Sunday, 24 February 2013


A story which might have been missed last year concerns the humble larch.  The hardy, lofty, deciduous conifer tree which can be found throughout the UK, including the woodlands of Dartmoor.  A cash crop especially valued for its extremely hard wood.  You may recall the sudden and substantial clearances of trees within Burrator, or at Canonteign Woods, or at Cann Woods in the Plym Valley back in 2011.  Restocking of these forests is complete, but the cause was Ramorum Disease (Phytophtora Ramorum) - a fungus like infection that kills trees and shrubs, and the spread of the infection continues...

Dead oak tree painted by artist Henry Brudenell-Bruce (creator
of the Widecombe 'Giant Chair') in grounds of Delamere House
near Cornwood, to highlight the threat posed by Ramorum disease.
The infection was first discovered in the UK in 2002, and boosted by wet Summers and strong winds has since leapt species from Viburnum and Rhododendron to Bilberry and Japanese Larch.  It is estimated that the plantation surrounding Burrator Reservoir is 10% Japanese Larch.  

The disease is spread by spores that develop on infected plants, and the only known means of control is systematic felling of the trees, before they can produce spores.  The movement of the disease around the country has been ceaseless.  Initially limited to Devon, Cornwall and Wales, cases in Japanese larch trees were reported in the South East of England for the first time last September, and Scotland reported it's first cases earlier this month.

The Forestry Commission have stated that it is likely more Ramorum disease will be reported in Dartmoor woodlands - in fact there have been 4 new cases reported in 2013 so far - and it is likely more woodland will succumb to the infection, potentially infecting beech, birch and sweet chestnut trees.

Timber from infected trees can be used, but can only be processed and transported under tight restrictions.  There is no risk to human or animal health from the infection, but the Forestry Commission have the following advise to help minimise the rish of spreading the infection:

- Keep to marked paths, forest roads and hard footpaths
- Remove mud and soil from footwear after leaving woodland
- Keep dogs on short leads
- Not removing cuttings or other plant material from woodland
- Keep away from felling operations, and obey all safety notices

Common sense perhaps, but if letterboxers can do their bit to protect the forests of Dartmoor, it must surely be a good thing.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The camera doesn't lie

I live a long way from Dartmoor.  Too far.  The Solent shoreline typically receives a mild, occasionally blowy mix of settled weather.  Very much unlike the frequent wet and windy assortment experienced in the South West.  Portsmouth is neither South West nor South East.  We are almost halfway along the South coast, and forecasts rarely accurately describe our location well :(
Good day for a walk, bad day for a walk.  You decide.

Our climate is even less like the cold, misty and often stormy offerings provided on the moors.  Metoffice forecasts for Princetown are hit and miss.  Therefore I am often very thankful for an up-to-date view of Dartmoor conditions.  A veritable eye in the Dartmoor sky: Dartcam.

Dartcam is operated by Dartcom - a weather satellite and ground sensing equipment manufacturer located at Powdermills near Two Bridges.  The old 19th century gunpowder factory buildings accommodate numerous other operations including a Team building and outdoor pursuit organiser, a £15 per night bunkhouse and the famous Powdermills Pottery.  Powdermills is the home and workplace of potter Joss Hibbs.  You can read Joss's blog at the following link:

On our most recent trip to Dartmoor found Dartcom, and the surrounding moor under several inches of snow.  We should have seen it coming...