Autumn update from across the East Devon Estate (Sept. 2018)
During the summer 60 dormouse nest boxes were installed within hazel scrub and hedgerows on the Estate’s Home Farm, with the site registered as part of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme (NDMP). Dormice are protected in Britain but are in decline in many areas due to changes in woodland management, farming practices and loss of hedgerows. The Estate’s Home Farm has abundant, well-connected hedgerows. These should provide great habitat for dormice, as well as many other species of conservation concern. Taking part in this national monitoring scheme will not only help us to understand the wildlife value of our hedgerows – one of the Estate’s key landscape features but will also contribute to broader understanding of the status of this species nationally. Over the coming years a local, licensed ecologist together with Estate staff, will be checking the boxes on a regular basis. Typically surveying is undertaken from just before the breeding season in either May or June, through to October or November after breeding has finished. Surveyors record the number of dormice present, their weight, sex and breeding condition.
Last winter, in partnership with Devon Mammal Group the Estate trained around 60 volunteers to monitor for the presence of the smallest UK mouse species - the harvest mouse. These surveys don’t look for the mice themselves, but instead involve searching for abandoned nests. Harvest mice build beautiful spherical nests made from grass, during the summer month to live in. These are almost impossible to find during the breeding season, but when the vegetation starts to die back in the autumn they become easier to spot. Our volunteers will be heading out again over the autumn and winter months to find the signs in rough grassland across the Estate.
Bicton Arena’s final event of the year will be their re-scheduled International Horse Trials on 18 – 21 October and organisers are going all out to make it three days to remember for both competitors and spectators. Organiser Helen West explains: “It’s a fabulous opportunity for us to showcase the very best of what we can do here, at a key time of the year. The season is coming to a close and there’s a real sense of celebration among the riders - it’s almost a last hurrah before everyone takes a pull and has a rest. We hope we will see riders of the highest calibre competing here and we’d love to see as many people as possible coming along to enjoy three days of great sport.”
The programme includes eventing over three days, with competition for riders of all abilities and lots of action for spectators, an array of trade stands to browse, plus access to the autumnal parkland at Clinton Estates to watch the cross-country action. Entry is £10 per car on each day but local residents can contact Beccy.Barrett@clintondevon.com for a free car pass. Saturday is party night with live music from Riviera Dogs and a hog roast for just £10 a ticket. All are welcome.
A few incidents of overnight camping have been noticed, on public footpaths in East Budleigh and more regularly, at the weir near Otterton. Rubbish was also left. Thank you to the local ‘eyes and ears’ who help us ensure the countryside is safe and looking at its best. Do report any concerns to the Rolle Estate Office and one of the team will follow up as soon as possible.
The Estate welcomes the replacement of Bicton or Rickety Bridge which Devon County Council has scheduled for this autumn. Tree work has been agreed including the felling and pollarding of trees close to the bridge, so the replacement can be lifted into place. We have suggested the heavy crane avoids local village roads and granted access across fields from Otter Farm and will store the new bridge at the farm yard, until it can be moved to position. We hope the work will be complete before the good weather finally turns.
July Farms fundraising Heath Week (July 2018)
Farms and fundraising
Last month the farm team enjoyed a very successful Open Farm Sunday welcoming over 400 people to Otter Farm, for tours of the dairy to show them where their milk comes from. Thank you to the many local businesses who supported this event helping us donate £120 to our chosen farming charity, the Farming Support Network.
Other charitable activities Clinton staff are taking part in over the next few weeks include an all-female team walking 10 miles for Hospiscare and eight cyclists who are riding in the Nello event for Force.
Around 200 pupils from seven local primary schools including Drake’s and Otterton have been working on a project to learn about food, farming and wildlife. They will come together at Bicton Arena early this month to compete for the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group Kingfisher Award Trophy and prize money for their schools. Good luck to all competitors.
Heath Week 2018
Later this month the commons will be the focus for events once more as the Pebblebed Heath Conservation Trust join with teams from our heathland partners; the RSPB, the Devon Wildlife Trust and EDDC Countryside and gear up for another action-packed Heath Week.
Starting on Sunday 29 July with the Family Festival Day at Woodbury Castle and continuing until Sunday 5 August there is something for everyone, whatever your age or whether your interest are in the heathland ecology, its history or in getting active outdoors. Choose from over thirty individual events, many of them free. Flyers will be available at libraries, Tourist Information, local shops etc. and full event listings and booking information can be found at www.heathweek.org or facebook.com/heathweek
Throughout the week join family friendly events (29 & 31 July, 1, 2 &3 August) daytime and evening talks or guided walks (something every day) to learn about the landscape history (30 July and 3 August), how our grazing animals benefit the heathland habitat (31 July) or the ever-popular Nightjar safaris (31 July and 1 August).
You can also join practical volunteers for a work party and lend a hand in the management of the heaths (Wed 1 August). Another new event for us this year will be our Dog’s Breakfast (10am-12pm Saturday 4 August) which celebrates our work with Devon Loves Dogs and local dog owners to ensure they know why it is so important to exercise their dogs in this important place responsibly. There will be a short Waggy Walk and plenty of sausages for all our humans and canine friends!
Wildlife and livestock attacks
Finally, and despite regularly reminding local people of the need to exercise their dogs responsibly in the countryside; several reports have been received of dogs worrying wildlife on the Otter Estuary and heifers, grazing Anchoring Hill above Otterton.
A number of our young cattle have bite marks and minor injuries. Estate staff will put up signs for visitors to highlight the serious impact harassment can cause livestock but need local dog walkers to do their bit too. Always ensure your dog is under close control and you both stick to the public rights of way. Anticipate and assume livestock may be grazing fields around any of the farms in the area at this time of year and do not ever allow your dog to chase and harass cattle.
email@example.com 01395 446 918
Apr Forum feedback (April 2018)
Thank you to those close neighbours who joined us last month for a forum to talk with key Estate staff about living near Bicton Arena.
All villagers of Yettington and East Budleigh were invited, along with neighbouring businesses and farming tenants, to help us listen to all the issues there are, as a result of having the South West’s leading Equestrian venue, on their doorstep.
Many had taken the opportunity to submit their concerns beforehand and during the meeting there was opportunity for our team to check all of these had been fully explored and understood.
Tannoy announcements can be heard at properties across the parish. During certain timed competitions extra sounds such as bells, horns, whistles are also a factor. This year Arena staff are seeking feedback to see if noise levels are always an issue or if there are patterns and other external factors.
The Arena manager will meet the two sound companies who cover the internally organised events, to investigate position, direction of speakers and undertake ongoing monitoring of sound levels. She will also provide new guidance for organisations booking the Arena to hold their own events.
The bulk of the issues raised before at the meeting and many topics during the evening related to traffic. This has impact on anyone using the roads locally, but we recognise that Yettington home owners bear the brunt.
Discussions included concerns about pedestrian safety, horse-box size, volume of traffic and situations when large vehicles meet in narrow places causing hold-ups.Some residents shared their experiences and frustrations, but we are heartened that the tone throughout the evening remained positive as we looked for solutions together.
When we are made aware of issues our staff always follow up and look to find solutions. We were able to share resident’s suggestions that have been put into place recently. We also reminded the role the police, parish, district and county councils have to play in wider issues to do with antisocial behaviour and traffic.
The Estates Surveyor clarified the land ownership of village verges and surrounding fields. This helped explain that suggestions of a bypass or permanent one-way solution were not within Clinton Devon Estates power to achieve.
However other valuable suggestions were made from those at the meeting, along with our commitment to do further work to investigate the possibility of timed arrival/departure slots, alternative routes to reduce horse boxes meeting in the village or the road across the commons and trialling voluntary one-way solutions.
Suggestions were made which to improve communications about when events will take place and traffic is likely to be heavier. An events list was given out at the meeting and extra copies available at the Community Shop. Details of the different shows and competition, which are open and free to the public to attend as spectators, are also printed in the East Budleigh Parish News. Mail drops or email updates with be considered and further information can be found at www.bicton-arena.co.uk
In the second part of the evening, Helen West, Arena Manager gave a presentation and reassured those at the meeting that her vision for a sustainable model for the Arena included a reduction in the overall number and competitors at events. She and her team have ensured Bicton Arena is an outstanding venue for the equine community at all levels of competition. Now she is consolidating that work whilst ensuring the Arena only has a positive impact locally, so it is an asset those in the local area can be rightly proud to have next door.
All those who gave us permission to contact them, received a more detailed report of the discussions and information. Anyone else who would like a copy of this can call 01395 443881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The team will continue to review feedback provided throughout this season and we hope this dialogue with our neighbours will inform future measures including traffic planning.
Heathland Codes (March 2018)
Is it okay to let your dog stray off a public right of way?
If it were a front garden, a workplace or home then the dog owner might be embarrassed.
So what about the field next to the path?
Farmland is no different. Unless you have permission, your dog, like you should stay on the path even when there are no grazing animals present. If you cannot ensure this, then keep your dog on a lead.
On the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, rights of way are less restrictive and walkers, cyclists and horse riders have the right to roam freely. But like any open space in East Devon, anyone exercising their dogs is legally required to pick up dog waste and this should be disposed of in any litter or dog waste bin.
Other restrictions include the number of animals that an individual can walk at one time and the need for dogs to be on leads around livestock and during the bird breeding season (1 March-31 July). Many heathland birds breed on the ground so are easily disturbed, leaving eggs or chicks exposed to the cold and predators.
It is a criminal offence to ride on scheduled monuments such as Woodbury Castle hillfort, so please enjoy these places on foot. We would also request that whilst our archaeological repair work at the castle consolidates please do not let children or dogs run up the earthworks as some damage has already occurred.
None of the requirements are new but to make it even easier for our many visitors, the Pebblebed Heath Conservation Trust team have recently drawn up cycling, horse-riding and dog-walking codes with our heathland partners the RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust who manage other areas across the commons.
These are clear, concise dos and don’ts with more detail explaining the reasons, so everyone is clear.
We will be working together to explain how those out on the heaths can help us even further. Look out for the new codes and information in local newspapers, radio and on social media.
As land managers of the commons we will also be licensing commercial dog walkers; a free service which ensures anyone using the heaths as part of a dog-walking business is fully insured and signed up to our dog-walking code. If you use the services of a dog-walker we hope this is something you’ll check they’re signed up too.
As spring arrives we also hope to be seeing much more of Sama and Amelia, the habitat mitigation wardens. They switch their winter focus, which has been on the Exe Estuary back to the Pebblebed Heaths to support us explain and enforce the habitat regulations during our busiest and important seasons for wildlife. When the summer dog exclusions on nearby beaches comes into force (1 May and 30 September) we always expect to welcome more dog walkers, just when one of our most important heathland birds arrives to breed.
In an area refreshingly open and unencumbered, few would welcome the heaths being covered with notices reminding people what to do. We use minimal signage to inform visitors where livestock will be grazing and to remind all users to shut gates. You can also help us by reporting any problems that you see during you visit. We hope that these other issues can be addressed without additional signage and that all our visitors would welcome the codes and continue to enjoy this special landscape in a way that respects other visitors, landowners, animals and wildlife.
email@example.com 01395 443 881
Black Hill Quarry update (Jan 2018)
Black Hill Quarry has now come to the end of its functional life, although it remains under quarry regulations and will be closed to the public for safety reasons for the foreseeable future. On-site quarrying stopped several years ago and until recently, the site had still been processing sand and gravel from nearby quarries. This activity has also now ceased.
Black Hill Quarry covers 64 hectares and has been operational for many decades. Under its planning permission, the site will be now returned to heathland. It lies adjacent to the core area of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths. Although the surrounding heathland is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area, Black Hill Quarry does not have the same statutory designations, although it is a County Wildlife Site.
Significant work still needs to be undertaken before habitat restoration at the site is complete. Aggregate Industries (the quarry operator), helped by the RSPB, has been doing a fantastic job on the restoration scheme, with the company’s work at this site highly commended at the Mineral Product Association’s Biodiversity Awards in 2017. It may still be many years before the site is open to the public, but excellent progress has been made, and once completed the wildlife-rich site, complete with water features, will complement the existing heathland and be an amazing new recreation area for local people and visitors to explore and enjoy.
Although the life of the quarry itself is complete, Blackhill Engineering, a separate business, will remain operational at the same location. Blackhill Engineering, produce high quality heavy engineering for the UK Civil Engineering Industry along with the MOD and also supplies a range of fascinating heavy engineering products to the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Africa. They employ over 30 skilled people a figure which is set to more than double with new plans. They are developing four engineering apprentices and deliver an amazing amount for the local economy. A great business we are happy to support and one which wishes to work in harmony with the precious natural environment of the Pebblebed Heaths, within which it sits.
The facilities of Blackhill Engineering are immediately adjacent to the quarry processing plant. Specialising in steel fabrication and design, Blackhill Engineering has recently been involved in many prestigious projects including the design of flood defence gates for New York City Hospital, work for the European Space Agency and the pier at Hinkley Point. The innovative design and engineering company, which also produces specialist off-road wheeled and tracked vehicles for the MOD and civilian customers, was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the International Trade category for its outstanding contribution in 2017.
The nature of the business of Blackhill Engineering and its wide range of unique fabricated products, has meant that the existing site is constraining the ability to operate efficiently and optimise the highly skilled workforce and the specialist equipment to meet the needs of UK and overseas customers. With the quarry closing, a planning development proposal has been submitted by the landowner Clinton Devon Estates to allow Blackhill Engineering, a significant local employer and contributor to the local economy, to establish new specialist facilities within the site formerly occupied by the processing facilities of the quarry. This covers about 1.5 hectares. The focus of this proposal is only on the pre-existing developed concrete areas where the quarry buildings once stood, and does not involve any encroachment onto heathland or pre-existing wildlife habitat. As with all planning proposals the merits of expanding Blackhill Engineering will be judged by the planning authorities who will be looking at issues such as impact of any new buildings on the landscape. The site proposed is currently covered in concrete and any restoration to high quality habitat will be problematic therefore mitigation proposals that might secure significantly more wildlife benefits for the surrounding heathland are being discussed.