Spring 2023 Newsletter

Posted On: 24/05/2023

I am very pleased that Hilary McGrady, Chair & Director General of the National Trust has agreed to give the annual “Educate & Inspire” talk at our AGM on Monday 12 June. Entry free to members and £5 for visitors.

After considerable effort our new website is now live. I would particularly like to thank Kit Powell for taking the lead on the project and Bryony Chapman for her diligence reviewing the content. Content can now be updated by members of the committee and I would like to thank Melanie Odell for managing the original website for us for many years. She is just one of the many people who help us behind the scenes!

If you haven’t seen the new viewpoints on the Devil’s Punch Bowl recently created by the Rangers and volunteer work parties and part funded by the Supporters, I can strongly recommend that you include a walk along the Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT) and other paths when you are next up there.

We are also funding the purchase of five gelded Dartmoor ponies. They have been ordered and are due to arrive this month. We intend to fund further purchases of ponies but this will be phased over a number of years in order to have animals of a range of ages and to spread the cost. We have agreed to this to restock the existing herd that plays a key role in helping to maintain the open spaces on the Hindhead commons.

The English Longhorn cattle which are used in the extensive grazing programme at Valewood are doing a good job in keeping the grass under control and, together with the beavers, are gradually transforming the site into areas that favour enhanced biodiversity in all shapes and sizes. The baseline data on the birds present on the two major sections of the site, basically the beaver enclosure and the rest of the site, shows that 45 species have been recorded. Some of the more interesting ones include Woodcock & Raven. The data are collected via the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) Birdtrack App. John Bullock kindly arranged for the 2 sites to be set up on the BTO system. If you are interested in adding your own bird observations please contact me.

The daily patrol of the fence around the beaver enclosure by our enthusiastic and diligent group of volunteers continues. Despite the Rangers best efforts to provide access tunnels, some of which are used, the badgers still continue to prefer to dig their own! Given their crepuscular nature (mainly active at dawn and dusk), the beavers are very difficult to spot. The evidence of their efforts is plain to see in the ever-increasing network of ponds and in tree stumps gnawed definitive beaver style but viewing them to ensure their continued good health is a real challenge. We are therefore funding upgrades to existing cameras and some new ones to facilitate this.

In January we were delighted to host a very well attended meeting for neighbours of the Valewood site at which Lead Ranger David Elliott gave an excellent report on progress, raised a couple of issues, gave an update on next steps and did an excellent job of putting the project into a broader national and international perspective. There was also a good discussion. Some concern was expressed around aspects of the planned essential removal of non-native trees. We will ensure interested parties are kept fully informed.

The gorse cutting at Marley has transformed the site and it will be well worth a visit in the spring and summer to see what pops up in the newly opened glades.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the AGM / Educate & Inspire Lecture!

Bob Daniels


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