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Our work at Plymbridge Woods

The viaduct among the trees in Plymbridge Woods, Devon
The viaduct at Plymbridge Woods | © National Trust Images/John Millar

The work undertaken by the team of rangers and volunteers at Plymbridge Woods is essential to create a healthy, natural environment for wildlife and people, whilst preserving this woodland for everyone, for ever. Discover our work at Plymbridge Woods, from woodland management to protecting peregrine falcons.

Plans to help wildlife at Plymbridge Woods

Plymbridge is a young woodland which was planted 110 years ago. It is made up of compartments of trees of a single species. This is perfect for growing trees as a crop for production of timber, but not ideal for nature.

To tackle this, plans are under way to reinstate the healthy, beautiful, natural woodland that would have been here before the planting.

How planted woodlands are managed

Planted woodlands need regular ‘thinning’ to ensure there is enough space to enable light to reach the woodland floor so that shrubs and flowers can grow.

Here at Plymbridge Woods, there’s not been enough thinning over the years and light levels have dramatically reduced. This has resulted in a reduction of many of the species we would expect to find in a woodland of this type, including bluebells, wild garlic, red campion, and speedwell, to name a few.

Returning Plymbridge to nature

A team of rangers are working to return Plymbridge to a more natural state, with a patchwork of trees of different ages and species, woodland glades, coppice and rides. This varied woodland structure will provide habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna which, given time, will flourish.

A small waterfall on the river at Plymbridge Woods, Devon
A small waterfall on the river at Plymbridge Woods | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The Peregrine project at Plymbridge Woods

The woodland is home to an array of wildlife, including rare birds. The Plym Peregrine project began in 2001 to monitor and protect the birds in the woodland around Dartmoor during the nesting season.

How long have peregrine falcons been at Plymbridge Woods?

There have been breeding peregrine falcons at Cann Quarry in Plymbridge Woods for at least 50 years. Since the project started, 34 chicks have successfully left the nest and some of the young have been recorded at other locations raising their own chicks.

The work of rangers and volunteers

The team of rangers at Plymbridge Woods is small, consisting of just three staff. They couldn’t look after this special place without the essential help of a dozen volunteer rangers, alongside 30 volunteers dedicated to the Peregrine Project.

Volunteers are essential to the project and protection of the birds. The team at Plymbridge Woods have a knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated team, and they always welcome new volunteers as the season begins in spring.

Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) in flight against a blue sky, Pentire Point, Cornwall
Peregrine falcon in flight | © National Trust Images/Nick Upton

An interview with a ranger

Jess Tatton-Brown, a ranger at Plymbridge, talks about her involvement in the Peregrine project.

What is the Peregrine project?

The project was started as a deterrent following the deliberate poisoning of the birds in 2000. Over two decades later, the Peregrine project keeps a keen eye on the falcons in their natural habitat. The heart of the scheme, however, is to use the vantage point of Plymbridge Woods to educate and inspire visitors, school groups and local clubs to discover the wildlife near them.

What is special about peregrines?

They are a brilliant example of the fascinating wildlife that can be found right here in the UK. They’re the fastest animal on the planet, capable of flying at speeds of over 200mph, and you can see them in the wild within a short drive from your home.

They’ll often perform amazing flight displays, whether they’re fending off an intruder or enjoying a warm day, which is amazing to watch.

How much contact do you have with the birds?

Direct contact is solely ringing chicks to follow them once they have left the nest for research and conservation purposes. We then monitor the birds during their nesting period in the spring.

What’s the best bit about being involved in a programme like this?

The best bit is being able to see the chicks once they are flying. The parents will teach them hunting tactics and flight skills, which are amazing to watch. It also shows how successful the location is for the peregrines and is a really nice pay off for the great work done by our volunteer team.

How would you encourage people to interact with local nature, specifically birds?

I knew little about birds when I started volunteering on the peregrine project, but being alongside people who had the knowledge helped me learn quickly.

I would suggest having a look to see what sort of opportunities there are around you; many organisations will have volunteer roles listed online including the National Trust. A handy guidebook or app and a love of challenges will help you teach yourself as you go.

What other conservation projects do you work on at Plymbridge Woods?

There is always lots going on! As well as the peregrine falcons we have a wide range of other birds calling the woods home, so we care for it in a way that supports them. We manage several wildflower meadows for the benefit of bees and other insects.

We are currently working on a new conservation management plan to review other ways we can have a positive impact on the wildlife and diversity at Plymbridge, including a community volunteer-led coppice rotation.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

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