The third winter of cutting in the five year plan to restore the neglected copse on the Dorothy Elmhirst playing field, and raise money for improvements to the child play park, is due to start at the beginning of November. Weather permitting cutting of the overgrown hazel will continue until the end of February, and is being carried out with the approval and support of the Dartington Hall Trust, the land owners.
The plan is to cut around 50 of the very large hazel stools, in four or five groups along the stream and close to the field. Logs will available in return of a donation to the DRA play park fund. What cannot be logged will be turned into either BBQ charcoal in the spring, or biochar, which is used as a soil improver. Charcoal has been sold this year from the Shinner's Bridge garage, and Halls, the Totnes butcher, thanks to Richard Durney. There are hopes of another outlet close at hand which may open a supply to visitors to the village next spring and summer.
So far the project has raised almost £1,000 for the play park, with another several hundred likely from the sale of stored logs and charcoal.
A double dose of snow delayed a lot of work this early spring, then being the UK it has to become too hot to do much during May through to September. Hopefully those extremes will not be repeated this cutting season.
It is hoped a section of the boundary along the public footpath to Week can be cut and laid to form a hedge. If this is so, work will be done when conditions within the copse are too wet to work safely or without cutting up the ground. Work will be sign posted but please beware of anyone working along the footpath especially if using machinery.
The effects of the cuts in the last two winters are beginning to show. The colours of Spring flowers really pop until the leaf cover shades them. Small trout are easier to spot in the opened dappled areas of the stream, and this has attracted herons. Damselflies, mallard, mandarin duck, and moorhen have also been present on the stretches of stream no longer overshadowed. Fourteen species of butterfly have been seen: Brimstone, Orange-tip, Large Skipper, Specked Wood, Silver-washed Fritillary, Large and Small White, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Comma, Peacock, Red Admiral, Tortoiseshell, and a Blue - species not noted.
If anyone wants to take part in the coppicing contact DRA community trustee Allan Tudor, tel 01803 864320, or come along and have a chat when work is underway - a reason for a break is always welcome.