This Spring I will be leading tours around the UK National park that holds a very special place for me. Dartmoor. This massive lump of granite that sits slap bang in the centre of Devon has been my home for the last 30 years and during that time as a professional naturalist I’ve got to know its secrets pretty well. I’ve been asked many times if I would lead trips to see some of the best this wonderfully ancient landscape has to offer and finally in 2020 I’ve got around to doing something about it. So if you fancy heading out West (that’s assuming you don’t live in Cornwall (then you’ll need to head East) this May then I’m here for you. I’m trying to keep the group size small, so we can all get a quality experience out of the long weekend, so places are limited.
The great thing about living somewhere is that you can be flexible and work with what the weather and conditions throw at us – Some of the expected highlights will be a trip to the open moors; vast expanses of acidic grass and heath, where the underlying geology of Granite pokes through the thin skin of the poor soils. Here the skies fill with the music of Skylarks (still a common bird here on the moor) and drumming snipe. While closer to the ground wheatear and Whinchat, Stonechat and Ring Ouzel can be seen. Dartmoor is also a stronghold for Cuckoo and we can hope to not only hear this denizen of Spring – but because of the open habitats seeing them in action is a high possibility too. The exposed blanket bogs, Valley mires and Rhos pastures with their multicoloured patchwork of mosses are a spectacle in themselves and are home to many botanical rarities and bog specialists. We’ll look for Britains only Silk moth the Emperor moth and the rare Bilberry Bumblebee as it feeds on the hidden blossoms of the plant it’s named after (locally called the Whortleberry) also if we’re very lucky we may even catch a glimpse of Hobby – recently returned from Africa stocking up on moths and bees as it scythes through the fresh moorland skies. All this is set against a landscape laden with the evidence of past human endeavours from disused mines and spoil heaps, medieval dry stone walls and bronze age barrows and stone circles.
Almost everywhere you stand you’ll see, hear and feel the water but nowhere is this more spectacular the intimate, steep-sided wooded valleys that radiate from the granite hub of Dartmoor in all directions. We’ll explore the valleys of the Teign and the Dart, following their path through some of the most beautiful and lush hanging oak woodlands, where the trees are further adorned with life, their bows slung and heavy with dripping mosses, lichens, ferns and fungus. As we trace the path of the water we’ll look out for signs and sights of Otter, Dipper, Goosander and the early spring run of Sea Trout. The woods, including ancient remnant fragments such as Wistman’s Wood and Black-a-tor copse, are alive with Pied flycatcher, Wood warbler and Redstart at this time of the year too. Insects abound as well and if the weather is fine we can expect to see early spring butterflies, including Pearl-bordered and small-real bordered Fritillaries – and we could spend some time looking for the rarely seen caterpillars of other species…
During your stay you’ll be based at the Three-crowns a 13th Century 5 star thatched Inn -slap bang in the middle of the historic market town of Chagford – a name synonymous with the long-history of guided expeditions onto the wilder moor ( Letterboxing was invented in this very town). From this convenient location, all of the best that Dartmoor National Park has to offer is within easy reach. There are several other eateries and bars in town… the perfect place to dry out, warm up and catch up with the day’s sightings.
For more details or to make bookings please contact Wildlife Worldwide (by clicking on those very words) or calling them on 01962 302055