A Day on Dartmoor

Dartmoor National Park is located in Devon and is home to wild open moorlands, winding river valleys and mystical forests, containing habitats of national and international importance for species diversity. As part of the 12 week nature conservation experience, our trainees get the chance to visit the National Park to learn more about this unqiue place and the rare wildlife found there.

Amelie Ziane, one of our trainees from Belgium, has written an insightful journal entry documenting her day on Dartmoor and the wildlife knowledge she learnt out in the field…

“As part of the traineeship programme, I went with the other trainees to Dartmoor National Park for a day. We had a course beforehand about the national parks and their roles in the UK but seeing them in real life is always better! Taking the minibus, we tried to see as many different habitats of the reserve as possible. We managed to visit upland heath, upland oak wood and blanket bog habitat.

First, we went to see Upland Heath, which covers most of the accessible parts of the park. We learnt about the vegetation present and the main threats the national park faces. Here, heather and gorse dominate the landscape, however other plants such as bilberry and purple moor grass are also found. Some bird species of this habitat include the skylark, red grouse and ring ouzel. Unfortunately, the population of these birds in the U.K. has dropped dramatically over the past few years. The main threats to this habitat consist of overgrazing from the many sheep in the national park and too frequent burnings to control shrub propagation. At the same time as learning all of this, we also did some plant foraging. This way, we were told some information about what plants we could and could not eat which I found very interesting and fun!

Secondly, we visited the mysterious Upland Oak Wood, covered in moss and with rocks aplenty. The vegetation here is very fragile, and therefore the main threat to this habitat is caused by tourists walking through the forest.

Finally, we finished with a visit of blanket bog habitat. We managed to walk, although slowly and full of laughter, a couple of meters into the blanket bog, despite the difficulties from the vegetation and humiditiy. Doing this, I truly realised the difficult of fieldwork but also the fun in it!”

Amelie Ziane, Belgium