On Sunday 22 May 13 DPA members and friends walked over Dartmoor from Cullever Steps outside Okehampton to Batworthy near Chagford, a distance of about 7 miles.   The route followed  the boundary of the ‘Forest of Dartmoor’ established in 1240 by twelve Jurors appointed by Henry III,  with a few minor deviations.   Presumably the 13th century jurors had servants and ponies, but perhaps not such good waterproofs as 21st century walkers.  We climbed Irishman’s wall and Cosdon hill, crossed four rivers (East Okement, Taw, Wallabrook and Teign), and passed several significant prehistoric features including the Little Hound Tor stone circle and neighbouring White Moor stone and Scorhill stone circle.
Coffee on the slopes of Cosdon Beacon

Coffee on the slopes of Cosdon Beacon.

We found a hut circle not previously recorded and enjoyed a bit of bog hopping around the Gidleigh Leat on Gidleigh Common.  Finally several of the party passed through the Tolmen stone, so if legend is to be believed, they are now protected from arthritis.
At the Tolmen stone.

At the Tolmen stone.

Getting to and from the start and finish points was helped by Derek carrying some of the walkers in the DPA vehicle.
Final tea stop at Scorhill circle.
The remaining seven ‘legs’ of the perambulation are in the DPA programme over the next 3 months – see the Events page on the DPA website.
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8 Royal Cists – a good DPA walk around Princetown

Undeterred by wind and rain 8 people joined Bill Radcliffe for a walk around Royal Hill, Princetown on Easter Saturday.   We started down Tor Royal Lane, past ‘Tor Royal House’ (now Tor Royal Farm), built by Thomas Tyrwhitt for himself when he was building ‘Prince’s Town’ in the 1780s.  We then joined the track known as Conchie’s Road, built by conscientious objectors housed at Dartmoor prison in the First World War.  After a short while we left the track and were expertly led in the mist over rough and often apparently featureless ground to eight cists, some with associated cairns.

Intrepid walkers looking at 8 Royal Cists.

Intrepid walkers looking at 8 Royal Cists.

A sheltered spot, and a break in the rain, allowed for a dry lunch, but this improvement was short lived and walking back over Royal Hill, and Royal Tor itself, was sometimes hard going.  “I’ve never been so wet with clothes on” said one apparently happy walker.

Joan Ford's newtake cist, at SX 63140 72169.

Joan Ford’s newtake cist, at SX 63140 72169.

Thanks to David Turrell for some atmospheric photos including a cairn near the summit of Royal Hill, with cist in the centre, and the cist just inside Joan Ford’s newtake wall.

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DPA members learn about green energy from Dartmoor

On 22nd March 12 DPA members were given a guided tour of South West Water’s hydro power station at Mary Tavy.

Diagram of the catchment area.

Diagram of the catchment area.

Karl Jones, Asset Manager for the site, was an excellent, informative and enthusiastic guide.   Karl  explained the origins of the power station, which is now 84 years old and has two sets of turbines.   Water is abstracted under licence from leats taken off the River Tavy in varying volumes depending on the amount of water in the river and reaches the power station turbines (which have all been maintained unchanged since installation over 70 years ago) via the Wheal Jewell and Wheal Bennetts reservoirs and pipes with diameters of up to 49 inches.

The turbine hall.

The turbine hall.

The photos show the catchment area, the turbine hall and our guide, Karl Jones chatting with DPA members in the workshop. Altogether a fascinating glimpse into an example of use of one of Dartmoor’s principal natural resources.   The site will be open to the public under the Heritage Open Days scheme in early September – see – and is well worth a visit.

The workshop.

The workshop.

Technical information

There are two water “plants” at Mary Tavy. No. 1 Plant (commissioned 1932) takes water from the River Tavy via a leat to a 2.5 M gallon reservoir 700 yards from the power station.  This drops 230 feet and provides enough power to drive three Francis turbines.  These, in turn, drive three Crompton Parkinson alternators that produce a total of 710 KW at 415 volts.

No. 2 Plant (commissioned 1937) takes water from Tavy Cleave 1,100 feet above sea level.  This travels along an old mine leat to the 16M gallon Wheal Jewell reservoir.  This water drives three Pelton Wheel turbines which drive three 650 KW English Electric alternators.

The output from both plants is stepped up using transformers to 11,000 volts and is synchronised to the National Grid.  When combined with the nearby Morwellam Power Station, the total power produced is 3.5 Megawatts which is enough to supply a town the size of Tavistock.

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DPA sets their world alight!

The DPA conservation volunteers had near perfect weather for their controlled burn on DPA land at High House Waste on Thursday 17 March 2016.

The swaling burn gets under way.

The swaling burn gets under way.

This annual swale is part of a land-management strategy for controlling gorse, and helps to provide a mosaic of habitat with a diversity of moorland plants, including heather and bilberry.

The DPA conservation volunteers who took part in the swaling.

The DPA conservation volunteers who took part in the swaling.

All went well this year with a good result and, despite a rather brisk breeze: volunteers’ fire-beating techniques, equipment and preparations successfully met the challenge of containing the flames!

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DPA gets its own logo’d vehicle

As a result of the Dendles workday cancellation, on Thursday 10th March, any interested volunteers and thus potential drivers were invited to Roborough Down to see the spanking new Isuzu D Max Pick-up in shining white livery with the DPA logos.

The DPA vehicle on Roborough Down.

The DPA vehicle on Roborough Down.

In beautiful sunshine Derek arrived in the pick-up and showed off its potential to all, from bonnet to boot, inside and out (see photo below) …..

Examining the vehicle from bonnet to boot.

Examining the vehicle, from bonnet to boot.

Under his expert tuition and guidance, Stephen, Bob, Sylvia, John V, Tim and Ann each demonstrated their driving and reversing techniques using a combination of mirrors beepers and camera, with varying degrees of success!

DPA volunteers posing for the cameras.

DPA volunteers posing for the cameras.

Apart from the obvious tool carry capacity, this 5 seat version gives a smooth spacious ride to rival some saloon cars.

The Isuzu flying the DPA flag.

The Isuzu flying the DPA flag on Dartmoor.

It seems only a few weeks since the idea of this vehicle was conceived and now thanks to Derek and the help of his friends its here on the tarmac!

Well done Derek and colleagues.

Next stop…….off-roading on Raddick?!!!!

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Butterfly Conservation at Common Wood

This article is reproduced with permission from the CampaignerKate blog, HERE.

The Dartmoor Preservation Association conservation volunteers returned to Common Wood on 22 February.  This was our sixth day here.  We had spent five days, spread over three and a half years, on the slope above the leat clearing the vegetation to make way for Pearl Bordered and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterflies.  This time we climbed down through the wood below the leat to the marsh to improve the habitat for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly (see previous blog).  

3 group

In the bottom there is a fairly large open patch of rare Rhôs pasture and, a little way upstream, a much smaller patch.  The plan is to remove the scrub to make a larger open patch, to restore the Rhôs pasture and increase the area of Devil’s Bit Scabious (Succisa Pratensis) which is the food plant of the Marsh Fritillary.

1 before

2 before

We were led by Jenny Plackett, Butterfly Conservation’s Two Moors Threatened ButterflyProject Officer, who advised what vegetation to remove and what to leave.  After an initial discussion we got to work.

3a getting to work

3b work

As we didn’t have a chain-saw we left trees which we might otherwise have removed, but with a power-strimmer our workers made a significant impact on a patch of large gorse. We made two windrows from vertical hazel stakes and stacked the branches around them, creating a hedge-like structure.  This is a neat way of dealing with the waste.

4 making the windrow

5 lower windrow

Jo Loosemore from BBC Radio Devon joined us for part of the day, to interview us for her Sunday morning programme.  She spoke to Sylvia Hamilton, our co-ordinator, Jenny Plackett and me, and got some sound-effects of us sawing wood.

6 Sylvia and Jo

7 Jenny and Jo web

By mid-afternoon we had achieved all we could in that part of the marsh.  We had created a broad corridor between the two open patches, to encourage the Marsh Fritillaries to spread and mix with neighbouring populations, which is good for the gene pool.

8 after

And so we packed up our gear and headed back up the hill and along the leat to Hillbridge, where a welcome tea awaited us.

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Valentine’s Day walk on Wigmore Down

A dozen DPA members met up on Valentine’s Day and walked from just north of Cadover Bridge.  We passed a number of prehistoric remains on the way to Dewerstone and then walked down into the Meavy valley , joining the West Devon Way to Clearbrook and up again via Hoomeavy to Wigford Down where we saw a number of Bronze Age cairns.  A pleasant winter’s day.


Cadover Cross

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