Dartmoor Nature Tours

Discover Dartmoor's wildlife with a professional local guide  


(updated June, 2017)

July was originally the fifth month of the old Latin calendar and was known by the Romans as Quinctilis . It was renamed Julius in honour of Julius Caesar who was born in this month.

June had fairly mixed weather becoming more unsettled at the month end. The weather has certainly helped the Dartmoor Meadows which are looking absolutely splendid (see picture below, top left).

On Dartmoor these meadows have benefited from past management including application of limestone slag and manure which raised their productivity. In the modern era, however, many of them were improved or abandoned and then colonised by scrub and woodland. Even when properly managed as traditional hay meadows there is still a conflict of interest between the farmer who wants an early cut for hay and the botanist who wants to see as many flowering heads as possible with a late cut! To keep them at their best, they should not be cut until August (when most flowers have dropped their seed), and then grazed during autumn and early winter with sheep or cattle.

The meadows at Postbridge consist of a delightful range of species including greater butterfly orchid (see picture below, top right), common twayblade, southern marsh orchid, heath spotted orchid, and many other species such as yellow rattle, ox-eye daisy, common knapweed, self-heal, eyebright , birds foot trefoil, pignut and yarrow.

Dartmoor Mires

The Dartmoor Valley Mires also look splendid at this time of year due to the covering of flowering cotton sedge, often referred to as bog cotton or cotton sedge. (see picture below, bottom left) Dartmoor has about 8000 hectares of peat bog most of which is extensive blanket bog and a network of smaller valley mires.

So when were these bogs formed?

Around 6000 BC there was an increase in rainfall and wet humid conditions that lasted until about 3000 BC. It is likely that people settled on Dartmoor during the drier (Bronze Age/Boreal) period following this. From about 600BC (Iron Age) there was another climatic change when we entered the present Sub-Atlantic era and when there may have been some minor expansion of the peat bogs. Most British peat bogs now seem to be static or even in decline through drying out but research currently underway at the University of Plymouth suggests that that some of the Dartmoor blanket bog is still actively accumulating peat at rates comparable to the northern Scottish bogs.

Mires and associated pools are a breeding ground for various invertebrates such as the keeled skimmer dragonfly (see picture below, bottom right).

Future Events

Moorland Walk

The next Moorland Walk will be on Sunday July 16th. The walk will start at 09.30 hours from the Haytor Visitor Centre. Charge is £5.00 per adult. There should be plenty of moorland birds such as stonechats, wheatears and whitethroats plus a few surprises.

Telephone (0785 8421 148) or e-mail me at enquiries@dartmoornaturetours.co.uk if you need more information about any of these events.

You can also follow me on Twitter @Dartmoorphil