7th April, 1997, one of the Europe's most important areas of heathland
Trendlebere Down - was destroyed by fire.
The flames engulfed 300 acres of heathland, and all
the creatures which lived there. It would have been worse, had the
flames not been stopped in their tracks right on the edge of Yarner
Wood, near Bovey Tracey.
flames spread across the Down
Down - which is a National Nature Reserve - is managed by English
Nature. After the fire, English Nature launched a five-year management
plan...and those five years were up in April 2002.
The good news is that the heather is back, and so are the other
habitats which were lost. The gorse has returned with a vengeance,
and is being carefully controlled.
Grazing is helping with that process, and controlled fires are also
being carried out. A network of fire breaks have been created to
- hopefully - prevent a repeat of April 1997.
More good news
is that birds
like nightjars, linnets, stonechats and skylarks have returned to
you can see where English Nature has carried out controlled
burning, and there's also a fire-break running from top left
of the Down
bad news, however, is that there is now only one pair of rare Dartford
Warblers known to be living there - instead of the eight or nine
pairs which could be seen before the fire at Trendlebere Down.
And there is no sign at all of the High Brown Fritillary Butterfly
- a rare species which once thrived on Dartmoor.
used to be a 200-strong colony at Trendlebere Down, but English
Nature's site manager, Phil Page, said: "We've lost the High
Brown Fritillary here, and at other sites across Dartmoor.
"Here, the fire at Trendlebere was to blame, but the loss of
them at other sites may be down to climate change.
Brown Fritillary Butterfly
I doubt that we'll ever have the same number of Dartford Warblers
the plus side, the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary has made a comeback,
and the regrowth of the heather will, it is hoped, assist the recovery
of native species.
Phil said: "The regrowth has been pretty amazing - you wouldn't
know there had been a major fire there. The fire breaks are now
well established, and all-in-all the five year management plan has
gone very well."
It's now a case of waiting to see if - over the next few years -
the Dartford Warbler and High Brown Fritillary are tempted back
to their old haunt.