|An independent voice and a forum for debate for those who find Dartmoor a source of livelihood or inspiration|
Posted in Surveys on Wednesday 4th January 2017 at 11:11pm
The Commons of Dartmoor have undergone significant changes in their vegetation over the last twenty years or so, largely as a result of reduced grazing by livestock as required by Natural England (and their predecessor English Nature).
In 2016 the Dartmoor Society commissioned Footprint Ecology to conduct a vegetation survey of Gidleigh Common and part of Chagford Common as a data-gathering exercise to inform us about the state of the commons now. The report, by Sophie Lake, is now available here.
Posted in Events on Thursday 17th November 2016 at 11:51pm
Over 80 people, both members and non-members, attended this year’s Dartmoor Society Research Lecture entitled “The Dartmoor Conchies” – Dartmoor Prison’s Conscientious Objectors of the Great War, presented by Simon Dell MBE.
Simon gave us a truly fascinating insight on the subject and included themed war posters from the era as well as many authentic photographs of Princetown Prison and the surrounding area which brought this important story to life.
Simon has researched material on the “Conchies” for over ten years and the culmination of all this work is to be presented with the launch of his new book which is taking place in March 2017 at the Dartmoor Prison’s Museum.
After the talk everyone socialised whilst tucking into a delicious buffet spread, ably provided by Robert and his team at the Dolphin Hotel, Bovey Tracey. It was truly a very memorable evening.
Posted in Events on Tuesday 1st November 2016 at 11:42pm
It was a first for the Dartmoor Society on Saturday 29th October when a record 116 people attended a very special Dartmoor Society Debate entitled “Return to the Wildwood? Is Rewilding the future for Dartmoor?” at Meldon Village Hall.
Matthew Kelly, author of “Quartz and Feldspar”, was our Chairman for the day and did a fantastic job of introducing and summing up speakers as well as inviting people to either make comments or observations.
Our excellent speakers included Robert Cook; Lecturer in Education for Sustainability, Plymouth University “Just How Wild Should We Be?”; Ann Willcocks; Dartmoor Farmer and Commoner “Why Bother”; Peter Taylor who has written a book entitled “Beyond Conservation” where he used Dartmoor as an example for possible rewilding.
Finally our very own Chairman Dr Tom Greeves; Cultural Environmentalist presented on “8000 years of culture in an upland environment the elephant in the room?”.
A fabulous lunch was supplied by “The Original Pasty House” in Tavistock and tea was supplied by the Dartmoor Society Committee. There was a varying wide range of views on the day and the subject was analysed from a number of angles including “What might be the result if trees replaced open moorland or cultivated fields?”, “How would Dartmoor’s farming culture change, and how have recent conservation strategies already forced farmers to adapt to a form of rewilding?”.
The weather was a beautiful Autumnal day which meant that in the break times everyone was able to retreat outside and enjoy the stunning Dartmoor air and views. Everyone agreed that it had been a truly stimulating, educational and thoroughly enjoyable day.
Posted in Events on Tuesday 1st November 2016 at 11:35pm
On Tuesday 18th October 2016 seven eager Dartmoor Society volunteers, namely Tom and Elisabeth Greeves, Barrie Quilliam, Tanya and Barry Welch who brought along some of their tools, Simon Booty and Alex Booty who kindly brought their Land Rover as well as some tools, all met at the start of the track to Nun’s Cross Farm. The purpose was to complete the conservation work relating to the three remaining PCWW (Plymouth Corporation Water Works) standing stones.
Special thanks must go to Graham Colton for the use of his tractor and trailer and his tractor driver Mark Cole whose help was truly invaluable.
In 2017 it will be the 100th year Anniversary of the original erection of these stones and the Dartmoor Society felt that it was important to restore them to their former glory prior to their anniversary ensuring that they are all standing upright and not waterlogged, etc.
Sadly due to the excessive rain we had all experienced over the previous few days it transpired that after reaching the third and final stone to be repaired, sited towards Eylesbarrow, both the tractor and trailer unfortunately got wedged in soft ground and proved to be totally stuck.
A very special thank you must go to Simon and Alex Booty who went all the way back to their Farm at Sherril and then returned to the site with their own tractor and trailer to assist with the situation.
After transferring the growan/subsoil from Mark’s trailer into the other trailer by hand and then attaching chains to the front of Mark’s tractor we were then able to gently pull Mark’s tractor and trailer to firmer ground.
The Dartmoor Society is greatly indebted to everyone involved with this project, and thanks to the restoration work carried out on the PCWW stones on three separate occasions this important work is now complete.
Next year the Dartmoor Society will be arranging a special walking event with the stones as the centrepiece in order to celebrate this vital part of Dartmoor history.
Write-ups regarding the two previous work days are available under ‘Archives’ dated 27th October 2015 with an automatic link to the project day prior, which had taken place on 2nd October 2014.
Posted in Events on Sunday 18th September 2016 at 10:26pm
On Tuesday 13th September the Dartmoor Society attended Widecombe Fair with a stand and had a very successful day selling Christmas cards, Calendars, Mouse Mats, Pens, as well as new member subscriptions and a large range of Devon/Dartmoor related books which had been very generously donated by our Members.
The weather can only be described as mixed with us all experiencing what can only be described as four seasons in one day, and there was even a large lightning strike from the direction of Top Tor.
There was plenty going on both in the ring and on show and this year Adam Henson of Countryfile fame was also in attendance filming a report on the Dartmoor White Face Sheep.
We would like to thank everyone who contributed towards the success of both Stands at Widecombe Fair and Chagford Show which had taken place previously on Thursday 18th August. Everyone’s support is greatly appreciated.
Posted in Events on Sunday 18th September 2016 at 10:24pm
On Saturday 10th September 21 members enjoyed a thoroughly fascinating, visit to the Steward Wood Community, situated about a mile South of Moretonhampstead.
It consists of 13 adults, 4 teenagers and 5 children, and their key aims are to demonstrate how a small dedicated ecologically minded group of people can enrich the social and natural environment of an area as well as being financially viable.
Their houses are made from naturally produced products and are primarily constructed of timber with straw bales for walls with a layer of lime giving added insulation.
Daniel gave us a brief history of the 32 acre site and we were shown all the key areas including the community growing area, the wash house/bath room, electrical power house set up and the “long house” communal area. He also explained about the various trees growing in their lush mixed woodland.
After our tour we all sat by their communal fireside drinking tea and eating their home-made cake and discussing their future which is at present going through a rather turbulent period due to their recent application of permanent planning permission being refused.
The Dartmoor Society wish them well for the future and in particular at their forthcoming Public Meeting taking place in Moretonhampstead Village Hall at 7.30pm on Tuesday 20th September.
Going forward they will be encouraging support for their petition to the National Park Authority to help reverse their decision and one of their activities is a “march” to Parke.
More information can be found about Steward Wood Community on their website.
Posted in Events on Monday 5th September 2016 at 8:23am
On the afternoon of Thursday 25th August, 37 eager Dartmoor Society members met at the elevated position of Pork Hill Car Park before setting off over Whitchurch Common on an excellent walk led by Mary Alford and her son Daniel.
We had many highlights on our walk including the fabulous views from the Common itself where it was possible to see Pew Tor, Feather Tor, Heckwood Tor, King Tor, North and South Hessary Tors, Vixen Tor, Cox Tor, the iconic Brent Tor, the Tamar Bridge and Plymouth Sound as well as the Cornish Hills right in the distance.
We also visited the Grimstone and Sortidge Leat, where the Bullseye Stone acts as a kind of accurate sluice for Mary And Daniel’s inch wide water supply, and Windy Post, which is part of the Abbott’s Way.
The whole afternoon was rounded off with an amazing tea prepared by Mary and her helpers consisting of cheesy savoury rounds, home- made sausages, sliced cold beef sandwiches, various cakes, scones with jam and cream, “conservation sausages” and copious amounts of tea; all in the stunning grounds of Mary’s extensive garden. A wonderful time was had by all.
Posted in Responses/Comments on Sunday 21st August 2016 at 10:26pm
Dr Kevin Bishop
Dartmoor National Park Authority
20 August 2016
Hillyfield Plantation & Tom’s Brake, Harbourneford – Application 0259/15
I am aware that in June 2015 DNPA refused planning permission for a new wood drying barn and a store for tools and machinery at Hillyfield Plantation, and in January 2016 served enforcement notices on several structures, and that a planning inquiry is scheduled for March 2017 to consider the owners’ three appeals (3140928, 3146596, 3146597) against these actions.
Having had an opportunity to visit the site and to discuss its management with the owners and others, I am persuaded that Hillyfield is a fine example of how woodland on the fringes of Dartmoor can be sustainably managed, with community benefit, in the 21st century. Rather than causing any harm to Dartmoor, visually or otherwise, it is a significant asset of which the National Park should be proud.
Therefore I am now writing on behalf of the Dartmoor Society to respectfully ask Dartmoor National Park Authority to rescind its refusal of planning permission and its enforcement notices, and to withdraw from the planning inquiry. These would be noble and wise gestures, which would be widely welcomed. Such action would also enhance the reputation of the Park Authority and would save the expenditure of considerable sums of public money and other resources.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Tom Greeves, Chairman, The Dartmoor Society
Posted in Responses/Comments on Sunday 21st August 2016 at 10:22pm
Dr Kevin Bishop
Dartmoor National Park Authority
20 August 2016
Proposed Distillery in Princetown threatens historic 1920s Electricity Generating Station Building designed by Richardson & Gill
I understand that there has recently been some public consultation about the creation of a proposed whisky distillery in Princetown. I was not able to attend this, but understand that the proposed distillery would require the demolition of the Electricity Generating Station at SX 58877348, immediately adjoining the west side of the carpark. This building has recently been used as the Princetown Smithy/Forge.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Electricity Generating Station is an important part of Princetown’s historic fabric, and that everything should be done to prevent its loss. Not only was it the first provider of electricity for Princetown, but was designed in 1923 by Richardson & Gill, the Duchy architects who were nationally among the best-known architectural firms of the inter-war period. On its north side, there is a fascinating coloured plaque specially designed in London for the building. A good summary history of the building, based mainly on Duchy records, by Ted Luscombe, was published by the South Western Electricity Historical Society in 2002, titled ‘Princetown Electricity Supply’ (Supplement 1 to Histelec News No.21).
Princetown has lost many important historic buildings (the Railway Station, the Town Hall which was also designed by Richardson & Gill, the Imperial Hotel, Bolt’s Stores, Morwenna House and others) and it would be tragic if this building was also demolished. For a discussion of these losses and of the importance of Princetown’s built fabric see my Presidential Address: ‘Dartmoor & the Displacement of Culture: Analysis & Remedy’ in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 147 (2015), pp20-24.
So far as I am aware the building is not listed and falls just outside the Conservation Area, but this reflects lack of information and understanding at the time of designations, and should not diminish a sense of its importance.
I have also written to Tom Stratton of the Duchy of Cornwall. The Dartmoor Society would be most grateful if you could use your good offices 1) to draw the attention of your Historic Buildings Officer to the importance of the building 2) to advise the promoters of the distillery to amend their plans in order to preserve the building, and 3) to take steps to ensure the long-term safeguarding of the building by finding an appropriate use for it.
Tom Greeves, Chairman, The Dartmoor Society
Planning inspector Paul Freer during a site inspection
Posted in Responses/Comments on Sunday 21st August 2016 at 10:19pm
Society progresses through innovation – in science, in arts, in rights for humans and creatures, and in how to care for the environment. But not it seems on Dartmoor: Last week a planning inspector made a decision which could lead to the eviction of 12 adults and nine children from their low-impact homes in Steward Community Woodland. This was established sixteen years ago, near Moretonhampstead.
The community, having twice been given temporary permission to continue living in the woodland, after appeals, applied to Dartmoor National Park Authority for approval of permanent residence in the woodland, which they own. The unelected Authority refused in 2015, and issued an enforcement notice. The community appealed, and the inspector, Paul Freer, has dismissed that appeal.
His report reveals a misinformed logic, a shallow understanding of landscape, and an attitude of mind that should have no place in the modern world, and certainly not within a national park.
He considers both the existing and proposed development unacceptably harms, or would harm, ‘the character and appearance of Dartmoor National Park’ and ‘the purposes of National Park designation’. Mr Freer considers the lack of a continuous tree canopy ‘erodes the character of the woodland’; permanent occupation would cause ‘irreversible erosion of the canopy cover’, despite ‘minimal’ visual impact.
Yet, for centuries, the deciduous woodlands of Dartmoor were full of human activity – by charcoal burners, bark strippers (for tanning), moss gatherers, miners, and others, whose clearings were an integral part of Dartmoor’s ancient story of woodland management. The 32 acres of Steward Community Woodland once included a farmstead – Stewardwood – and comprise numerous ancient enclosures. Field names reveal varied historic land-use: coppicing, orchards, a pond, a barn, even a possible mill, besides woodland.
The inspector’s report is perhaps most flawed in respect of cultural heritage. Since the Environment Act of 1995 all national parks have a primary purpose to conserve and enhance ‘natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage’. Mr Freer mentions ‘natural beauty’, but omits any discussion of historic or contemporary cultural heritage. Yet, in 16 years the woodland residents have added an important and cultural distinctiveness to the Wray valley.
The inspector considers the adjoining sewage works, rifle range and the A382 to be less damaging than the ‘residential enclave’ in the woodland, which he says is ‘urbanising’, ‘not well integrated into the landscape’, and not of ‘high quality design’.
Although he agrees that the community ‘does broadly achieve its stated aims ’, with ‘81% of requirements met from the land’, he argues that this level of self-sufficiency could not be maintained or controlled by planning conditions.
He acknowledges considerable local support but patronisingly dismisses it by balancing it against the ‘national resource’ of a national park and the ‘understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities’ – as if local people have no appreciation of this, nor play any part in it.
Mr Freer blithely states that he has been provided with no evidence to indicate that it would not be possible for residents to find accommodation in the local area within a year. He does admit that their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998 would be interfered with, but considers that to be justified on account of the more important ‘opportunities for others to enjoy and understand the special qualities of the national park’.
A national park that cannot accommodate and celebrate the community woodland clearly needs reform. The residents’ lifestyle is unusual, but is refreshing and stimulating. They have demonstrated a remarkable commitment, through winter rains and storms, to a way of life very different from most of us. They are deeply integrated with the very supportive local community. Their gentle impact on the land, philosophy and brave experiment should be celebrated, and presented as a leading example of how some of us might live in the future, supported by an innovative and flexible park authority which, since July 2013, has even introduced a policy for ‘low impact residential development in the open countryside’ .
The park was created in 1951 when the world population was one-third of what it is now and that of England was only 41.2 million compared to its current 54.5 million. Roger Deakin, who knew Dartmoor, wrote in Wildwood of a woodland community, that it was ‘a practical demonstration that there is another way to live, on terms of greater intimacy with the woods and land – slower, more deliberate and benign: a quiet assertion of greenwood values.’ The dismissal of their appeal is a denial of what Dartmoor could and should be, at a time of environmental concern.
Tom Greeves is chairman of the Dartmoor Society, cultural environmentalist and, as President of the Devonshire Association 2015-2016, author of Dartmoor & the Displacement of Culture: Analysis and Remedy.
Posted in Events on Monday 25th July 2016 at 11:02pm
On a perfect Summer evening on Friday 15th July forty Dartmoor Society Members were welcomed to the home of Wilfrid and Helen Hodges for the annual BBQ.
The event was started off by a fascinating walk led by Wilfrid in the area of Ramsley Mine. This gave everyone a chance to work up an appetite for a spectacular spread of food prepared by the Dartmoor Society Committee and friends, including homemade sausages, beef burgers, quiche, a wealth of different home prepared salads as well as a range of desserts.
It was all enjoyed in the heavenly surroundings of Wilf and Helen’s extensive garden which also includes remains of the lower dressing floor of Ramsley mine itself.
All these “ingredients” contributed to everyone having a wonderful occasion in very special surroundings.
Posted in Events on Wednesday 15th June 2016 at 9:25pm
The Dartmoor Society had a real treat on the afternoon of Thursday 9th June when twenty five of our Members were privileged to enjoy a private tour of Kelly Mine conducted by Nick Walters.
We met at Trenchford Reservoir Car Park and walked down to the mine via Bullaton Farm. We were all given a fascinating insight into both the mining process and the hardships the Miners and their families endured during the working mine’s history.
The miners’ objective was to extract micaceous haematite or shiny ore and one of its major uses was in the production of making very effective corrosion-resistant paint.
Nick showed us the whole site and we were able to follow the various processes from mining the ore, via the adit and the shaft, through the ore washing, jigging and stamping, right up to the final process of drying the precious powder before loading it into barrels for transportation.
The real star of the show was seeing the amazing original Californian stamps in full working order. A fabulous afternoon was had by all.
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