July 2022

Our team and volunteers at South West Lakes have recently been busy with conservation work, including species surveys, producing sustainable charcoal and controlling the spread of invasive and non-native species. Here's a few just a few of our most recent summer successes:

Charcoal at Burrator with the Dartmoor Youth Rangers

Following a winter of coppicing, collecting timber impacted by storm damage and other site maintenance tasks, the Dartmoor Youth Rangers joined us at Burrator Reservoir putting the surplus wood to good use and producing sustainably sourced charcoal.

As part of the Dartmoor Green Recovery Challenge Fund project, a partnership between Dartmoor National Park Authority, the National Trust, South West Lakes and Woodland Trust, 25 youth rangers assisted with the wood preparation, grading and loading of the charcoal kiln before it was lit in the afternoon.

Charcoal production is a traditional heritage skill most associated with coppiced woodland management which involves the controlled burning of wood, where air flow is strictly controlled by the charcoal kiln.

With help from the Burrator Volunteers, these bags of charcoal are sold at the Discovery Centre and Roadford Campsite so you can have your very own Burrator BBQ at home!

Wimbleball conservation volunteers partnership with Butterfly Conservation

May and June saw the start of our adult fritillary butterflies taking flight.

At Wimbleball, we carried out a small pearl boarded fritillary count, and our population numbers are good and follow similar patterns to previous years. This is great considering Butterfly Conservation have recently said that “Half of British butterfly species on new Red List” which makes our management and surveying increasingly important.

We also joined Butterfly Conservation South-West regional conservation manager, Jenny Plackett, to support surveys on land adjacent to Wimbleball on Haddon Hill for the heath fritillary. South West Lakes' Wimbleball volunteers have supported land management for this butterfly for a number of years during the winter, by removing birch regeneration. This work prevents encroachment of the heath fritillary’s habitat, which is heathland with bilberry and common-cow wheat. It has been fantastic to see the effects of the groups hard work and see the butterfly in flight doing well!

Invasive non-native species work

Across all of our sites, we aim to raise awareness of invasive non-native species, as well as prevent their spread where possible. Our team have done an amazing job recently of pulling up hundreds of invasive non-native Himalayan balsam around our County Wildlife Sites!  They are shallow rooted, so pulling them up early before they set seed is an effective way to manage them.

Invasive non-native species are species that have arrived in the country from elsewhere and outcompete native species, causing big problems for the economy, environment, and human health. They are also most often spread intentionally or accidentally by humans. To prevent this, across our lakes we also have the Check, Clean, Dry campaign which aims to encourage biosecurity steps for clean equipment. At this year's Peninsula Classic competition, anglers made use of the dip tank to disinfect their kit and prevent the spread of invasive non-native species to and from the water. By making biosecurity facilities such as the dip tank at Kennick available where possible, South West Lakes and South West Water are being proactive in preventing the spread of these species. 

Dartmoor Conservation and Access Trainees support Fernworthy flower surveys

As part of our ongoing Higher-Tier Stewardship scheme at Fernworthy Reservoir, the Dartmoor Conservation and Access trainees helped us carry out vegetation surveys to see what priority flower species were in bloom during June.

Our findings did not disappoint with records of bog asphodel, devil’s-bit scabious, marsh violet, pignut, yellow rattle, milkwort, lousewort and a fabulous range of different orchid species. This fabulous array of flowers contributes to a great display for visitors and a dinner-plate for pollinators! Presence of these priority species supports that our management of these fields as species-rich grasslands is doing really well – we’d love to see visitors photos over these fields over the summer period.

If you're feeling inspired and would like to get involved in conservation like this around our lakes, please visit our volunteers page for more information- we look forward to hearing from you!