New website up and running

We have been busy putting together a new website for the scheme so you can find your way around more easily and discover what is happening, what the projects are and keep up to date with the latest news. The new website has a more streamlined address

and should be easy to use whether you are on a pc, mobile or tablet.

News and events are on the home page, making it easy to keep up with the latest happenings. There is an interactive map on the projects page to help you find projects across the area or follow the themes of Dartmoor through the Ages, Dartmoor Wildlife, Discovering the Dartmoor Story and Conserving Dartmoor to find a project.

You’ll also find reports and downloads available on the resources page under “Get Involved”

Let us know what you think or whether you’ve spotted any bugs or problems and we’ll try to resolve them.

For the short term we’ll keep the events list up to date on this website but will use the new website as our main presence on the web so please update your contact lists for us.

Discovering medieval society

The Moor Medieval Study Group met for a second time on Saturday 30th May at Greenhill Arts Centre, Moretonhampstead. The morning session was introduced by the project lead, Historic Buildings Officer, Keith McKay and was followed by a fascinating talk by professional medievalist, Dr David Stone. David’s talk focused on the economy and structure of society in medieval England between 1086 and 1500 and described how England’s climate, economy and population changed over this time – with specific reference to Dartmoor. Following David, the group were introduced to a range of resources including maps, some GIS ‘layers’ (geographical information systems), surveys and plans of longhouses. The group is starting to forge a way forward and have identified various themes to be explored. These include industry, farming and agriculture, archaeology and medieval buildings. Including some experienced researchers, and others who are completely new to historical research, the study group welcomes any newcomers who would like to get involved – please contact Community Heritage Officer, Emma Stockley 01822 890 904 or Historic Buildings Officer, Keith McKay 01626 831 008

David Stone’s talk to the MMSG

Springwatch: The Trail

Visit Yarner Wood over the half term holidays and become a wildlife expert! This is the perfect time to visit the reserve and watch the migrant birds such as the pied flycatcher as they rush to feed their chicks, to listen to the rattling call of the wood warbler or simply marvel at the industry of the ants. For younger wildlife watchers we’ve set out a trail to help you explore and get closer to some of the wildlife. You can pick up a map from outside the office in the main car park and then follow the trail to discover hidden letterbox tubs with activities to help you discover that there is more than meets the eye to Yarner and the Bovey Valley!

The main car park is 2 miles out of Bovey Tracey on the Manaton Road, TQ13 9LJ

Ashburton’s Parishscapes Launch, Thursday 23rd April 2015

Ashburton launched their Parishscape project on Thursday evening at St Lawrence Chapel.  The project, organised by the Guild of St Lawrence will be spread over four years, and will look at all aspects of medieval Ashburton with the first year shedding light on medieval Ashburton’s bridges, roads, watercourses and buildings.  The event was well-attended by around sixty people and was followed by a lively and entertaining talk by David Crook on Beating the Bounds.  This will be the first Parishscapes project to get fully underway and it promises to involve a wide range of groups and individuals through guided walks, exhibitions, talks and school projects to complement the historical research.

Discover the wildlife of the Bovey Valley

Dust off your binoculars and meet our local wildlife experts on Saturday 9th May. East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve will be host to a festival of wildlife walks and activities from Dawn until Dusk. There will be something to suit everyone, whether you are already a keen birdwatcher or are a family making your first visit to the reserve. The day starts with a Dawn Chorus walk for those who want to get the full taste of Spring, we’ll then explore the woodland and valley surveying for small mammals and butterflies, look for minibeasts, have a go at river dipping, get an experts view on taking wildlife photographs, looking for the signs of otters and much more, finishing off with a bat walk to learn about our barbastelle bat project and go in search of some of the valleys bats.

Theme Time Who it is for
Dawn Chorus Walk 4:30am to 5:30am Adults Come and experience the mellifluous sound of the birds as they all wake up and begin their morning symphony
Bird Song Walk 8am to 9am All (children above 5 years of age) A family friendly bird walk with activities to suit
Mammal Survey Walk including Dormice 9am to 11am All (children above 5 years of age) A chance to learn how to spot signs of mammals –  we may be lucky enough to see them too.
Photographing Nature Walk 11am to 1pm Adults and older children Take a walk with a wildlife photographer
Lichens Walk 12 noon to 2pm Adults A walk to explore the lichens found here and learn more about these strange organisms
Butterfly Walk 2pm to 3pm All (Children above 5 years of age) Learn to spot and identify some of the rare butterflies found here (Weather dependent)
Reptile Walk 3pm to 4pm All Discover more about adders, slow worms and lizards with a chance, if we are lucky, to see some too.
River Dipping 4pm to 5pm Families What lurks in the watery shallows of the Bovey? Grab a net and discover the creatures from another world
Otter Walk 5pm to 6pm Adults Learn more about these elusive creatures and how to spot signs that they are in the area
Bat Walk 8pm to 10pm Adults and older children Join us as the sun sets on our wild day and look for these nocturnal creatures into the night

Booking essential. Contact Jane Craven on 0845 293 5742 or email

Download a flyer Wildlife Discovery Day Flyer 2015

Parking will be at various locations around the reserve more details when you book

Tracking Rare Bats in the Bovey – Barbastelle Tracking Diary (part 3)

Tracking Rare Bats in the Bovey – Barbastelle Tracking Diary (part 3)

Radio Tracking Training – On Site and Fully Equipped

The barbastelle bat is one of the UK’s more rare bats and there is a lot we don’t know about its life, its behaviour and its habitat needs. The good news is that the barbastelle has been found in the Bovey valley and, under the Moor than meets the eye scheme, the landscape partnership has put together a plan to study this small flying mammal.

On Saturday 25th April the barbastelle bat tracking team met at the Yarner Woodland Centre for the third time to start their practical radio tracking training. Still keen to commit their time to the study, the 25 volunteers signed up and paired up into survey teams for the coming months’ work.

Back at the helm, Andy Carr (PhD researcher at the University of Bristol) outlined the training for the day. This would be the first time the volunteers would use the radio tracking equipment and, splitting into three groups, an experienced bat tracker was on hand to supervise each one. Andy continued to set the scene on the overall survey – how, earlier in the week a number of bats had been trapped to select one for tracking. A male barbastelle, now named Bert, was tagged and ready for action. Interestingly, another bat was trapped and suspected to be a recently discovered species of Alcathoe bat. It’s very similar to the barbastelle, so similar in fact, that only a DNA check on its droppings will confirm this new discovery, the first in Devon.

Time for the tracking training to begin for real. Fully equipped groups assembled outside to discuss plans to find a live tag hidden somewhere in the oak woods – a needle in a haystack! Setting the receiver to the right channel, aerial aloft, they were ready. The basic rule of radio tracking is to find a high vantage point, so all three groups set off on their three different routes to gain altitude. Light rain had arrived and, pushing through knee-high wet bilberry the volunteers climbed, stopped, checked and listened for a signal. Gradually a feint beeping led the group through the trees, pausing now and again to make sure they were on track. As the beep got louder, careful adjustment of the “gain” sensitivity on the receiver indicated their distance from the target. Not far from the tag the volunteers needed to look for likely roost sites; split bark or torn, decaying braches on oak trees are the preferred home of the barbastelle. Groups of volunteers who took different routes at the start began to converge. “It must be close now” they agreed. Walking in ever decreasing circles, only one or two trees had potential roost spots and finally, there it was. A pair of red eyes on a fabric bat nestled in the crack of a torn branch, but the transmitter tag was genuine though. A successful first stage of radio tracking training was rounded off with a chat about how radio tracking can be used to follow a moving bat and record its progress.

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Photos: radio tracking training, locating the transmitter in an oak tree

The Evening Shift

Resuming in the car park above the Bovey valley at 8pm the volunteers assembled with aerials and receivers to get their first “fix” on Bert’s roost location. The signal was weak and intermittent but benefited from a boost by the use of a Land Rover roof rack as an amplifier. Two way radios were shared out as groups of trackers set off to different vantage points around the valley. To have the best chance of picking up a signal a good promontory was found and volunteers waited, aerials raised and receivers hissing in anticipation. Rain came and went, clouds drifted around the valley and the sky darkened. The group down in the valley were the first to get a strong signal as they were reporting from outside Bert’s roost. Birdsong gradually drifted away but still no sign of bats flying. A half-moon was visible between clouds and described by 11 year old Gillian over the two way radio that “the other half was behind the darkness”! Moths began to appear in the deepening gloom, skipping between gorse flowers, but still no bats. One tawny owl in the bottom of the valley was the only bird heard – then a bat fluttered overhead, taking us by surprise. Not Bert, but a bat at least, picking off the moths. In real darkness it dawned on the volunteers and experts alike that Bert wasn’t coming out. He’d probably fed well the previous night and, in the cold, damp conditions, decided to stay under cover. The general opinion was to concur with Bert and head home.

The weather may have been wet but the volunteers’ enthusiasm was not dampened. They had all learned a lot over the training day and would be back to hone their skills another night. Some will also be back to trap and tag more bats as female members of Bert’s colony will need to be recruited. With a bit more practice the new bat trackers will be able to put together the results and provide a full picture of the movements and habits of the rare barbastelles resident in these woods in East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve.

The Bovey valley barbastelle tracking project is coordinated by the Woodland trust and Natural Engalnd as part of the Moor than Meets the Eye Landscape Partnership.

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Photos: Team Barbastelle, Andy Carr finding a signal in the Bovey valley

Article by Matt Parkin