An end to open fires

In the past we’ve allowed people to light open fires at Piles Copse.  However, recently we’ve become concerned about the impact that this is having. Fires are directly and indirectly the biggest cause of damage to the copse.

In the wood’s popular camping spots, fires have damaged grass, walls and trees. Although we ask people not to damage the trees, there are lots of places where branches have been sawn or broken off to be used as firewood. Natural England have also asked us to stop people having fires because it is affecting some of the habitats for which Piles Copse is an SSSI. In hot, dry weather lighting fires can also increase the risk of wildfires breaking out.

Damage to the ground caused by fires
Oak tree near a popular spot for fires, which has been severely damaged by people cutting off branches

Following a discussion with staff from the Dartmoor National Park Authority, we have decided to ban open fires at Piles Copse, which is in line with the rules for the open moor. We’ll be updating the signs at Piles over the next few months, and ask anyone visiting Piles Copse to respect this new rule. You are still welcome to use small, portable camping stoves for cooking, but please don’t put them on the grass.

We will also rope off the damaged areas and try to restore them. This will take some years, so we also ask you to respect the need for this, and to keep out of these areas.

Happy New Year & Hawthorns

Happy New Year, and welcome to the new and improved Piles Copse website! We’re hoping to do more work on it in the coming months, adding useful and interesting resources about Piles Copse and its conservation.

This year, the annual post-Christmas conservation effort involved planting hawthorn seedlings provided by Moor Trees, a charity committed to restoring and replanting native and broadleaf woodland in the South West.

Hawthorns are hardy.  Across Dartmoor, a lone, gnarled hawthorn bent into shape by the wind is a familiar sight. However, before they develop their characteristic prickles, hawthorns need a bit of protection from grazing sheep, ponies and cattle to get established.

One of the older, beautiful hawthorn specimens in Higher Piles

John and Lorna spent a couple of slightly windswept days between Christmas and New Year planting out over 100 seedlings.  They planted them in the small exclosures high up near the eastern boundary wall (it’s very rocky here, making planting difficult!), and in the exclosures around the sphagnum flushes at the south end of Higher Piles. We’ll be keeping an eye on the seedlings (and weeding the bracken around them) as winter turns to spring.