August 2023

Important archaeological features around Burrator Reservoir have been cleared of intrusive vegetation thanks to our volunteers.

We manage 25 scheduled archaeological monuments around the reservoir on Dartmoor. They range from prehistoric stone hut circles to cairns (burial mounds) and post-medieval farmsteads.

Scheduled monuments are legally protected sites designated to preserve the best examples of archaeological remains for current and future generations. Burrator, and Dartmoor in general, contains some of the best preserved examples of prehistoric settlements and tin milling activity in the country.

Tim Burton, our Burrator Ranger, explained: “Our fantastic volunteers have worked really hard to clear these monuments and improve the reservoir for visitors. Without their help, these nationally important monuments would be lost to a sea of bracken.

“Intrusive vegetation, such as bracken, can cause damage to ancient monuments through root and rhizome penetration, and can reduce access to these sites for the public.

“Spraying herbicides to control vegetation is not appropriate so close to the reservoir, or in general for ecosystem health. The use of machines such as flails and bracken rollers is also not suitable so close to unstable structures and in fields full of granite rocks.

“The volunteers have instead been using bracken bashers, sharpened, thin metal sticks, to beat the bracken fronds. Snapping or cutting the stem of the bracken weakens the plant over time. Energy and sap is released by the rhizomes below the ground causing bleeding of nutrients leading to less vigorous growth the following year.

“Great care must be taken to check patches of dense bracken for nesting birds and mice, and tick prevention is essential but this activity is a great stress reliever and good exercise!”

Andy Crabb, Dartmoor National Park’s Archaeologist and Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Officer, said: “With lots of great archaeology spanning centuries of life on Dartmoor, Burrator is a fantastic place to visit. The work carried out by volunteers is leading to marked improvements in site condition, helping people to see more of the landscape’s unique features. Their efforts are making a valuable contribution in keeping Dartmoor’s cultural heritage special for everyone.”

There are lots of volunteering opportunities at Burrator, including: site maintenance, practical conservation and archaeological preservation projects, bat surveys, assisting with educational visits and family events, or as a visitor guide in the Discovery Centre. For more information see or call 01822 855700.

About us 

We believe engaging with the natural environment enables people to grow. Our reservoirs and lakes are home to many wonderful animals and boast important habitats and built historic sites. We pride ourselves on enabling people of all abilities to enjoy these special locations by providing access both on and off the water. It’s your outdoors – come and explore.