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Bill Murray by Chris Chapman
Photo: Chris Chapman

Article about Bill Murray recently published in Oke Links

Posted in General on Wednesday 3rd August 2022 at 9:55pm

Lindsay Turpin of Oke Links recently published this article about Bill Murray.

Dartmoor singer and champion of the spoken word, Bill Murray, is elected chair of the Dartmoor Society

The story of how Bill Murray has kept alive the tradition of unaccompanied singing is worth setting down as a piece of history in its own right. For over 50 years he has sought out the voices of people who have knowledge of old songs and traditions. He is a consummate performer and his contribution to the story of Dartmoor song immeasurable.

We often mourn lost traditions, never seeing their value until they are gone, but Bill recognises these country ways for the gems they are and is passionate about keeping them relevant today. In 2011 this work was recognised when he received the Dartmoor Society award for ‘for nurturing the craft of Dartmoor song’.

Many are surprised to learn that he is not a native of the area but came here as a boy from London.

‘I became aware of the significance and importance of the Dartmoor landscape and culture in the 1960s when I was a student at Okehampton Grammar School,’ said Bill. ‘I took part in the Ten Tors Challenge in 1967 which was a great introduction to walking all areas of the high moor.’

While at school he became interested in folk singing and playing the concertina. He could be heard on most Monday evenings singing at The Plume of Feathers in Princetown. Meeting the famous Dartmoor musician and singer Bob Cann in 1968 introduced Bill to the older generation of singers, musicians, step dancers and storytellers at a time when many of the ancient traditions and the culture associated with the northern slopes of Dartmoor were fast disappearing.

Bill met his wife Carolyn Alford at a Bob Cann square dance in Throwleigh in 1971. Carolyn’s family had farmed Ensworthy in Gidleigh for many generations and her father David was the well known Dartmoor Bone Rattler. Bill’s family connections with the land and with farming traditions give him a deep understanding of the land management issues that we face today, and as such he is a great ambassador for the Dartmoor Society.

More recent work to bring Dartmoor’s singing and entertainment culture to modern audiences, stemmed form his work gathering archive film footage about traditional farming in times before electricity and modern machinery, and the ways that people entertained themselves when owning or renting a television was uncommon.

A request from John Bartlett, of Westward Television in 1978, resulted in an evening of dialect entertainment at Fingle Bridge – the Devon dialect is another of Bill’s abiding interests. The resulting film was so well received that the following year Westward TV engaged him to produce an hour-long programme of Dartmoor entertainment at Gidleigh Village Hall, and this was also filmed. The line-up included many well-known characters including Bob Cann and the Pixies, Ned and Martha ’Annaford, Dave Alford and The Kelly Quarry Blasters. These were known as the ‘Dartmoor Entertainers’ and they continue, in one form or another, to this day, presenting a mixture of archive film and live entertainment in village halls across the moor and continuing the tradition to the joy of modern audiences.

Bill has been a member of the Dartmoor Society since its inception in 1998. As well as being a highly practical and farsighted leader, organising events is in his blood; he has been actively involved in the Dartmoor Folk Festival for 36 years.

Holding public events has always been an important way in which the Dartmoor Society tries to spread the word about the pressing issues that are relevant to Dartmoor, and Bill has a solid background of engaging in debate about the decisions that face Dartmoor farmers, environmentalists and the public bodies who must take responsibility for managing this landscape.

Caya Edwards

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Thank you to former Committee members

Posted in Committee on Thursday 19th May 2022 at 9:44pm

Thank you to retiring Committee member Wilf Hodges, and to Liz Miall and Chris Chapman who, whilst no longer on the Committee, continue to advise and work on our behalf.

Wilf Hodges has been our Membership Secretary for six years. This has been a time of technical change and greater demands in relation to data protection and regulatory compliance. Wilf has undertaken a great deal of work to keep us up-to-date with current regulations and has introduced improved ways of communicating with members and handling data. We are grateful to him for the work he has put in over the years and in the cheerful, professional way he interacts with members. This involves answering queries, ensuring that subscriptions are paid and keeping members of the Committee informed about new and existing members.

Liz Miall has been a member of the Dartmoor Society Committee for over 10 years and is our representative on the Peatland Partnership. Liz has attended the Partnership meetings and expressed our views and concerns there and on site visits. She has comprehensively briefed the Dartmoor Society Committee and kept a watchful eye on the ground during the seasonal ‘restoration’ work.

We are grateful to Chris Chapman for his continued support and commitment to the Dartmoor Society. Whilst he is no longer on the Committee, we value and benefit from his expertise and his insights, the result of over 50 years spent observing Dartmoor and its people. We are lucky to be able to draw on his extensive catalogue of Dartmoor photographs.

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Tim Sandles and Bill Murray © Mike Rego
Photo: Mike Rego

Tim Sandles and Peter Beacham © Mike Rego
Photo: Mike Rego

Mike Gratton and Mike Watson, Sticklepath and Okehampton Conservation Group © Mike Rego
Photo: Mike Rego

Penny Simpson © Bill Murray
Photo: Bill Murray

The 2021 and 2022 Dartmoor Society awards are presented in person at last!

Posted in Awards on Thursday 19th May 2022 at 9:42pm

Each year, we recognise the work of people who make a significant contribution to Dartmoor.

Tim Sandles was presented with the 2021 award by Dartmoor Society president Peter Beacham for his website Legendary Dartmoor.

Tim Sandles began writing about Dartmoor online in 1997. This evolved into his current website Legendary Dartmoor that now receives 40,000 individual visits from all over the world per month and has its own Facebook page and quarterly newsletter. Due to work commitments, Tim now lives in Wales, but that does not get in the way of his enthusiasm for finding a fascinating story about Dartmoor history, folklore and traditions, or its flora and fauna set within a world-renowned landscape.

Tim’s dedication to Dartmoor shines throughout this site which is packed with fascinating facts and stories, all rigorously researched and beautifully presented. The Dartmoor Society was thrilled that he came down from Wales to receive his award in person.

The Sticklepath and Okehampton Conservation Group (StOC) were presented with the 2022 award for ‘their dedication to the conservation of Dartmoor’.

Mike Watson and Mike Gratton received the award on behalf of StOC and spoke to Bill Murray about their work that is focused mainly on the northern part of Dartmoor. They talked about their collaboration with DNPA warden Ian Brooker and their formation which stemmed from a community project at Finch Foundry Sticklepath in 1991, initiated by Norman Dunn from the former Leaze Centre for adults with learning difficulties in Okehampton.

StOC have worked with many groups over the past 30 years including the Dartmoor Commoners, Butterfly Conservation Trust, the National Trust, Woodland Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust, parish councils and schools. The relationships that they have forged with so many different groups are remarkable and they have been able to use the skills and experience built up within the group over many years to respond to calls for help from any one of these organisations.

Winners of the Dartmoor Society award are presented with a plate made by Moretonhampstead potter Penny Simpson and inscribed by Michael Edwards, an artist and printmaker also based in Moretonhampstead: two local artists who collaborate to make plates that have recognised the work of many Dartmoor innovators and artisans over the years.

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Alan Endacott and Peter Beacham © Mike Rego
Photo: Mike Rego

Alan Endacott steps down as Vice Chair of the Dartmoor Society

Posted in Committee on Thursday 19th May 2022 at 9:30pm

Members gathered at South Brent Village Hall on Saturday 7 May as Alan Endacott gave his final address as Vice Chair.

Society President Peter Beacham along with newly-elected Chair Bill Murray and Secretary Caya Edwards paid warm tribute to Alan for the contribution he has made, giving the Society direction and leadership for 3 years whilst the position of Chair has been vacant. 

The Dartmoor Society has benefited from his wide-ranging knowledge of historic landscapes and their management. As an archaeologist, he has an understanding of Dartmoor’s sensitive archaeological landscapes. He was the founder and the first curator of the Museum of Dartmoor life and has an extensive knowledge of local traditions, artefacts and farming. During his tenure as Vice Chair he has stayed focused on the positive ways that the society can contribute to the wellbeing of Dartmoor.

Alan’s ability to communicate and negotiate has resulted in stronger ties with key Dartmoor organisations. The 2021 conference: ‘Hallowed Turf: Perspectives on the conservation of Dartmoor's blanket peat’, was initiated by Alan because it provided an opportunity for people to hear more about the current peatland restoration work on the high moor and the science underpinning it, as well as to question those involved. Although the Dartmoor Society is critical of many aspects of peat restoration, by taking a neutral stance and providing a platform for debate, it gave everyone a chance to make their own judgements and gain a greater understanding of the various perspectives and views from those actually involved.

Alan has an eye on the long and short-term impacts of change. During the height of the Covid pandemic he wrote to the BBC emphasising the huge environmental pressures that TV and radio programmes can cause by encouraging visitors to vulnerable landscapes.

Responding to press reports in 2020, Alan investigated the claim that Natural England required all sheep to be removed from Okehampton Commons over the winter. This was typical of Alan’s style, to broker constructive, face-to-face negotiations, and it was his decision to follow this up and ask Natural England’s Eamon Crowe to speak at the 2021 AGM that resulted in frank feedback and debate. 

Alan’s legacy has been to forge closer ties with other Dartmoor organisations and engender a greater understanding of differing viewpoints.  He recognises that land management issues stem from a range of different perspectives depending on whether you are a farmer, ecologist, archaeologist, whether you earn your living on Dartmoor or want to simply enjoy its landscapes.

In September 2021 the Dartmoor Society visited Elvan Farm, the land his father farmed. During this visit Alan was delighted to be able to demonstrate exemplary stewardship by farmer Steve Alford where farming and wildlife co-exist. 

Alan’s leadership has pressed home the point that this landscape is vulnerable to the whims of the policy-makers of successive governments. He has reaffirmed the Dartmoor Society’s role as scrutineers of legislation or policies that might have a detrimental impact on the moor or its communities.

In his own words, ‘Dartmoor’s place as one of northern Europe’s finest cultural landscapes seems to be frequently played down and its cultural vulnerability ignored. What we have is unique and amazing, let’s celebrate and learn from it!’.

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Bill Murray © Mike Rego
Photo: Mike Rego

The Dartmoor Society welcomes Bill Murray as its new Chair and Nick Fennemore as Vice Chair

Posted in Committee on Thursday 19th May 2022 at 9:15pm

We are delighted to announce Bill Murray as our new Chair of Trustees. Bill is a leading figure in the Dartmoor music scene and was the recipient of the Dartmoor Society Award in 2011 for ‘nurturing the craft of Dartmoor song’ – and for keeping alive the tradition of unaccompanied singing. He was elected at the our AGM on 7 May.

Bill has been a member for many years and has served on the Dartmoor Society committee since last year when he became events organiser, immediately injecting fresh new ideas into our events programme.

He has been performing songs and telling stories, learned from an older generation of singers and storytellers, for over 50 years. You can hear him at our event in October with Jim Causely. He is at home on the north-eastern slopes of Dartmoor but he has been on radio and TV many times and he is also a founder member of the Dartmoor Folk Festival.

The performer is just one side of this Dartmoor enthusiast. His family farming connections keep him well-versed in the issues that face local farmers and the ways that they must adapt to the demands of changing land management issues. He takes an interest in the wellbeing of all aspects of Dartmoor, its people and its wild places. He has contacts far and wide and is proactive in getting out and discussing matters with those who make decisions about Dartmoor’s future.

Joining him as Vice Chair is Nick Fennemore, former NHS Chaplain and Minor Canon of Winchester Cathedral, now living in Chagford. He is no stranger to Dartmoor: he has been visiting for over 60 years and has now been able to accomplish a lifetime ambition to live here!

He has an interest in all things to do with Dartmoor, with a knowledge of flora and fauna, church buildings and the spiritual aspects of the moor.

Bill and Nick are joined on the committee by new members Bridget Cole, Anthea Hoey and Rachel van der Steen.

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Alan Endacott © Mike Rego
Photo: Mike Rego

Dartmoor Society Statement on Climate Change

Posted in Responses/Comments on Wednesday 11th May 2022 at 8:34pm

We have commented on a number of plans and policies over recent years, with specific regard to local issues thrown up by climate change. We are conscious, however, that these don’t necessarily reflect the views of all our members, or capture other innovative and constructive ideas that might be relevant to Dartmoor.

We have gathered together in a single document a number of previous comments, along with some fresh ideas, as the basis for discussion.

We are currently working on a new website for the Dartmoor Society and we are looking at ways that members can contribute thoughts and comments to this document and future policy statements.

Members comments will also be taken into account in any future public consultation exercises.

Our Position on Climate Change in the Dartmoor Context 

In our view, Dartmoor should not simply be seen as a carbon store in the context of tackling climate change and we see inherent dangers in the commodifying of carbon offsetting and its commercial exploitation, in addition to the potential negative impacts of projects driven by public funding schemes rather than clearly identified needs and justifications.

Dartmoor is different to the rest of Devon and the Southwest in many respects and should be treated as such so any general Government policies should be tailored to the specific circumstances of Dartmoor. This is particularly the case when it comes to issues like Energy saving measures and Transport policies.

With regard to renewable energy production, the visual intrusion of wind turbines and solar panels should remain a determining factor within and adjacent to the National Park and local or National Park Authority planning controls should not be overridden by Central Government dictates. However, suitable alternative green solutions, such as hydro-electricity and small-scale wind power generation and discreet solar installations should be considered and encouraged with appropriate financial incentives.

Government-backed energy-saving advisory and grant schemes should take full account of the special character of the National Park and the traditional-built nature of its existing housing stock. We would support a specific and tailored scheme offering help to home owners and rental property landlords within the National Park.

The opportunities for small-scale, light industrial development should also take account of the National Parks special circumstances and encourage suitable employment opportunities within the Park, without the need to travel long distances to work. This also applies to the provision of the technological infrastructure.

New tourism developments should, as far as possible, be sustainable in all aspects of their operation, including encouraging the use of public transport for visitors.

There should be an integrated public transport system for the National Park which allows for transport hubs with ample parking facilities or rail links around the periphery of the National Park and a network of low carbon or carbon-neutral buses and cycle ways with adjacent hire facilities, along with electric vehicle charging facilities.

We strongly believe in the environmental as well as social and economic value of traditional and sustainable farming to Dartmoor and support the marketing and sale of locally-produced food of all kinds over imported and processed food, especially where this involves substantial food miles, poorer welfare and quality standards and impacts on the environment and wellbeing of local populations in other parts of the world. These issues need to be assessed holistically when considering large-scale ‘re-wilding’ initiatives where substantial areas of land are taken out of food production altogether, lest there are unintended or unknown knock-on consequences.

We believe that maintaining appropriate stocking levels on the commons not only helps to control species such as Molinia, gorse and bracken that are less beneficial to a healthy biodiversity but, if well-managed in rotation, also help the process of carbon sequestration and healthy biodiversity. 

We recognise the potential benefits of conserving blanket peat in order to sequester and store more carbon and support projects that give nature a helping hand in the process of regeneration. However, we feel that more account needs to be taken of carbon and methane released as a consequence of the works themselves and that the creation of large areas of deep water on exposed hill tops might actually lead to a reduced efficiency in carbon sequestration.

While we are in favour of native, broad-leafed tree planting and encouraging natural regeneration by the exclusion of livestock (and people) exclusion from agreed areas, we are concerned about the impact of wholesale tree planting over large areas of the uplands as a means of carbon trading as this is not only historically alien to this environment (the Forest of Dartmoor was never a forest!) but trees are ten times less efficient at carbon sequestration than peat.

In our view – based on the knowledge and experience of our farming members and other long-term observations – the overall substantial reduction of livestock numbers over the past thirty years has led to the rising dominance of Molinia, gorse and bracken.

We are concerned by the increasing demand for housing and second homes, both on and around Dartmoor, following the pandemic, not only for the impact this will have on local housing needs and affordability but the consequent pressure for new development and the impact this will have on the local infrastructure and road networks and, in turn, climate change.   

With regard to our own Society activities, we undertake to reduce our carbon footprint by holding more video conference meetings and events and by encouraging lift sharing or the use of public transport for any members’ activities and by offering more online services, for example, using the website, emails and social media to disseminate information and news to members and the wider public where possible and not detrimental to members without access to the necessary technology.   

Alan Endacott, July 2021

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Response to the Dartmoor National Park Authority Dartmoor Byelaw Review

Posted in Responses/Comments on Sunday 21st November 2021 at 8:43am

You can see the side by side comparison of proposed and existing byelaws and other reference material on the DNPA website.

The wording of the Dartmoor Society’s covering letter follows, together with a link to download the actual submission.

The Dartmoor Society Executive Committee have considered the draft proposals for changes to the Dartmoor National Park Authority Byelaws, taking on board a number of viewpoints to try and reach on consensus on each of the proposals. Where there have been conflicting opinions, we have sought the majority view. Our resulting specific comments are attached herewith. These have also been posted online.

As a general point, the use of pronouns should be non-gender specific.

With regard to the need for revision of the existing Byelaws, we welcome the proposals and consultation exercise although we regret that it has taken the unprecedented pressures brought about by the pandemic to highlight weaknesses in the current rules and their enforcement. The other issue that has become apparent with the influx of additional visitors has been a lack of knowledge of the byelaws applicable to Dartmoor’s access land or an understanding of the reasons behind them and even a basic awareness of the Country Code and, while we applaud the ongoing efforts of the Ranger service and Visitor Centre staff on the ground as well as your education and outreach teams, clearly more needs to be done to get the message through to these new visitors before they arrive, or when they move to the region, in order to provide education on the rules and the issues concerned in an effective way and this will require significantly more resources in future.

In many regards we agree with the views of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, particularly the need for better enforcement, although we may differ on a few specific issues, as can be seen from our attached comments. We also agree that a long-term view needs to be taken as we emerge from the specific problems brought about by the pandemic. These should take into account the consequences of increasing recreational pressure resulting from greater urbanisation around the periphery of the Park as well as the impact of increased activity that might impact on the existing infrastructure, air and water quality, climate change and the decline of species.

In terms of parking, we would also not wish to see a proliferation of signage and alternative means of controlling verge parking should be considered, such as positive signage on main approaches stating that parking should only be in designated areas, where discreet signage indicates that you can park.

One of the key differences to the DPA’s view is on the proposal that dogs should be kept on a lead during the ground nesting bird season under 10(iii). We also had much debate on the issue, with compromises suggested but, in the end, the majority view was that only a total ban as proposed would be fair and enforceable and that the Sandford Principle should apply.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of the new byelaws will come down to good education and enforcement, and we trust that these areas will also be under review and allocated sufficient resources, otherwise the exercise will be a waste of time and money.

Alan Endacott MA
Acting Chair, The Dartmoor Society

Download the Consultation Submission

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Barrie Quilliam receives a framed Chris Chapman photograph

Thanks to Barrie Quilliam for long-standing service on the Dartmoor Society committee

Posted in Committee on Tuesday 31st August 2021 at 9:42pm

The AGM provided an opportunity to present former committee member Barrie Quilliam with a framed photograph of Week Down Cross by Chris Chapman.

It was good to see Barrie again and we were so pleased to be able to thank him for his involvement over many years. We miss his good humour and all of his help, not least his work on the bookstall at our indoor events.

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Tom Greeves receives his Dartmoor Society Award from Peter Beacham © Chris Chapman Photography

Presentation of the Dartmoor Society Award 2020 to our former chairman, Dr Tom Greeves

Posted in Events on Tuesday 31st August 2021 at 9:33pm

The Jubilee Hall, Chagford was the venue for our AGM on 14th August and our special guests were Tom and Lis Greeves. Tom was the recipient of last year’s Dartmoor Society Award and Peter Beacham, our president, was at last able to present a beautiful platter, made by Moretonhampstead potter Penny Simpson and decorated with the three hares motif.

We were to have presented two Dartmoor Society awards, as Tim Sandles is the recipient of the 2021 award for his pioneering website Legendary Dartmoor. Unfortunately Tim was not well on the day and we look forward to presenting him with his award on another occasion.

Tom Greeves and his work on Dartmoor is well known to many members. We issued the following press release after the AGM which details some of his many achievements.

Dr Tom Greeves receives the Dartmoor Society Award for his unwavering dedication to Dartmoor for more than half a century.

The Dartmoor Society annual awards are bestowed on individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to Dartmoor. This year The Dartmoor Society’s President, Peter Beacham OBE, presented the award to Dr Tom Greeves in a ceremony at the Jubilee Hall, Chagford on 14th August, postponed from 2020 due to national restrictions on public gatherings.

Plymouth born, Tom studied archaeology at Edinburgh in the early 1970s and went on to attain his PhD on the Devon tin industry 1450–1750 at Exeter in 1981. He is now recognised as the foremost authority on the subject and he chaired the Dartmoor Tinworking Research Group from 1991–2001.

During his early career he was the first Devon Sites and Monuments Officer for Devon and then Dartmoor National Park Archaeologist, 1979–1985.

Working in London with the charity Common Ground, he was responsible for the nationwide Parish Maps Project, where he developed his ideas on locality, buildings and community.

Back on Dartmoor he became the Honorary Editor of The Devonshire Association 1995–2004 and its President 2015–16. In 1998 he was voted Chairman of the newly-formed Dartmoor Society and remained in this post until 2019.

He forged international connections through research into the three hares symbol, closely associated with Dartmoor but found in many countries. Together with Sue Andrew and Chris Chapman he traced the connections of this enigmatic motif as far as China. A book, The Three Hares: A Curiosity Worth Regarding, was published in 2016.

A prolific writer – can any have contributed more to the corpus of Dartmoor literature? – he has had many articles published in periodicals and regional newspapers, reaching a wide audience and influencing public opinion in the process.

Tom’s meticulous attention to detail in following planned development on Dartmoor and in seeking to protect hitherto unrecognised or undesignated buildings and archaeological sites has been resolute. Many twentieth-century Dartmoor buildings, such as the Iron Store at Burrator, have been saved due to his diligence.

A lifelong interest in Dartmoor and a rare empathy for its extraordinary ‘ordinary’ people, past and present, has been a constant throughout. He was fortunate enough to have been able to speak to the last of the Dartmoor miners, many with knowledge and experiences of farming and small-scale industrial enterprises going back to the nineteenth century. Through his research he has been able to tie very early photographs and documents to individuals.

Tom is a brilliant landscape archaeologist and his knowledge of Dartmoor’s prehistoric and medieval past is second to none, but it is his discovery of the early neolithic stone row on Cut Hill which has caused textbooks to be re-written. His investigations into the earliest ritual monuments have changed our knowledge of this period, not only on Dartmoor but in the whole of the South-west.

He has championed sustainable developments such as the Steward Wood community and the rights of commoners, local democratic representation on the Dartmoor National Park Authority and many other causes over the years. Throughout he has argued for policy making through actual experience and a genuine understanding of Dartmoor.

To preserve and develop Dartmoor culture in all forms has been a guiding principle in Tom’s work. In 2018 he organised the Dartmoor Resonance Music Festival, a week-long celebration of music and performance from across the musical spectrum and the human timespan on Dartmoor and wrote an accompanying book, Dartmoor Resonance and the Story of Dartmoor Music.

The focus of his work as a cultural environmentalist has been to explore the history, archaeology and environment of Dartmoor, giving each equal weight. His concern is to preserve and retain access to Dartmoor’s archaeological monuments, to encourage debate on subjects that are central to Dartmoor and to nurture contemporary artists and thinkers for the benefit of the moor and its communities.

It is this emphasis on the human presence on Dartmoor, in relationship with the land and the natural environment, that makes his contribution to Dartmoor unique.

Photo © Chris Chapman Photography.

Download the Western Morning News article

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Dartmoor Society Statement on Peatland Conservation and Restoration

Posted in Policy Statements on Tuesday 4th May 2021 at 10:14pm

Dartmoor is recognised as one of the foremost cultural landscapes in the UK and the Dartmoor Society places equal value on the cultural and the natural landscape.

“There is no part of moorland Dartmoor which does not contain cultural content.”
Tom Greeves, Dartmoor and the Displacement of Culture: Analysis and Remedy (2015)

Dartmoor’s wet uplands are increasingly valued for their role in hydrology and carbon sequestration but they are also delicate ecosystems and world renowned archaeological landscapes, where there is evidence of human activity stretching back to the Mesolithic period.

In recent years climate change has focused attention on Dartmoor blanket peat and its ability to retain water. There is no clear consensus as to the extent of the degraded peat or the best way to conserve damaged areas. Research and monitoring by the University of Exeter continues to aid understanding in terms of successfully retaining water and providing environmental benefits on Dartmoor and beyond. The Dartmoor Society does not dispute the science or the need for some form of peatland conservation. The South West Peatland Partnership is a huge undertaking and we recognise its potential for positive impacts to climate change, hydrology, wildlife habitats and the wider ecology.

However, from our own observations we think that a more nuanced approach should be adopted to ensure that existing and undiscovered archaeological sites and landscapes are protected. We consider that the current method of digging up large areas of healthy vegetation to form dams, (bunds) and the remodelling of exposed peat faces is overly invasive. The resultant deep pools are potential hazards to humans and animals and stifle vegetation growth beneath them and on their surface, as well as adding to erosion in this windswept and frequently frozen environment. We would encourage a review of the effectiveness and impacts of the current methodology, taking account of these aspects and looking at alternative approaches.

We also believe that the speed of the work is too fast to properly survey these remote sites and avoid damage, and we would welcome a more cautious approach to contract work. Currently even recorded sites on the Historic Environment Record are being ignored, such as newly identified features recorded during the course of fieldwork for an active PhD project by Alan Endacott on Whitehorse Hill. We cannot see a need to sacrifice so much or to proceed at such a pace.

Prehistoric activity on Dartmoor is not limited to specific sites but is abundant on a landscape scale. This palimpsest contains at least 6,000 years of known human activity. Recent restoration on Whitehorse Hill where mechanical digging took place adjacent to the prehistoric cist, and early 20th century Philpotts Pass with its plaque dated 1906, demonstrates to us that despite the millions spent on the peatland restoration, the cultural landscape is once again treated as the poor relation.

As in any group, there are differing views and emphases from individuals, but we are all united in our wish to safeguard the wildness and remoteness of Dartmoor, a place that for many still retains a sense of connection with our ancestors.

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Letter to BBC Points of View

Posted in Letters on Monday 15th March 2021 at 9:41pm

22nd February 2021

Dear BBC,

The past twelve months have seen unprecedented numbers of people visiting our wonderful National Parks but this, in turn, has created huge recreational pressures on vulnerable landscapes and communities.

While we welcome responsible visitors and the Parks have provided an essential lifeline for many living outside, there have been some well-publicised incidents of gridlocked roads, impromptu, rubbish-strewn, ‘wild’ camping sites and highly sensitive relict ancient woodlands being trampled and stripped of moss and fungi by selfish foragers.

BBC lifestyle programmes, such as Countryfile, offer everyone a beautifully produced and evocative taste of country living and pursuits. Such coverage rightly encourages people from all backgrounds to get out and enjoy the countryside. However, the producers also have a responsibility not to draw attention to extremely sensitive locations or to repeatedly promote potentially harmful activities like foraging.

Broadcasters do have an important part to play in educating the public to enjoy the countryside in a responsible and sustainable way and should always weigh up the benefits of any feature aimed at a mass audience against the possible harmful impact to individual locations, habitats and communities.

I attach photographs taken by Dartmoor photographer, Chris Chapman, showing the measures that have had to be taken to reduce the pressure on the precious SSSI site of Wistman’s Wood on central Dartmoor and the attendant traffic problems and damage caused by inconsiderate parking.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Endacott MA
Acting Chair, The Dartmoor Society

Traffic cones placed at Two Bridges, Princetown, Dartmoor in an attempt to control parking due to the increased visitor pressure on Wistman's Wood

Traffic cones placed at Two Bridges, Princetown, Dartmoor in an attempt to control parking due to the increased visitor pressure on Wistman's Wood

Traffic cones placed at Two Bridges, Princetown, Dartmoor in an attempt to control parking due to the increased visitor pressure on Wistman’s Wood.

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An Open Letter to the Peatland Partnership

Posted in Letters on Monday 15th March 2021 at 9:30pm

18th February, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Recent events on Whitehorse Hill, Dartmoor, including the damming of the Higher Phillpotts Peat Pass, have raised a number of concerns and highlighted the vulnerability of this world-renowned cultural heritage. The creation of expansive, deep pools calls into question the effectiveness of this strategy as a means of restoring peatland on the moor.

Archaeology

The Hangingstone Project extends well onto Whitehorse Hill and the ‘Hangingstone’ Phase 2 project is concerned with Whitehorse and Black Hill rather than Hangingstone. This draws the public’s attention away from the fact that digging is occurring in an internationally-recognised cultural landscape. The whole hill is highly sensitive and not yet fully understood with many unrecorded features yet to be revealed, so every penetrating excavator bucket is potentially destroying archaeological remains. The policy should be one of minimum intervention and active archaeological research in the area and should be taken into account in any future plans. We feel that environmental priorities and the protection of our cultural heritage can both be achieved.

An example of how intrusive intervention could inadvertently damage such monuments is the recent building of the dam at the head of the Higher Phillpotts Peat Pass, creating a large pool of water that was in danger of lapping away at the foot of the peaty mound containing the Whitehorse Hill Cist. We don’t currently know if the mound contains any associated burials or other features. While there is some logic in efforts to raise the water table to protect such sites, these organic remains survived for over 3,500 years, in spite of being exposed above the surrounding water table for at least a century. Their survival at this level must have been due to the frequently mist and rain-soaked environment (neighbouring Black Hill had nearly 145 inches of rain in 2020: source Mike Sampson) and it is only since its disturbance and all the attendant publicity that the surrounding peat has rapidly eroded away – in a mere ten years. In our opinion, the creation of deep-water pools in the vicinity will do little to restore its peatland setting, or to protect it in the longer term in such an exposed location.

Safety

On Monday 8th February, a group of us visited Hangingstone Hill to see the latest works. We found crossing the hilltop quite treacherous on the frozen ground, buffeted by the strong wind while negotiating the narrow bunds between these newly created deep pools. The safety of solitary walkers (and livestock) is a serious concern. We understand that the bunds were deliberately designed with a profile to enable a person or animal to get out but these proved ineffective when Chris Chapman broke the ice and entered one of the pools in his waders with a ranging pole. This pool was over 1.5 metres deep not that far from the edge. This also raises questions of duty of care and liability with hazards having been deliberately created.

Assessment of the degree of erosion

We have long questioned the historical basis for the assessment that the blanket peat is being eroded to the extent it is claimed, or that the erosion gullies are a new phenomenon. While we respect the science underpinning this, we dispute the interpretation of the evidence used as the basis for the assessment, which is in part based on aerial photographs taken by the RAF in April 1947. This was the year of the severe blizzard and a long period of freezing temperatures, following which deep sheets of snow lay on the higher ground, especially in the gullies, well into the early summer. This shows clearly on the aerial photograph but could easily be mistaken for sheets of water or level ground surfaces when analysed by a computer. It also has the effect of distorting the apparent definition and depths of the gullies, thus having a significant impact on their interpretation. Other, satellite and LiDAR, imagery clearly shows the softening of the edges of old peat ties where the peat is regenerating and this process can be seen on the ground.

Methodology

We understand the logic of attempting to raise the water table in order to ‘re-wet’ the existing peat. It is harder to understand how the creation of large, deep, open pools on exposed hilltops will encourage new peat to form. Continuous surface disturbance will hamper any vegetation growth and hinder the formation of new peat. With the constant movement, the edges of the pools will erode and more methane could be released from the bare floor beneath, in addition to that released by the initial machine excavations. By contrast, adjacent to one particularly large artificial pool, complete with frozen waves on the surface was a similar area of naturally regenerating peat in a slight hollow, with profuse and varied vegetation growing on the surface.

There are legitimate concerns about the long-term effects of climate change on the health of peatlands due to drying and erosion but we believe that this is the wrong approach for this situation. The exposed uplands of Dartmoor experience some of the highest precipitation in southern England and so the use of a ‘one size fits all’ approach that may well work on drier, more sheltered environments are totally inappropriate for Dartmoor.

An alternative approach may be to find alternative proven methods of establishing peat regrowth. For instance, the establishment of ‘sphagnum nurseries’ in old peat ties on the Somerset Levels could enable commercial peat extraction companies to diversify in a more environmentally-friendly way by producing pre-seeded mats or organic gabions of sphagnum and other suitable plants. These could be sensitively-placed on upland areas like Dartmoor to form shallow pools in sheltered gullies, thereby encouraging natural regeneration and providing local employment/business opportunities here – all for significantly less cost to the taxpayer.

We believe that there should be an immediate pause in scheduled works in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the methodology and the attendant risks to public safety and hidden archaeology. We believe that the review should include a study of the natural regeneration of peat occurring in the vicinity. This will point to ways that we can work with nature to encourage this process. We would willingly collaborate and consider contributing to a study that considers alternatives, and we hope that the current method of creating deep pools will cease until a consensus is reached.

We would support a less invasive approach, drawing on experiences in other areas. We believe it is possible to meet the aims of all involved. Can we organise a joint symposium, with the aim of bringing together all interested parties to present new evidence and find a mutually agreed way forward?

Yours sincerely,

Alan Endacott MA
Acting Chairman, The Dartmoor Society

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Dartmoor: A Fair Deal for the Hills - a film by Chris Chapman and Kate King

Posted in Films on Tuesday 26th January 2021 at 8:41pm

In recognition of the efforts of many people to maintain a healthy balance of habitats and farming interests on the Dartmoor Commons, it seems a good time to remind ourselves of a film made by Chris Chapman and Kate King in 2008, Dartmoor: A Fair Deal for the Hills. This can be watched below, or on YouTube.

Chris Chapman is on our Executive Committee. Layland Branfield, who farms near Two Bridges, is one of the contributors and is another member of our Executive.

As part of the Dartmoor Society’s ongoing exploration and discussion about Dartmoor vegetation, the Spring 2021 newsletter includes a feature on the work undertaken on Throwleigh Common in 2020/21. A collaborative project involving conservation volunteers from Sticklepath and Okehampton StOC group, Andy Crabb DNPA Archaeologist and others.

For background information see the documents below, also available from our Achievements page.

Field day and report on Gidleigh Common 2018

Habitat survey commissioned on Gidleigh and part of Chagford Commons in 2016

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Report on Virtual Annual General Meeting held on 21st October 2020

Posted in Events on Wednesday 11th November 2020 at 9:59pm

Thank you to all members who returned their voting forms for the 2020 Virtual AGM. Apart from a couple of abstentions, respondents voted in favour of all the proposals, namely:

  1. To adopt the hon treasurer’s Report and Audited Accounts.
  2. To appoint our president, Peter Beacham OBE, for a further three-year term.
  3. To appoint Chris Chapman as an executive committee member for a three-year term.
  4. To appoint Simon Murray & Co as independent examiner of accounts.

There were no questions.

The acting chairman and executive committee of The Dartmoor Society thank members for their continuing support and look forward to the resumption of a normal calendar of events in 2021.

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Sheep shown the door on Dartmoor

Response to News Item in The Times, 18th September - Removal of Sheep from Okehampton Commons

Posted in Responses/Comments on Wednesday 14th October 2020 at 10:24pm

You may have seen recent press reports regarding Natural England requiring all sheep to be removed from Okehampton Commons over the winter. This, of course, would be breaking a two hundred-year-old tradition of year-round grazing and cause very real problems for the commoners concerned, potentially putting them out of business and leading to the complete loss of livestock. This in turn would have a devastating impact on the well-established ecology of a large tract of moorland and the delicate ecological balance and diversity of the SSSI, without the positive benefits of conservation grazers.

I immediately wrote to the Natural England Team Manager, Eamon Crowe, to raise our concerns and reiterate the Dartmoor Society’s position regarding the value of maintaining traditional management practices and the dangers of significant reductions of mixed grazing. I urged them to meet with the commoners as soon as possible to clarify the situation and negotiate sustainable levels of livestock, while listening to local knowledge and wisdom regarding the practical issues involved with animal husbandry that make it very difficult to meet the expectations of ecologists without constructive dialogue and compromise.

He wrote back and said “I accept all you say below and I can assure you that it not the intention of NE and I have had 26 years of experience on Dartmoor not to let this happen.” There has evidently been a misunderstanding between the two parties and I was told that they were “in the middle of negotiations”. 

We will continue to monitor the situation as the outcome may have ramifications for the rest of the Dartmoor Commons. Our policy is to encourage positive and constructive debate on the issues between parties, based on sound research and objective evidence. As well as academic studies, we feel strongly that such evidence should include anecdotal and photographic comparisons going back decades as well as previous vegetation surveys. 

As a consequence of the Gidleigh Common Day, organised by the Society in August 2018, a winter cattle grazing trial was instigated. We had hoped to be able to follow this up this summer to receive reports on its effectiveness and to witness the results on the ground but this has had to be put on hold until Covid restrictions allow, all being well, next summer. We were also looking forward to hearing Eamon Crowe speak from the Natural England perspective at our postponed AGM in April this year and, again, we hope to reschedule this in the New Year.   

With increasing concerns over climate change and accelerating loss of species, it is more important than ever that all parties understand each other’s perspectives and the practical issues and talk constructively rather than simply make public criticism. We will always endeavour to broker constructive, face-to-face negotiations, based on sound reason and common sense rather than risk stirring up hostility in such a way. 

Alan Endacott, Acting Chairman
The Dartmoor Society

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Revised Comments on the Draft Dartmoor National Park Management Plan 2020–2025

Posted in Responses/Comments on Monday 11th May 2020 at 10:05pm

The revised comments below were recently submitted to Dartmoor National Park by our Acting Chairman, Alan Endacott, as The Dartmoor Society’s official response to the Management Plan Review.

The Dartmoor Society broadly supports the vision underpinning the Management Plan and we feel that the overall balance of the Plan itself is fair and demonstrates a genuine willingness to consult with interested parties and to listen to their views. 

It should be stated at the outset that we agree on far more than we disagree on and that the following comments should, therefore, be seen in that context. Where no comment is made on a specific topic or proposal it should be assumed that we are broadly in agreement.

Climate Change

We congratulate the Authority on its own efforts to become carbon neutral by 2025. However, while Dartmoor itself has much to offer in mitigating the effects of climate change regionally, we see certain risks in Dartmoor being seen as the carbon sink for the rest of Devon, especially when it comes to investment from conscience-driven carbon offset schemes. Such activity (such as mass tree planting on peatlands or open moorland) needs to be carefully planned and controlled in order to derive the greatest benefits and to avoid unintended knock-on consequences rather than being largely driven by available funding.

We have similar reservations about some of the current ‘upstream thinking’ policies, including the damming of streams and peatland ‘restoration’. The Society still disputes the historical context of peat denudation on the uplands. We do accept that there are clearly potential carbon gains and other environmental benefits from the consolidation of blanket peat cover but only where it is clearly demonstrated that nature needs a helping hand. We remain opposed to the current overly invasive methodology. Instead, we would prefer to see a softer, more phased approach to the work, for instance, the manual placing of pre-seeded sphagnum in biodegradable nets to form dams and shallow pools to encourage the gradual establishment of sphagnum bog over a greater area, rather than the current use of excavators and intrusive dams that risk releasing more harmful methane than the carbon gains are worth and create deep pools, with the attendant physical and health risks to wildlife and livestock.

With regards to sustainable transport, although there is going to be an increasing demand for vehicle charging points and other infrastructure to accommodate low-carbon transport, it will prove almost impossible to cope with the sheer predicted numbers of electric vehicles in the future and we feel the Authority should take bold steps, along with public and private partners, to aim for a fully integrated public transport system to reduce the number of visitors arriving in cars as well as helping local communities to reduce their car usage. For instance, a network of affordable ‘Park and Ride’ facilities around the outskirts of the National Park, operating with low-carbon buses. Dartmoor could become an exemplar of what can be achieved.

When public infrastructure improvements are considered to provide low-carbon facilities, these should not be limited to vehicle charging points and other technologies, such as hydrogen, should be taken into account, especially around the periphery of the National Park. Flexibility should be built in to any project plans to take account of new or emerging technologies and the specific needs of Dartmoor communities, which will, of course, be quite different to more urban areas, should always be taken into account. 

We welcome the National Park’s commitment to reducing energy consumption through improved building efficiency and the use of small-scale renewable and low-carbon energy technologies and hope that the resources can be made available to back this up. Given that much of Dartmoor’s existing housing stock is of traditional construction and few rural settlements have access to mains gas, there is significant fuel poverty and insulation and heating bring particular challenges, especially with the current high costs of renewable technologies and planning restrictions on their introduction in a National Park. In recognition of this, it would be helpful if there were a specific scheme, administered by the National Park Authority, to draw on Government incentives and advice for home owners and landlords, to take account of the special circumstances of the National Park. 

Better for the Next Generation

While we welcome the aim of including young people in decision making, we feel that this is an issue that relates to all ages with respect to the lack of democratic representation of residents on the National Park Authority, in particular relating to planning issues. However, we acknowledge that this is beyond the scope of this Plan and recognise the willingness of the Authority to listen to the views of all stakeholders in order to shape their decisions.

We share the concerns regarding affordable housing, jobs and skills and would welcome any practical encouragement of traditional skills and knowledge being passed on as well as the other ideas put forward.

We regret the loss of County Council ‘starter farms’ within the National Park and the opportunities they provided for young farmers to get established. If it isn’t already, this kind of opportunity should be borne in mind in relation to Duchy tenancies, with a certain quota specifically for young farmers starting out. How this could be subsidised could be the subject of the new ELMS principles.

Part of the process of young people learning about what is special and how to help conserve and enhance it should be to encourage dialogue with the older generation in order to perpetuate the cycle of received wisdom and experience that is so often overlooked by decision makers who, thus, either re-invent the wheel or repeat the mistakes of the past.

We are a little uncomfortable about the idea of waymarked routes. This can be achieved in theory using GPS technology without the need for intrusive way-markers but, in any case, a big part of the Dartmoor experience is learning how to map read and to enjoy orienteering and using one’s other senses and these skills should be encouraged in younger people rather than risk being overly protective.

Better for Nature and the Natural Beauty

There is possibly a need to define what is meant by ‘natural beauty’ as much of what is popularly seen as the ‘wilderness’ of Dartmoor is, in fact, the product of human intervention over thousands of years. While we accept that there is an important place for nature reserves and a patchwork of different habitats with different degrees of management, if left totally to nature, much of Dartmoor would become inaccessible and it is important that this message gets across to the wider public. 

For instance, there is a tendency for people unfamiliar with Dartmoor’s history to misconstrue the meaning of the historical term ‘Forest of Dartmoor’ and demand that trees should be re-planted on the uplands in order to ‘re-wild’ it. Apart from the fact that broadleaved trees would be unlikely to grow in the prevailing soils and conditions, they would be nowhere near as efficient at carbon sequestration as peat. 

Presumably the proposed landscape-scale ‘nature recovery areas’ will involve the exclusion of people and livestock? We are not necessarily against the principle where there is a clear and demonstratable need but we would be interested to see any specific proposals in due course.

There is also a strong case to be made for bracken and gorse clearance/control and a return to pre Foot and Mouth stocking levels and allowing and encouraging appropriate overwintering of cattle once more in order to reverse the current overdominance of bracken, gorse and Molinia in many areas and to restore the previous biodiversity through better management of the commons by livestock. Bracken is especially problematic in connection with the spread of Lyme disease but also hides (and may even damage) archaeological remains for much of the year, is poisonous to livestock and carcinogenic.

We are supportive of the coordinated approach of the Dartmoor Fires Partnership to tackle the increasing risk of wildfires. However, prevention is clearly the best policy and we would like to see a similar approach to controlled swaling of the commons, providing individual commoners associations are fully involved and in agreement. We believe that, as well as a more strategic approach being applied in order to control vegetation and reduce the risk of wild fires in the first place, a more flexible approach is needed within the overall agreed framework, for instance, where the weather prevents planned burns or an outbreak of heather beetle is noted. 

Better for Cultural Heritage

We applaud the emphasis placed on Dartmoor’s cultural heritage and, in particular, the desire to see that the significance of Premier Archaeological Landscapes (PALs) is recognised by other agencies and given a degree of statutory standing. We would like this to have a similar weighting to SSSIs and other conservation designations. However, we note the reference to potential conflicting priorities and the need for a process for assessing strategic environment priorities to guide decision making in relation to other conservation objectives. We trust that extreme caution will be exercised when setting priorities and precedents and that there will be appropriate consultation with all interested parties.

We welcome the principle of a rolling survey of listed buildings and quinquennial buildings at risk survey and hope that sufficient resources are made available or sought to assist the process and to help with any remedial conservation work required, in partnership with owners and other agencies.

Dartmoor’s international importance to prehistoric archaeology deserves a corresponding level of resource. The encouragement of pro-active research into the Moor’s cultural heritage is very welcome, as is the ongoing work with local communities and volunteers. 

As this Plan is about vision, ultimately we would like to see it go further and recognise the ecocultural value of all of the open Moor by abandoning distinctions between what is considered to be of particular ecological or cultural merit and the often arbitrary boundaries of SSSIs, PALs and other statutory designations, in favour of a single ecocultural designation in full recognition of the equal and symbiotic value of both. We would hope that this would ensure a more even distribution of resources and management to a consistent high quality. 

Better for Farming and Forestry

We are broadly happy with the general principles and aims set out in the Management Plan – subject to the previous comments regarding winter grazing for cattle and the need to redress the balance due to under-grazing, the lack of timely swaling on many commons over recent years and the consequent over-dominance of various species (including bracken, gorse and Molinia). The rise of Molinia in particular has knock-on consequences for the environment as the dense thatch effect produced when it dies down in the winter increases run-off and reduces the ability of the soil beneath to absorb carbon.

As well as recognising the conservation benefits of sustainable farming, we also feel that due consideration should always be given to the importance of home food production over importation, with its additional food miles and ethical considerations, such as forest clearance, the local impact of cash-crop production in the developing world and often poorer animal welfare standards. Taking good farmland out of efficient production here will inevitably have a knock-on effect on other parts of the world and this aspect should always be part of the carbon offset equation. There is little point in planting thousands of trees on good pasture land for instance if a similar area of rainforest is being cleared in South America in order to produce beef for export to the UK on a carbon-fuelled freighter!   

The bottom-up approach to the Farming Futures and Dartmoor Hill Farm Projects is an exemplar of what can be achieved in partnership and it would be good to see this extended to the whole of the National Park, or the commons at least.

The detailed delivery of these aims and policies will, no doubt, be the subject of much discussion between farmers and the various agencies involved over the life of the Plan and as the post-Brexit situation becomes clearer. The Dartmoor Society will be pleased to take part in such discussions where appropriate and helpful. We have a Hill Farming Sub-committee, looking in more detail at issues affecting farming in the National Park and the Society’s position on such matters.

It may be of interest to note that the Society already organise regular farm and woodland visits and that these are reported on our website and in the members’ thrice-yearly Newsletter.  

Better for People

With regard to visitor pressure on the roads, see comments above regarding a sustainable transport network.

We feel that there is a conflict between the promotion of Dartmoor as a physical activity playground and a suitable place for potentially destructive pastimes, such as foraging, and the long-term well-being of the environment and local communities. While we respect the rights of individuals to legally indulge in such pastimes, we don’t think they should be widely promoted in the media (e.g. BBC Countryfile) and marketing campaigns and should not be actively promoted by the National Park Authority.

Equally, the emphasis should be on managing, encouraging and educating those who wish to visit the National Park of their own volition rather than campaigns to increase overall visitor numbers. There are some excellent examples of sustainable tourism models within the National Park and these should continue to be encouraged, as should initiatives to help underprivileged groups (such as CHICKS or the Jubilee Challenge) to enjoy and feel inspired by the experience.    

We are concerned about the increasing number of large-scale events being staged in the National Park, the damage they can cause and the impact on local communities and farmers. We feel that there are insufficient controls and opportunities for those communities and farmers affected to have their say. 

Better for Communities and Business

Recent years have seen increasing numbers of closures of banks and Post Offices, not only in rural areas but in the larger towns that service Dartmoor communities. This is causing significant hardships to individuals and communities as well as to the surviving Sub-Postmasters who are having to take on more work, including outreach services to villages that have already lost their Post Offices, for little extra money. It also means that, with a lack of public transport, people are being forced to drive (or be driven) significant distances to transact their affairs and this also leads to an increasing sense of isolation for those who can't travel. 

Poor reception for mobile phones and slow internet connections for those who can use online facilities (and there are still many, particularly elderly residents, who can’t) exacerbates the problem. There needs to be a Dartmoor-wide strategy to protect such vital community services.

Unfortunately, part of the problem is that the viability of many service and retail businesses within the National Park is affected by the increasing tendency for new residents to commute and have little to do with the local community. This is in part a cultural issue as many choose not to mix or get involved, not having experienced village life before. Obviously, this is a personal choice but needs to be taken into account in the consideration of support for businesses and community initiatives and ways of changing perceptions.

Key Challenges

The examples given in the introduction are a little provocative – presumably deliberately so. However, the semantics are dangerous and run the risk of undoing all the goodwill engendered through the consultation process and undermining any subsequent consensus. It could be interpreted as a power of veto and that, regardless of whatever anybody else says, at the end of the day ‘Nanny knows best’.

Of course, as with all plans, the devil will be in the detail and any general statements may give the wrong impression but they appear to pre-suppose that environmental ‘improvement’ will always take priority over all other aspects of the landscape and so a cultural landscape that may be thousands of years old and is ‘considered to be of international significance’ is seen as less important than whatever the current fashion of environmental management or ‘enhancement’ is. This could be seen as rather an arrogant proposition and the justification open to dispute.

The term ‘nature recovery’ itself is actually a culturally loaded term as it presupposes that the flora and fauna of an inherited, culturally managed landscape isn’t ‘natural’ and, by imposing the exclusion of large mammals (including humans), we are making a cultural choice rather than leaving it to nature. Having said that, we aren’t necessarily against the idea and the unaided re-generation of valley-side woodland is clearly particularly effective. We simply want to see that in individual cases, all angles and views are taken into account with open minds.  

Having said all of that, the succeeding assessment of the challenges and issues is fair and balanced overall and we would respectfully suggest that the introduction is revised to reflect the overall consensus rather than concentrate on potential conflicts.

Indicators

Additional indicators could include:

  • Percentage of total housing stock not permanently occupied
  • Percentage of households greater than a mile from the nearest Post Office or shop
  • Public spend per ancient monument/listed building (including staff resources) 
  • Climate change indicators such as earliest ground nesting dates (and other observational data), temperature and rainfall data etc
  • Satisfaction survey data
  • Farm incomes/profitability comparisons pertaining to different agri-environment schemes and farm support areas within the Park in order to assess effectiveness alongside the respective environmental outcomes
  • Support for carbon reduction measures per household
  • Number of large-scale events and average number of participants, set against previous years

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