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Higher Longford Park Wild Life Report

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Situated in agricultural land on the western edge of Dartmoor, Higher Longford is an ideal place to start exploring Dartmoor's wildlife. Managed with wildlife in mind, projects such as tree planting and wild flower meadow creation are ongoing. Many areas are left to grow wild and support abundant wild flowers, butterflies and birds in the summer months.

Large hedgebanks with a variety of native trees such as alder, ash, filed maple, hazel, hawthorn and holly surround the site. The hedgebanks are good places to look for woodland plants such as bluebells, primrose, honeysuckle and wild strawberry, whilst the meadow areas are good for foxglove, ox-eye daisy, yarrow and black knapweed. Plants attract insects which in turn draw in the many farmland bird species found here (use Dartmoor pocket guide - Farmland Birds and Farmland Plants - to help with identification).

During the summer months, the skies are alive with house martins and swallows and at dusk, you can watch bats emerge from the barns on site. Woodlands are good for birds such as tits, thrush, nuthatch and treecreeper, whilst the more open areas are good places to look for pheasant, kestrel and finches.

Many mammals live here, including badger, field vole, fox, wood mouse and the occasional hare. Walks are provided around the site for visitors to explore. There is even a pond where you can see dragonflies and wetland plants such as angelica, bull rush and hemlock water dropwort.

What you can see on the site

 

Several areas around the site are left un-mown during the summer so that long grass and wild flowers such as wild carrot, birds foot trefoil, black knapweed, foxglove, ox-eye daisy and self heal can grow and set seed. Mown paths lead you around so that you can see the flowers and butterflies.

Wild flowers provide nectar for the adult butterflies as well as bees, beetles and flies which can be seen in large numbers feeding on nectar and pollen. Many of the brown butterflies such as meadow brown, gatekeeper and ringlet havecaterpillars that feed on grasses and grasshoppers also eat grass, so the long grass areas are good places to go bug-hunting.

Patches of nettles are left as food plants for the caterpillars of red admirals, peacocks and small tortoiseshells. Bramble patches, especially when in a sunny place, are good places to look for nectaring butterflies. Look for speckled wood butterfly around the hedgerows and woodland edges. Buddleia shrubs have been planted to provide a "Bellamy Butterfly Bar" for the butterflies to feed, a good place to start if you want to search for butterflies.

Open Areas

 

In the more open areas, a greenfinch, goldfinch and occasionally a pheasant may cross your path. Swallows and house martins wheel and swoop above the ground hunting insects on the wing during the summer.

Overhead, buzzards can be seen. These large brown birds of prey became rare in recent decades due to the loss of rabbits in the 1950's through myxymatosis but they have now made a come-back, especially in south-west England where they are extremely common, particularly in open farmland. Kestrels like to feed on grasshoppers and small mammals so you are likely to see this bird of prey hovering above the grassy areas and occasionally dropping to the ground to catch its prey. The grassy areas also attract barn owls which feed on small mammals such as voles and mice. Also called `white owls' these graceful haunting creatures are very rare now.

Pond Area

 

Around the pond area and the stream look for damselflies and dragonflies as well as wetland plants such as bulrush, wild angelica, willows, brooklime, bird's foot trefoil, ragged robin and hemlock water dropwort. These areas also attract amphibians such as frogs, toads and newts.

Common Lizards can be seen hiding in the stone-faced bank near reception, coming out to bask in the sunshine in the early morning or late afternoon. These reptiles feed on insects and spiders.
(Please note: customers do not have access to this area)

During the day

 

During the day, you may catch a glimpse of a roe deer in the long grass, which is also a good habitat for small mammals such as short-tailed field voles, wood mice and shrews.

Bank voles, wood mice and squirrels are found in the hedgerows and copses.

At Dusk

 

At dusk many of our native mammals emerge from their burrows, roosts and nests to feed during the night.

Badgers, foxes, hedgehogs and bats prefer to come out at night. Look for signs of them during the day - badgers leave fresh diggings where they search for earthworms. Bats roost in the old barns near reception - watch them come out at dusk during the summer months.

Many of these tiny insect-eating mammals are becoming rarer but 14 of the 16 British species have been recorded on Dartmoor. Bats like to roost and breed in barns such as these during the summer and in the winter they move away to hibernate in cool damp places.

Whitchurch Common (Wildlife site within 5 km)

 

Whitchurch Common contains a herb-rich valley mire together with a good variety of invertebrates including some rarities. This is a good place to see typical Dartmoor bog plants. The wettest areas are characterised by hummocks of sphagnum mosses together with devil's bit scabious, common yellow sedge, leaved sundew, pale butterwort, bog asphodel and bog pimpernel, in the pools there is bog pondweed, lesser spearwort and round-leaved crowfoot.

Other flowering plants include lesser skullcap, ivy-leaved bellflower, marsh St John's wort, marsh violet, lousewort (see Dartmoor Pocket Guide - Bog Plants) and the Cornish moneywort grows along the banks of the stream.

Invertebrates include 10 species of dragonfly such as southern hawker, beautiful demoiselle golden-ringed dragonfly and the local white-legged damselfly. The nationally scarce high brown fritillary also occurs here. You can reach this site, with an excellent viewpoint at Whitchurch Common within 1.5 km.

Sampford Spiney SSSI (Wildlife site within 10 km)

 

Sampford Spiney SSSI - includes areas of ancient woodland of exceptional importance for its diversity of lichen flora which contains many rare species as well as plants such as bluebells and royal fern. Some areas are waterlogged and contain typical moorland bog plants including bog St John's wort, hare's tail cotton-grass and bog pondweed.

The River Walkham and its tributaries are fastflowing and provide a major spawning ground for salmon, sea trout and aquatic invertebrates typical of this habitat. The whole area is important for birds including dipper and grey wagtail near the river and redstart, buzzard and wood warbler in the woodland.

Butterflies include the rare marsh fritillary, as well as pearl-bordered fritillary, silver-washed fritillary, dark green fritillary, green hairstreak and holly blue. There are self-guided walks available in various books and some areas have public access but much is in private ownership.

Burrator Reservior (Wildlife site within 10 km)

 

Burrator Reservior - trails around the forest and reservoir are very popular. To the south of the dam is Burrator Wood which is ancient woodland where you can see bluebells in spring.

Grenofen Wood & West Down (Wildlife site within 10 km)

 

Grenofen Wood & West Down lies on the steep slopes and valley floors of the River Walkham and the River Tay. Grenofen Wood supports a diverse lichen flora, with over 80 species recorded, including a number of rare and uncommon ones.

The trees are mainly pedunculate and sessile oak with occasional silver birch, rowan and hazel with alder and alder buckthorn found on the flatter slopes near the river.

Birds include dipper and grey wagtail which breed near the river, which is also used by otters. There is a bridlepath which you can access from Grenofen Bridge at SX490710.
(Please note: customers do not have access to all areas mentioned above)

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