Welcome to the official Piles Copse website!
Piles Copse is an ancient English oak woodland in the Erme valley on southern Dartmoor. Piles Copse is an amazing place, and a popular spot for walking, camping, swimming and picnics.
What you might not know about Piles Copse is that it is privately owned and managed, and that it is an important conservation area. It’s legally designated as both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an Environmentally Sensitive Area, due to its rich assemblage of high level oak woodland and lichens and epiphytes.
Over recent decades, livestock grazing has prevented the woodland from regenerating, and the old trees are starting to die back. We are now working to encourage the rejuvenation of this beautiful and biodiverse oak woodland, and you can read about our ongoing projects and activities on our blog.
HARFORD MOOR GATE CAR PARK CLOSED
We closed the Harford Moor Gate car park in February 2021. This was because the heavy footfall around the car park had caused extensive damage to the sward and soil. The moor was saturated from excessive rain, and the peaty soils on the hill near the car park, and all the way across to Piles, simply cannot sustain the foot traffic. There was also excessive vehicle traffic in the Harford lane, with jams frequent on busy days and an increase in accidents. We initiated a dialogue with the local authorities about how best to control vehicle traffic in the lane. This is currently trending towards encouraging people to park in Ivybridge and to walk from there. The soils are better drained on the sides of the Western and Ugborough Beacons, and can therefore sustain great foot traffic all year round.
CAMPING REMAINS SUSPENDED AT PILES
We have decided not to allow camping at Piles Copse until at least Easter 2023. After that, we hope to allow camping by permitted groups.
In 2020 we started the restoration of badly damaged camping and fire sites. In general this is going well, although on several occasions we have had to re-do work to restore new damage and the new vegetation growth is still delicate. Because we cannot go on repairing other people’s damage indefinitely, we are increasing the patrols this year. Since Piles Copse is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, any form of damage is a prosecutable criminal act.
We very much appreciate that nearly everyone has respected our reluctant decision to stop all camping. The result is that the areas along the riverbank look better than they have done for years. However, the most damaged sites still need more time to recover, so we will look for ways to regulate camping strictly when we do re-open it. New fire damage in June 2022 makes us reluctant to allow people to camp at Piles until we have worked out a way to get wider support for preventing abuses.
You can find out more about visiting Piles Copse here. There’s also information about Piles Copse’s history and ecology, and how its owners, the Howell family, are working to conserve this special place and enable the oak trees to regenerate.