West Exmoor Ranger Day

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As part of our development and learning, the Ranger teams of North Devon meet up annually on each property to get an update on what each team has been up to and what projects are planned. Tuesday 17th of April was the turn of the West Exmoor Team. We planned a walk along the South West Coast Path at the eastern end of the property to look at landscape, conservation and cross compliance issues.
We met at Countisbury on Tuesday morning at 10:30, Julian briefly went through a risk assessment and touched on the topics we would be discussing along the way.
Karen kindly offered to drop us off at the point on the A39 above Wingate Combe where our walk back along the SWCP would begin.
We made our way through the fields towards the Combe, stopping on the way to discuss what we could see on the landscape and the impacts of various objects and practices.
Just before we descended into the valley, we walked through a stand of Norway Spruce planted as a wind break for the farmland to the East. The descent was steep and muddy in places, passing spring flowers, such as Golden Saxifrage, and also passing within view of the edge of a huge block of rhododendron ponticum.
Part way down the Combe the path joins the South West Coast Path that runs high on the slopes above ‘Sir Roberts Chair’ which is a formation of the rock on the beach below.
We turned left and made our way along the SWCP towards Dogsworthy Combe, stopping and discussing the control of rhododendron which we have been undertaking in the woods for the past 4 years. We talked about our methods of control and the visible results this section of the Coast Path shows very well.
On past Dogsworthy we stopped for some lunch looking down on the aptly named ‘Desolation Point’. On which lies a patch of woodland very rich and diverse in plants and fungi. After lunch we made our way West, through areas of rhododendron that have yet to be treated and some that are in early stages of treatement, taking note of the high deer activity in the area and chatting about cross compliance boundary marking possibilities (or impossibilities as the case may be).
We continued on, meeting the woodland again at Pudleep Girt, and making our way past the further strange and interesting names of Swannel Combe, Chubhill Combe and Rodney Gap. Stopping for lunch along the way and explaining our planned Woodland Improvement Works at Rodney, and catching a glimpse of a group of Hinds.
The weather turned for the worse so we made a dash to the vehicles which we had cleverly parked on the Lighthouse road for just such an occasion J.
After the rain had stopped and we had finished lunch, we went and looked at the progress of heath land restoration in 60 acre field on Kipscombe farm. We are trying to revert the grass land (ploughed up in the 60’s for grass keep) back to heath, We discussed the nature of the soil and how it was slowly becoming more suited to supporting a heath ecosystem, and possibilities for further or quicker conversion back to moorland.
The day was finished with a discussion in the Bunk House about what we had seen that day and how it had benefited members of the teams from other properties in North Devon.
Our next ranger day is planned for the 27 of June at Brownsham.

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