The Culm grassland
The 5 acre wood contains a bone shaped area of Culm grassland. Culm grassland is rich in purple moor-grass and rush pasture, a habitat for many interesting and rare species of plant and animal life and until recent years was common in Devon before much of it had been drained and ploughed. Defra and Natural England are trying to encourage its maintenance, re-creation and restoration.
There are a huge number of plant species in addition to the purple-moor grass in our patch of culm grassland, including the wonderfully named bog asphodel, bugle, devil's-bit scabious, hemp-agrimony, lesser water-parsnip, ragged-robin, southern marsh and heath spotted orchids, sneezewort and whorled caraway, to list a few. These plants support some of the loveliest and increasingly rare creatures; curlews and reed bunting inhabit this type of landscape, kestrels and barn owls hunt over culm where voles are to be found, marbled white and marsh fritillary butterflies thrive here as does the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth.
After a survey by the Devon Wildlife Trust, Moor Wood became an officially designated Devon County Wildlife Site. There are over 80 species present in the wood including twelve ancient woodland indicators: hard-fern, remote sedge, wood-sedge, creeping soft-grass, bluebell, holly, yellow pimpernel, three-nerved sandwort, wood sorrel, primrose, red currant and field-rose.
To maintain the culm grassland for these diminishing species the grass is grazed by our Devon Ruby cattle at the right time of year - in late summer - and before we had the cows by careful swaling in winter (burning - as in the photo below) of the dry thatch that is formed by the tussocky purple moor-grass, to encourage new growth in spring.
Flora and Fauna
A number of the fields on the perimeter of the farm and all eleven kilometres of hedgerow have slowly been restored and managed to increase the varieties of flora and fauna, and dormouse, bird and bat boxes have been made and put up across the farm. There is definitive evidence of dormice in a number of hedgebanks, and the species they rely on, hazel and honeysuckle, are found in abundance in the wood and hedgerows.
Bird boxes of varying size and design have been installed to attract kestrels, tawny owls, little owls, woodpeckers and various small birds. Barn owls are regularly heard and seen hunting the fields, particularly during haymaking and barn owl boxes have been put in to the barn roofs and are being used. Tawny owls are heard frequently at night and sit on the roof of the house, hooting directly down the chimney. As well as the regular nuthatches, greater spotted woodpeckers, buzzards, finches, magpies, sparrows, crows, jackdaws, wrens, robins, tits et al, we have also observed snipe, grey partridge, sparrowhawks and heron on the farm.
Bats are also common and whiskered bats (Myotis mystacinus), common pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus), natterer’s bats (M.nattereri) and Daubenton’s bats are all present on the farm.
Wild red deer and fallow deer are seen fairly regularly across the farm, and there is evidence of otters less than a mile away, and we have built an otter holt above the river to encourage these fabulous animals.
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