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28 October 2014

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The long road to recovery at Trendlebere
Trendlebere Down
Trendlebere Down in 2002...the growth is back, but some of the species have still not returned
A five-year management plan at Trendlebere Down on Dartmoor has led to the regrowth of vital habitats which were lost in the fire of 1997. Some of the rare species are also starting to return to the site. But others - like the High Brown Fritillary Butterfly - seem to have been wiped out.
Prehistoric Dartmoor
General Guide to Dartmoor
Dartmoor Oral History
Roman Exmoor

Hound of the Baskervilles
English Nature

Dartmoor National Park Authority

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Trendlebere Down is a vast area of heathland on Dartmoor.

The nearest town is Bovey Tracey in South Devon.

The Down is a National Nature Reserve.

The site is managed by English Nature, who worl closely with the Dartmoor National Park Athority.

The Down used to be a great place to see glow-worms, but they were wiped out by the fire.

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On 7th April, 1997, one of the Europe's most important areas of heathland - Dartmoor's 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.

The fire at Trendlebere Down in 1997
The flames spread across the Down

The 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 b
irds like nightjars, linnets, stonechats and skylarks have returned to the Down.

Fire break across Trendlebere
Here, 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

The 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.

There 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.

High brown fritillery butterfly
High Brown Fritillary Butterfly

"And I doubt that we'll ever have the same number of Dartford Warblers here again."

On 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.

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