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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A new Community Land Trust

The residents of Chagford took another step forward to leading development in their town last night, as a community meeting voted in favour of forming a ‘Community Land Trust’ (CLT). I thought I’d share my musings on this relatively new approach, which is gathering momentum as a way of empowering local communities and bringing forward affordable housing.

A CLT is “a non-profit, community-based organisation run by volunteers that develops housing or other assets at permanently affordable levels for long-term community benefit” (find out more from the National CLT Network). CLTs are a way for communities to get involved in the development of affordable housing, giving them control of a local asset and potentially the opportunity to manage other community services as they grow in confidence.

This isn’t our first CLT in the National Park, with one at Christow working with Teign Housing and about to bring a planning application forward any day now, with the support of the same organisation – the Wessex CLT Project. At Chagford, however the CLT is looking to get involved in potential period of growth in the town, as the site at Bretteville comes forward through a masterplan (see previous planner’s blog) and another site is identified in the local plan for affordable housing at Lamb Park.

So how will this work? Well firstly the CLT wants to focus on affordable housing as their first task (they could venture into supporting all kinds of community assets in future). The CLT will see whether there is an opportunity to become involved in the delivery of either of the two housing sites in the town, and potentially work with a housing association to bring this forward.

The National Park Authority will require that affordable housing is provided through the development of both of the sites in Chagford.  Importantly, we will want to see development coming forward only as and when there is an identified local need for the affordable housing – there is a need in Chagford at the moment, but if too much comes forward in one go there will not be enough local people to move in. This is after all a 15 year local plan!

So what does the CLT do next? They’re holding the first meeting of their Steering Group at the end of May. They have the Wessex CLT Project to help them along, perhaps starting with a conversation with landowners and developers, to see whether they can get involved.

Watch this space and good luck Chagford taking this forward!

Find out more about progress on the Chagford Masterplan
Find out more about CLTs and the Wessex CLT Project

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Chagford Masterplan

After several years preparing the local plan for Dartmoor, which identifies potential housing and redevelopment sites in some of the larger towns and villages, we took our first steps last week towards delivering a site in Chagford.

The 3.7 hectare site at the northern approach to the town has been talked about for many years, and was identified by the community in the 2009 Chagford Design Statement.  The site should deliver a mix of housing including affordable housing and homes for older people, as well as a community car park and public open space. 

Given the size of the site the Authority wants development to come forward via a ‘masterplan’.  The masterplan process should engage the community and other stakeholders in the process of identifying the key issues for the site, leading to a ‘blueprint’ scheme which should be a template for any future planning application.

Housebuilders CG Fry and Son, and Blue Cedar Homes appointed the Prince’s Foundation to run their widely respected ‘Enquiry by Design’ workshops to inform the preparation of a masterplan. 

Public meeting - Jubilee Hall

A great turn out from the community on Tuesday evening to find out what it’s all about.

The week started by gathering a mass of information from Chagford residents at a very well attended meeting in the Jubilee Hall on the Tuesday evening. 

Through the week a group made up of community representatives, DNPA staff, representatives of the developers and others, were led by the Prince’s Foundation through a process of site investigation, identifying key issues for the site and the town, and exploring the characteristics of Chagford (positive and negative!).  By the Friday we started to consider potential solutions, and a rough plan setting out ideas for the site was presented back to the community at another well attended meeting on the Friday evening (a big thank you to Chagford Primary School for the last minute use of your hall!). 

Enquiry by Design Workshops

Stakeholders get involved in some proper planning – felt tips at the ready!

The presentation was well received, and the thoroughness with which issues and solutions were explored at the workshops is testament to the time and effort put in by the community to positively engage with this process. 

There will be several more opportunities to have your say on the development, through consultation on the draft masterplan and then planning applications on the site.  We’re still at the beginning of the process; the next step will be a report of the workshops by the Prince’s Foundation, which will inform the draft masterplan for the site; we’ll publish this on the DNPA web site at www.dartmoor.gov.uk/chagfordmasterplan. Watch this space for the next steps after that!


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A Ghoulish Halloween at Burrator

October 31st 2012

Ranger Ralph Halloween Evening - 2012

Ghoulish Haunted House at Burrator


Wow what a fantastic night!– probably our best Halloween event ever!  A massive thank you to the South West Lakes Trust  – Neil Reeves and his volunteers who joined forces with us to produce a partnership event for our Ranger Ralph club members and South West Lakes Trust invitees. A wild evening of wicked entertainment despite the worst Dartmoor weather! 



Ranger Ralph Halloween Evening - 2012

Haunted House prepared for games

Around 65 people attended (in some crazy attire), meeting at Burrator reservoir for a short, dark, wet walk through Wembley Walk (the old fernery – lit by pumpkin lanterns!) to discover treats guarded by our resident ghost!!!  Next we used the opportunity to  move undercover and take ‘refuge’ in a haunted house (the lodge) which was decked out with gory details including bubbling cauldrons, spider webs and candle-light, not to mention all too realistic sound effects like screeches, creaking doors, cackling witches and howling wind – not sure which were real or staged!!!. 

Ranger Ralph Halloween Evening - 2012

Ghoulish entrance at Burrator

Everyone had the chance to carve lanterns (melons not pumpkins – so that carvings could be eaten!), play the ‘Halloween dare’, apple bob, make decorations, listen to Dartmoor Legends, learn about Halloween history and the haunted house and generally have fun (and hopefully not get too scared!!! – I don’t think we lost anyone).  The lodge made a perfect venue and kept everyone dry!  The evening ended with delicious cakes and refreshments (big thank you to the National Park Authority member, Helen Jenny). 

A brilliant Ranger Ralph event  in partnership with South West Lakes Trust and a big thank you again to all those that helped out, especially with decor, costumes, face painting, running games, telling stories and cooking.   

Watch out for next time –

Ranger Ralph Halloween Evening - 2012

Eerie Ella and Noisy Neil

Wicked Witches (really Sector Rangers by day!) Eerie Ella and Spooky Serina…

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South West Ranger Forum in Teignbridge

The annual meeting of the South West Ranger Forum (SWRF), which is open to all countryside staff in the South West region, has just had its most successful event yet!

Group at Decoy Country Park

Group at Decoy Country Park

57 countryside staff, representing 20 different organisations, enjoyed an excellent day organised this year by Teignbridge District Council’s Countryside Team .  ‘All in a day’s work’ created an excellent theme covering many of the aspects of the variety of work carried out by the team and included visits to Decoy Country Park and Local Nature Reserve, a new grazing scheme and a wild and windswept Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) heath.

Hands-on discussion of issues!

Hands-on discussion of issues!

Discussions included issues such as the protection of bronze age barrows from damage by illegal off-road vehicles, visitor management, the pros and cons of grazing schemes on heavily used sites, community involvement, educational programmes and the use of volunteers.

Group discussion

Group discussion

This type of event not only gives countryside professionals the opportunity to visit other sites, it also gives them a chance to share experience and knowledge.  It’s a good chance to meet up with old friends and network with new ones. On this occasion we were also joined by students from Duchy and Bicton Colleges, all undergraduates on countryside management-related courses.

Yet more group discussions!

Yet more group discussions!

For some, the day was a good opportunity to get away from the day-to-day pressures of their own sites, giving them a chance to gain a fresh perspective.

The Countryside Management Association (CMA) is the National organisation that supports countryside staff and arranges similar training and site visit opportunities throughout England. The CMA  provides the administration for the SWRF annual meeting and supports its aims of encouraging all countryside staff to participate in at least one event a year even if they are not a member of the CMA.

Ian Brooker, Dartmoor National Park Sector Ranger

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All in a days work!

Working for Dartmoor National Park Authority means that you have access to a huge wealth of knowledge through staff who are Dartmoor experts, or experts in a particular field or more often than not experts in both! However, it is important that you remind yourself about your role and critically about the impact that has on the work of colleagues, the Authority and of course Dartmoor! That is why annual  staff ‘away’ days are so important.

View of Hawns and Dendles from Hanger Down

View of Hawns and Dendles from Hanger Down

Most recently the Conservation and Communities Directorate undertook a ‘walk, talk and task’ day to Hawns and Dendles – a 200 acre site, owned by the National Park Authority, on the southern edge of Dartmoor, near Cornwood. This site was purchased in 1997 and has in that time been gradually recovered from a spur of conifer plantation, jutting out on to the open moor, to recovering moorland with mixed broad leaf and critically with areas of archaeological importance now revealed.

Starting with an introduction from the senior ecologist, the staff got an understanding as to the management of the site (natural regeneration, using Dartmoor ponies and, where appropriate, intervention from the National Park’s Works Team and Rangers) and the significance with regard barbastelle bats, blue ground beetles, sausage lichens (a beard lichen which only grows in very clean air) and a rich swathe of heather.  

Then there was further discussion around the site management and in particular in the context of the wider landscape with regard working with the neighbouring landowners – Natural England, Dartmoor Preservation Association and of course the local farmers and Dartmoor Commoners.

Our walk then took us through semi-ancient woodland and passed several points of archaeological interest including Dr Foxes garden. This is an Edwardian ‘folly’ where Dr Fox created a summer house on island alongside Broadall lake (don’t be fooled in these parts a lake is a river and derives from the old Dartmoor meaning of stream rather than a body of water!) and then every summer his man-servants would ferry a piano, his guests and probably a bottle of gin for a day/evening of entertainment. As we looked down to the island where he also planted exotic and rare rhododendron and roses, the mizzle made us move on so we felt that a follow-up staff day in Summer might be appropriate to recreate the ‘Garden’ in its full glory!

We then crossed the ‘corn ditch’  which shows where the medieval boundary was between the farmed land and the open moor. We then saw evidence of further buildings and looking across the moor we could see how they were built at specific contours. Further on, we came across a burial mound or cairn which contained a cist, a box-like structure made from granite slabs. This cist had evidently been opened or exposed many years before but we were able to discuss the incredible finds from Whitehorse Hill. Finally, no trip onto Dartmoor (particularly in the Autumn) is complete without a myth or legend and so we heard about Old Hannah, the witch of Dendles Woods! 

Working and dancing in the rain!

Working and dancing in the rain!

After a quick lunch, we recognised that whilst looking at and discussing the ecology, archaeology, access management, use of volunteers and practical management was important, we were here to help with some practical work. In driving rain we started piling up brash from previously felled Sitka trees (it helps when you have a British chainsaw champion as one of your Works Team!) that had regenerated in the last 15 years; putting up guards around broadleaf saplings and helping the Works Team and Rangers with a variety of other site management tasks.  Our recently acquired waterproofs, supported by Sprayway, were fully road-tested  as we experienced the best and the worst of days with torrential downpours, clear skies and sap and needles from the Sitka.

With the brash piled and all the guards in place, the team started walking back to the vehicles and to reflect that it is days like these that are essential for staff to see the range and breadth of the work on the ground, how we all work together as one big team  for the benefit of all of Dartmoor’s special qualities  and of course to remind ourselves of the depth of knowledge and experience that Dartmoor National Park Authority can call upon.

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Templer Way – Silver Jubilee Celebrations

Maurice Retallick unveiling the Templer Way marker at Haytor

Maurice Retallick unveiling the Templer Way marker at Haytor

One of Devon’s oldest and most established walking routes, the Templer Way, celebrated its 25th anniversary with the unveiling of newly carved granite markers at the start and end of the route. The Templer Way is a 29km (18 mile) public footpath that follows the historic path of high quality granite which was quarried at Haytor, transported to the New Quay in Teignmouth and exported to a variety of destinations, including being used in the building of the British Museum, London Bridge and Covent Garden. The route today includes quiet abandoned quarries, a granite tramway, a canal, estuary infrastructure, quaysides and other remains of an industrial past in an area which is now largely scenic and peaceful.

The story of the Templer Way begins in the 1700s when James Templer, born in Exeter and brought up as an orphan, ran away to sea and made his fortune in India. Returning to Devon he purchased the then run-down Stover Estate and built a new Stover House. In 1792 his son, also called James, built a canal between Teigngrace and the tidal River Teign at a sea lock near Newton Abbot, therefore giving direct access to the estuary. 

In 1820 his son, George, built a granite tramway from Haytor on Dartmoor to link with the end of the canal at Teigngrace, and the New Quay at Teignmouth therefore completing this intriguing mix of transport infrastructure within a relatively short distance. Not only did the tramway carry granite, its rails were actually constructed of carved lengths of granite, a unique feature as far as is known.

Setting off on the Templer Way 25th anniversary walk

Setting off on the Templer Way 25th anniversary walk

After the unveiling of a newly carved granite boulder to mark the start of the Templer Way by Mr Maurice Retallick, Deputy Chairman of the Dartmoor National Park Authority a group for walkers from Combeinteignhead Parish walked the whole length of the Templer Way from moor to sea.

Celebrating 25 Years of Templer Way at Stover School

Celebrating 25 Years of Templer Way at Stover School

The group had a welcome lunchtime stop at Stover School . This provided the ideal venue to host a gathering of all the agencies and several of the key landowners involved in the route, to celebrate the 25th anniversary. Cllr Jerry Brook, Chairman of the County Council welcomed counterparts from Dartmoor National Park and Teignbridge District Council, together with representatives from all of the Parish and Town councils along the route.

After lunch the walkers carried on to Teignmouth for the unveiling of the other marker stone at New Quay.

Unveiling the Templer Way marker at New Quay, Teignmouth

Unveiling the Templer Way marker at New Quay, Teignmouth

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Exmoor comes to Dartmoor!

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Following an inspection by a Devon County Council Bridge Engineer back in 2010, a well used bridge needed replacing across the West Okement River, downstream of Meldon Reservoir. The engineer classed the bridge as ‘lively’ due to the narrowness of the two railway tracks that had been used … Continue reading

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Tour of Britain 2012 – Dartmoor stars!

The penultimate stage of the 2012 Tour of Britain took place on Saturday 15th September and for nearly half of the stage the riders were tackling the twists, turns, climbs and descents of Dartmoor.

The crowds await the Tour of Britain at Dartmeet

The crowds await the Tour of Britain at Dartmeet

With the disappointment of the news that Bradley Wiggins had dropped out of the Tour, you would be forgiven for thinking that the crowds wouldn’t come out in any large numbers. However, as can be seen above they turned up in their tens of thousands and were able to cheer on local rider and eventual winner, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (‘JT’) in the leaders jersey.

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke in the leaders gold over Dartmoor

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke in the leaders gold over Dartmoor

The Tour of Britain allows people to get close to the action and so as well as cheer on Tiernan-Locke the crowd were also able to cheer on other riders such as Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish climbs out of Dartmeet

Mark Cavendish climbs out of Dartmeet

The day had started very early with plenty of people getting their spots up to six hours before the riders came through.

The crowds arrive early

The crowds arrive early

The day wasn’t just about the Tour of Britain though as there were events in Okehampton and Tavistock and a host of free activities in Princetown. This included the Active Dartmoor King of the Mountains climb in the morning, a climbing wall, crazy bikes and tree tight rope walking. The High Moorland Visitor Centre was also screening the National Park Authority’s road cycling video featuring…Jonathan Tiernan-Locke. Watch the video to see ‘JT’ explain why Dartmoor is such a special place to ride your bike.

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All aboard Ralph’s raft!

Building the willow frame

Building the willow frame

Dartmoor National Park Authority’s Ranger Ralphers took part in a raft building day at Heatree Activity Centre at the beginning of July. Based more on the ‘fascine’ (see below) type rafts taken from the Ray Mears book of bushcraft, the children and families spent an hour and a half cutting willow to make the frames for two rafts. They made the buoyant raft frames by weaving the cut willow  between a small and larger circle of stakes to form a circular ‘fascine’ of willow.


The frame being built
making things watertight…!

Once the willow was tied up tight a series of longer branches were crisscrossed on top of the frames to form a floor for the Ralphers to sit on. They then laid out two tarpaulins and piled freshly cut bracken in the middle of the tarps. Once this was done the fascines were laid over the tarps and bracken piles and the tarp edges were tied round to the top of the frames. 

Now are we ready for launch?

Now are we ready for launch?

They were now ready for launch. They were taken to the larger of the two lakes at Heatree and after a bit of instruction from the centre’s Outdoor Activity Instructors they took to the water.

All aboard...

All aboard…

Ahoy me hearties, would you believe not a single man overboard! Neither was there any leakage or indeed a sniff of a sinking ship! A job well done by all the Ralphers and parents for making what turned out to be proper seaworthy vessels.

Ahoy me hearties!

Ahoy me hearties!

Thanks to Ranger Paul and Simon and James from Heatree with their help building the rafts, as well as keeping everyone safe and dry on the water. Thanks also to Helen Jenny for providing some much-needed sustenance in the form of juice and home-made boating cakes, very much appreciated once everyone had docked back in port after a long and arduous journey across the pond!    

Good seafaring grub...

Good seafaring grub…

If you would like to join the Ranger Ralph club please see the ‘funzone’ for more information

Ranger Rob Taylor, Sector F (Walkham)

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