Inspirational Ramble!

I have just helped guide, 20 disabled ramblers around the old Loop Road near Okehampton.  It’s definitely been a very worthwhile and inspirational day for me and I congratulate everyone involved.

I had been approached by the Devon representative, Peter Flick of the Disabled Ramblers almost a year in advance as the plans came together for five rambles on Dartmoor as part of a total of 7 rambles in Devon, taking place in September. Other Rangers have been involved in suggesting routes in their areas and then guiding on their chosen routes .

Everyone waits their turn to cross the ford

Everyone waits their turn to cross the ford

This national organisation exists to help mobility challenged people get back out into the countryside with most using the Tramper  made by Beamish ltd in either the 4 wheel or relatively new, 3 wheel versions. They also offer the opportunity to anyone not owning their own scooter, to hire one to be able to experience for the first time, the all terrain ability of these machines!

As the crowd began to assemble at the allotted time, it was soon clear that there was some in the group that had been on theses rambles before, and some with limited experience and a little daunted by what lay ahead. However, the ramble organiser , John Cuthbertson, soon had minds put to rest and after a short introduction, the ramble began.

A steady pace allowed those of us walking alongside to keep up and to engage in conversation about the area with plenty of questions coming my way and for me a chance to find out more about them and the reasons for their various disabilities.

A 3 wheel scooter takes the plunge!

A 3 wheel scooter takes the plunge!

Its incredibly humbling to listen about life changing illnesses that completely alter very active lives and how the group has helped them to re-engage with outdoor activities. Terry, for example, from North Wales, had been a British Mountain guide travelling to many parts of the world until a stroke in his early sixties changed everything. The group, plus his dogged determination to continue conquering anything that came his way, has taken him back to some of the areas he once new so well and he loves to be outdoors setting himself some amazing challenges.

Coffee stops and a lunch stop half way round, gave ample opportunity for the group to gel further and a small trailer, towed behind one of the Trampers, turned out to be hauling a portable accessible toilet, quickly deployed and welcomed by many!

Concentration allows a safe crossing!

Concentration allows a safe crossing!

All in all it was a good day out and I for one look forward to them returning in future years.

Posted in Dartmoor, Enjoy Dartmoor, Events, Natural Environment, Rangers, Tramper Vehicle | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Back on the Rails!

At the end of March, it was reported that Manga Rails on the River Teign had become damaged and two of the lower rails were now missing. The purpose of this granite and metal structure is primarily to keep animals in the new-take, near Fernworthy Forest but it is also used by walkers as a convenient crossing point.

Missing rails!

Missing lower rails!

It was last extensively repaired in 1991 when one of the granite uprights was found acting as a gate post in a nearby wall. It was removed and a suitable replacement was erected in its place. The original post was then re-erected into its known position and a new set of metal rails were added to complete the project, replacing metal wires that were long past their usefulness.

Apart from a couple of minor repairs, the structure had lasted well until now and on closer inspection it is likely that the two bent rails and broken fixings were caused by walkers ‘crabbing’ along the bottom rail when the river was in full spate. The rails were certainly not designed to take this kind of punishment!

Two new rails and metal supports were ordered from Conibear Brothers in Crediton and a local blacksmith, Dave Denford was employed to make new and stronger fixings.

New fixings made by Dave Denford

New fixings made by Dave Denford

On a sunny day in June, following a spell of prolonged good weather, Dave and his wife Shirley (as volunteers) and I ventured out onto the common to undertake the repairs.

New rails added

New rails added

The old broken fixings were removed, the holes re-drilled to take the larger fixings and then the rails were positioned in place whilst the glue set hard. The new uprights were added and then the whole structure was given a fresh coat of paint.

The finished job!

The finished job!

Hopefully it will last as long as it did last time and my thanks go to all those who were involved in the project. Just another day in the life of a ranger!



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Face-lift for Cranmere Pool Letterbox!

Having replaced the capping stone to the outer box last year, the metal door was is need of a fresh coat of paint. It’s likely that this hadn’t been done for over 40 years, so it was definitely time for a freshen up!

In need of some care!

In need of some care!

Instead of removing the door, which would have left the inner box exposed to the Dartmoor elements, several trips were made to prepare the door and gradually build up the various layers of paint until the final coat was applied.

Lets hope it lasts for another 40 years or so!

Happy Letterboxing!

The finished job!

The finished job!

Box 'upgrade' completed!

Box upgrade completed!

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Ranger Ralphers get creative at Lydford Gorge

Preparing for Ranger Ralphers - Lydford, December 2013

Preparing for Ranger Ralphers – Lydford, December 2013

On Sunday 1st December, Ranger Ralphers got together  for a fantastic morning and afternoon making Nature’s Decorations. The event was jointly hosted with the National Trust at Lydford Gorge. Members were able to make lots of things to decorate their homes including Wooden Reindeer (with a little help from Adrian Shaw, Head Ranger at Lydford, and Gorge volunteers), candle screens and cone owls with National Park Voluntary Warden Abi Ball, natural clay bird seed feeders with Ranger Ella and sock snowmen and Christmas Elves with Helen Jenny (National Park Authority Member). Ralphers were also going home with woven willow balls of all sizes having been shown how to make them by Voluntary warden John Banks and Dan Hooper, a work placement student from Bicton College.

Ranger Ralph Reindeer!

Ranger Ralph Reindeer!

Afternoon tea was served up an hour before the end. Keeping it seasonal we had mince pies and clotted cream, juice and some of Helen’s gorgeous homemade cakes, and over lunch to keep warm we all had a sing song around the fire, singing the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Ranger Ralphers getting creative - Lydford, December 2013

Ranger Ralphers getting creative – Lydford, December 2013

Everyone had a great day, and we all look forward to another one this year. Don’t worry, only another 357 days to go!

Ranger Rob Taylor (Ranger Sector F)

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New ‘hat’ for Cranmere Pool Letterbox!

The home for Cranmere Pool’s letterbox has just be repaired after 43 years of being out in all weathers!

The capping stone, made from a reinforced concrete slab, was loose and broken in several places so a suitable replacement was required.

Broken capping stone

Broken capping stone

A new capping stone was found in the National Park’s stone store and after only a minor modification was ready to be installed at its new home.

New capping stone

New capping stone

To minimise any damage to the moorland, Ian Jarvis, Training Area Safety Officer for Dartmoor, kindly arranged for a Sea King helicopter from RNAS Yeovilton to airlift the stone out to site.

Before this could be done, the weight of the stone was required by the helicopter crew. Fahey’s of Okehampton kindly allowed me to use their weighbridge, recording a weight of 80kg!

New capping stone being airlifted to site

New capping stone being airlifted to site

Once out on site, the stone was lifted into place by hand and secured by four metal pins.

New capping stone in place

New capping stone in place

All that remains to be done is the repainting of the door but lets hope that this capping stone lasts for at least another 40 years!

Many thanks to all those involved in this project.

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End of an Era!

Its official! The fleet of Ranger vehicles has changed colour!

Since the mid seventies, Rangers’ vehicles have been painted two-tone green; Coniston green as a base colour with a lighter green added to the top section of the vehicle. This complimented the similar colours used on the temporary information cabins that existed in those days.

Two Tone Green Land Rover!

Two Tone Green Land Rover!

 Rumour has it that when the first vehicle, an Austin Gipsy, was painted in these colours, the Ranger was told not to wash his vehicle as the paint was likely to peel off! Someone had forgotten to de-grease the metal work before applying the paint. In those days it cost the princely sum of £15 to complete! 

As Land Rover have now stopped offering Coniston green as a base colour, it was decided that the cost of repainting the whole vehicle was too high, so standard silver has become the order of the day. (No jokes about Lone Rangers and Silver please!)

Each Ranger’s vehicle is also decorated with a scene from their area of Dartmoor along with a message from our current ‘Paws on Dartmoor’ campaign.

Silver Land Rover with picture of Ranger Area

Silver Land Rover with picture of Ranger Area

 This new design was rolled out a few years ago on the first vehicles to be replaced but since then the old style header boards have also been added.

Header boards retained aswell as 'Dartmoor Ranger' across old air vent area

Header boards retained aswell as ‘Dartmoor Ranger’ across old air vent area

The rear of the vehicle has also changed to meet current Health and Safety legislation.

Health and safety requirements on rear!

Health and safety requirements on rear!

It’s great to have vehicles which are  ‘fit for purpose’ but will they still be as recognisable to our visitors and local people? Time will tell!

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Progress on the Ashburton Masterplan

Further to the June blog here’s a quick update on progress on the Ashburton Masterplan.

As a reminder – in April 2013 Dartmoor National Park Authority, working with Teignbridge District Council commissioned BDP to develop a masterplan for the Chuley Road site in Ashburton.

The masterplan will provide a strategy to guide the regeneration of the site at Chuley Road to deliver benefits for the community such as new housing, businesses, improved access and parking, and a better quality environment. In June we held a Stakeholder Surgery event, inviting the local community to provide their opinions on the issues and hopes for the future of the Chuley Road site. Since then BDP have been hard at work on analysing the messages from the community, conducting further research and studies, and developing their ideas. A summary of the key messages from the consultation can be downloaded from and you can also join the online debate on Facebook.

Cllr. Phillip Vogel (Teignbridge District Council and Dartmoor National Park Authority member) says:
“The Ashburton community has embraced the masterplan as a positive step in the right direction for the Chuley Road site. Those that have already been involved have given strong opinions and interesting thoughts on the role of the site and on the contribution it can make in future to strengthening Ashburton as a great place to live, work and visit. It is good to have the National Park Authority, Teignbridge District Council and Ashburton Town Council working in partnership on this project.
We are delighted with the level of interest and willingness of the community to be involved in the process so far and we hope that this continues. It is vital that the masterplan reflects the needs and hopes of the community and this is a unique opportunity to make sure this is achieved. The National Park Authority is keen to promote this active approach to community engagement. We urge everyone to contact BDP and get involved in some way in developing the ideas by either making comments on the Facebook community page or joining the People’s Panel.”

So here’s the important bit – BDP are now inviting the community to hear and comment on their initial ideas at a People’s Panel workshop, which will be held on 24th July 2013 from 3pm to 6pm in St Lawrence Chapel, St Lawrence Lane. The team will present the ideas and participants will be invited to discuss and provide feedback. The People’s Panel is essential to developing a realistic masterplan that is supported by the community, and it is hoped the panel can remain involved in implementing the proposals once the final masterplan is complete.

If you would like to see the ideas and have your say, please contact Tom Rudd by emailing or by calling 020 7812 8262.

There will be further opportunities to get involved throughout the summer, including a formal consultation period on the draft plan before the final plan is published towards the end of the year.

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New local plan for Dartmoor adopted

Today the National Park Authority has adopted theCover of the Publication Version (Adopted Version coming soon) Development Management and Delivery Plan (or ‘DMD’ as we know it).  This document was 3 years in preparation during which time we attended around 30 community engagement events, and received nearly one thousand individual comments (or ‘representations’) on the plan – positive and negative, as it progressed to examination.  We submitted the plan to the Secretary of State in May 2012; the examination by an independent Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate lasted 12 months, and included 5 days of public hearings and two additional periods of consultation.

So what do we have at then end of all this!?  The DMD replaces the remaining ‘saved’ policies from the 2004 Local Plan, and, together with the Core Strategy is now the development plan or ‘local plan’ for the National Park.  It includes 47 ‘general’ policies covering topics like affordable Road trip! Visiting communities in 2011 to talk about the Planhousing, landscape, the historic environment, farm diversification, renewable energy, and economic development.  These will be used in our day to day decision making on planning applications.  The DMD also includes 19 site specific policies which include development sites like those already moving forward at Chagford and Ashburton, as well as areas specially protected from development, such as the conservation area at South Zeal.  ‘Allocating’ development sites in this way  aims to provide certainty for communities and developers around where it is considered are the most appropriate sites for new development to take place. 

The two plans together look forward to 2026, but will be kept under regular review. 

That doesn’t mean us Forward Planners now get a rest, though! We’re currently busy supporting communities and developers in bringing some of the allocated sites forward through masterplans and development briefs, we’re working on an Affordable Housing SPD, a range of research projects, and will be looking at how we update the Minerals Local Plan.  That’s plenty to be getting on with before we start all over again with a new local plan!  But for the moment we can at least rest easy that (as required by national policy) Dartmoor is covered by a range of robust and up to date planning policies; aiming to enable communities to thrive whilst protecting the National Park’s valuable environment.

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New development in Ashburton – talking with the community

A brief moment to breathe on Friday afternoon and share our busy week down at Ashburton!

In May the National Park Authority, working with Teignbridge District Council appointed BDP to take forward a Masterplan for the Chuley Road site on the edge of Ashburton town centre.

The site at Chuley Road has been identified in the local plan for Dartmoor; the opportunity has arisen to redevelop this site for a mix of employment uses, housing, car parking and open space, as some of the major landowners wish to move on from the site. Keen to take a strategic approach and make the most of what could be a great opportunity to improve the area, we are looking for a masterplan to be prepared before planning applications come forward on the site.

On Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th June we held two sessions in Ashburton Town Hall to2013-06-07_HASTOE_Ashburton_Masterplan_Consultation(1) discuss what people might like to see happen with the site, as well as having an opportunity to flag up issues and priorities for the community. At the same time we had an exhibition from Hastoe Housing (thank you for the photo – we forgot!) who were talking to local people about an upcoming scheme at the other end of the town – an affordable housing development at Longstone Cross.  This site is also identified in the local plan and Hastoe has money from the Homes and Communities Agency to build some of these – which is great news for Ashburton.

Both sessions were really well attended, many people took the opportunity to make a 30 minute appointment to meet with Becky or Tom from BDP and talk through the issues for the Chuley Road site, this included landowners, local business owners and residents. We were there to answer questions and hopefully help the large number of people who dropped in to find out what it is all about. Stuart Barker (Devon County/Teignbridge/Dartmoor Member), Philip Vogel (Teignbridge/Dartmoor Member) and John Nutley (Dartmoor Member/Mayor of Ashburton) also gave a lot of their time on the Wednesday to hear the views of local people.

The site at Longstone Cross will be the first to come forward, with an application for affordable housing on the site later in the summer.  We’re just at the beginning of the process for Chuley Road, though.  There will be plenty of opportunities for local people to get involved – check the web page (, or follow progress on Facebook  The masterplan process will continue through 2013, and hopefully into 2014 we may start to see some change on site as planning applications come forward.

A big thank you to the people of Ashburton for embracing this so positively – hopefully we’ll be able to work together over the next few months to shape some positive development in the town for the benefit of the community.

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Teign Valley Woodlands – update on access

The five year permissive access agreement between the owners of the Teign Valley Woodlands and Dartmoor National Park Authority ended in March 2013.  The present owners of the woodlands have indicated that they do not wish to enter into a new access agreement at this time as the woodlands are for sale.

Teign Valley Woodlands SignAs the agreement has now ended, the Authority arranged with the owners to remove permissive path signage and other infrastructure related to the access agreement. The Authority would hope that it will be able to enter into a new access agreement with the new owner(s) in due course.

The Authority will be posting explanatory notices at access points in due course.  The ending of the access agreement does not affect existing public rights of way.

Please remember that there is the freedom to roam across 47,000 hectares of unenclosed common land and open country and in addition, there are over 450 miles (730 km) of public rights of way for you to explore and enjoy within the national park.

For further information on access please see the National Park Authority’s website pages on ‘Access to the Countryside’

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