain, Heather Knight

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

There is more to Georgia Toffolo than an award-winning TV show, as HOLLY EELLS discovers

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Striving to be the best in the world, homegrown Devon professional squash player Lyell Fuller is seeking sponsorship to help reach his goal. KATE WILLAMS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tavistock Rugby Club in Devon is celebrating after being awarded a grant of £2,500 to fund private showers for referees at their Sandy Park ground, as part of rural energy provider Calor’s annual funding scheme

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Devon’s Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, also known as The Black Farmer, tells KATE WILLIAMS about his new book, Jeopardy, encouraging the embracing of risk to enrich life

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As five members of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton celebrate 125 years of collective volunteering, we look back on their time with the organisation

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

CAROLYN SEAGER reveals how long after her mother’s death she discovered her amazing career in the service of her country

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An author known for her novels depicting life on the Channel Islands is nonetheless happiest writing from home here in Devon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search