Blackbird singing in our village at first light this morning, which is way too early, especially outside a warm city.  There’s cold weather forecast.  That will slow him down.   Then a dangle of Hazel and Grey Alder catkins all the way down the Blessed M5 to Bovey Tracey.  Bright winter sunshine around Cullompton, then fog in the Exe and Bovey valleys; then light rain set in throughout the South West.   

One of the many hidden jewels of the NT is its Parke estate, either side of the river at Bovey, discovered only by local dog walkers who mudify the paths spectacularly – one stretch of path today was stippled with myriad paw prints, plus the zig-zag stripes of a few wellies.  Two years ago the Trust felled some ailing middle aged conifer plantations either side of the river at the north end of the estate; three and a bit blocks, each well over 1ha in size, which had been planted with Japanese larch and Norway spruce over relic riverside meadowland in 1972. 

Pearl-bordered Fritillary was seen in at least two of these clearings last spring.  I suspect Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary also occurs.  Both butterflies occur just upstream in Trendlebere Combe, which is part of Yarner Wood NNR.  I visited Parke today to assess the potential of the new clearings for these fritillaries.  Great news, two of the three blocks looked distinctly promising, being rich in violets, plus much Bugle and Primrose – they are of serious potential for both these butterflies, at least for a few years.   It shouldn’t take much effort to make this happen. 

Also, delighted to see that the neglected rush-filled marshy meadows just downstream of these new clearings are now being lightly grazed.  Rushes have visibly declined, which is surprising.  There is good potential for Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary in these meadows, as well as Orange Tip and Green-veined White.  We can also recreate a bit more Pearl-bordered Fritillary habitat in other, drier meadows east of the river by easing off on Bracken management – an easy win:win there. 

Need to return in three months with a small gang of helpers to map and assess violet densities, so we can plan some necessary cutting (bramble etc), and count the butterflies.  Can’t wait…

Good to ping pollen from Hazel catkins and even see some female flowers, hear Great Tit calling and even hear a Dipper briefly.