Our work in the Heddon Valley

 Rangers tools propped up against a wall all ready for some hard work

The ranger team for the Heddon Valley are based near Combe Martin. If you need to contact them for any reason please call 01598 763556. The team consists of a mix of full time staff and volunteers. They are involved in a variety of practical and visitor focused tasks. If you are out walking in the area and see them then do please stop for a chat and discover more about the vital work that they undertake. If you would like to volunteer with this team at either Watersmeet or Heddon Valley then do please get in touch with us.

Our main woodland work at the moment is at Woody Bay, near Martinhoe. All the trees were planted here at the same time owing to storm damage so we're thinning the area to vary the ages and to restore coastal heathland. We also have a plan to completely eradicate the invasive rhododendrons to allow other species to thrive.

Moorland managment

Every year we carry out the ancient practice of swaling. This is where an area of the moor is deliberately set on fire to control the growth of gorse and to give the heather a chance to grow. This is a challenging task and can only be done in late winter when the weather is suitable.

Footpath work for visitor access

We care for about 70 miles of footpaths which all need to be maintained. In the summer every mile has to be strimmed, some paths need to be levelled to combat erosion. Repairs need to be done to gates, benches, sign posts and steps. This work is often only made possible thanks to the support of our volunteer groups.

Butterfly habitat management

A high brown fritillary is a rare butterfly which has a strong population in the Heddon Valley, one of only four sites in the country. Every year a working holiday party help cut pathways in the bracken to encourage the growth of dog violets, and we also work with a horse and roller to crush the bracken. Dog violet flowers are where the fritillary's eggs are laid and form the main food source for the caterpillars. Thanks to the support of the players of the People's Postcode Lottery we also have a flailbot that can cut butterfly paths in areas where it is difficult for people to reach due to gradient, for example. 

Heddon hams

A ham is a small riverside field at the bottom of a steep valley. We're creating a paddock in the area so we can introduce organic Devon red cattle to graze the land. This will control the bracken and allow the land to become useable fields. The cattle make for efficient and cheap lawn mowers.

What we're up to over the coming months

  • Bracken control on High Brown Fritillary site.
  • River, woodland and heathland surveys.
  • Bird, otter and hedgehog surveys