Devon Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves provide a great introduction to the different faces of Dartmoor. Here are three places to explore…
Emsworthy (between Hay Tor and Widecombe) is part of the ‘high’ moor. Ancient stone walls border a series of grassy pastures which are home to Galloway cattle and Dartmoor ponies. In May and June these fields burst into colour with the emergence of thousands of bluebells. This nature reserve is also a butterfly and dragonfly hotspot, while its one of the last places in Devon where you are guaranteed to hear the distinctive call of cuckoos.
Take a trip to Dunsford Woods (between Dunsford and Moretonhampstead)for a classic Dartmoor walk along the banks of the River Teign through oak woodland with a series of open, sunlight glades. In early spring the nature reserve comes into bloom as the yellow, trumpet-shaped heads of wild daffodils fill in the gaps between the trees. Throughout the year the river acts as a wildlife highway. Salmon and brown trout use it to travel to their spawning grounds upstream, while otters and goosander come here to hunt them.
At Dart Valley nature reserve you can discover the wildest side of Dartmoor. Steep valley sides take the River Dart on a switch-back ride through rocky twists and turns. The river responds by becoming a foaming swirl of white water, interspersed with calmer sections when it seems to slow to take breath. This is a wonderful place to look out for dippers and grey wagtails darting in and out of the water, with ravens and buzzards circling above. The paths here are narrow and the going can get tough but a little effort brings wild rewards.
To begin to explore Devon Wildlife Trust’s 49 nature reserves visit www.devonwildlifetrust.org