Dartmoor Nature Tours

Discover Dartmoor's wildlife with a professional local guide  


August (updated on Friday 2 August 2019)

August was named after the Roman Emperor Augustus, nephew of Julius. Although it was not Augustus birth month it was considered a lucky month for him. The Romans added an extra day to August to make sure that it had the same number of days as July!

Dartmoor was very dry most of July and largely escaped the extreme temperatures and heavy rain showers that affected other parts of the country. August has started off sunny and warm with a chance of some more showers of rain in the coming weeks.

The moorland flowers are at their peak now as the common heather and western gorse come into flower (see picture below, top left). At the same time as the gorse comes into flower the mysterious dodder (see picture below, top right) also appears as if by magic!

Dodder is a true parasitic plant but unlike other parasitic plants, which have green leaves and only extract water and nutrients from host plants, dodder has no leaves and must extract its nourishment (carbohydrates) from the host plant.

In late spring a slender stem emerges from germinating over-wintered dodder seeds, and entwines itself, always anti-clockwise, around the nearest host plant. At this stage it depends entirely on food reserves contained in the seed, for the plant has no green chlorophyll, but once the plant is established, the lower part of the stem withers and falls away, leaving the dodder to depend solely on its unfortunate host, from which it takes sugar and other nutrients through suckers that penetrate stem and branches.

Growth is rapid, and it quickly engulfs host and adjacent plants in a tangled cloak of incredibly fine threads, colouring the landscape with a wine-red mantle.

One of the best local floral displays is on an old stone wall on the edge of the moorland (see picture below, bottom left) .This unique spot has a profusion of wild thyme and English stonecrop, sheeps bit, birds-foot trefoil, bell heather and smooth cats-ear. The wall is south-west facing in a sheltered depression and stands out against the acidic moorland flora just across the road.

Two days of Dartmoor hiking with American tourists who were visiting Dartmoor for the first time. I think they were very impressed and were also very lucky with the weather.

On Wednesday we walked from Gidleigh (after viewing the Church and the Castle) up to Scorhill via Creaber and then via The Tolman and Shovel Down to Kes Tor where we stopped for lunch in the lee of the rocks and watched the showers falling on Chagford. Walking down through the old settlements the mizzle started to come in and after crossing the Teign we just made it back to Gidleigh before the heavens opened.

The next day was a trip to Merrivale and Wistmans Wood. Very lucky with the weather this time and the changing light made Wistmans Wood seem magical. Lots of people at the bottom end of South Grove but as we walked up to North Grove and Tansleys Clump (see picture below, bottom right)it was a very different picture especially the sight of a lone oak struggling to survive.

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

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