Six months hard work by volunteers has made a crucial difference for wildlife and people at one of Dartmoor’s premier nature reserves.

Volunteers and staff of Devon Wildlife Trust have together undertaken 110 days of labour during the past spring and summer at the charity’s Emsworthy Mire nature reserve, which sits between Widecombe-in-the-Moor and Manaton. Together they have worked to increase public access and improve the reserve’s mix of wildlife-rich mires, wet-woodlands and riverbanks.

The work has been made possible by funding of £14,640 from Viridor Credits Environmental Company through the Landfill Communities Fund, together with a contribution from the Parishscapes project, part of the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported Moor Than Meets The Eye scheme led by Dartmoor National Park Authority. ¾ of a mile of new fencing will allow the charity to control the numbers of grazing animals entering the reserve’s mires, thus protecting their delicate communities of plants which include butterwort, cotton-grass and the insect-eating sundew.

Nine new gates were also installed, while paths have been cut through previously impenetrable gorse and scrub. The gates and paths now provide walks to parts of the reserve and along sections of its riverbank which were once off-limits to visitors. Boardwalks and way markers have also been added so that nearly 4 miles of trails now explore the reserve’s 110 hectares of beautiful Dartmoor valley.

Andrew Taylor is one of 50 local volunteers who have worked hard to make the improvements. The Manaton man, who is also Devon Wildlife Trust’s volunteer nature reserve warden for Emsworthy Mire, said:

“Emsworthy Mire is a big and very varied nature reserve with spectacular views of the surrounding Dartmoor tors. For four years I had it pretty much to myself as nobody else could find their way in, out or around it. This project has struck the right balance – the funders and Devon Wildlife Trust’s volunteers have made it possible and enjoyable for people to explore Emsworthy and its amazing wildlife, but a visit here will always be an adventure”.

Gareth Williams, Funded Projects Manager at Viridor Credits said:

“I am delighted to work again with our partners at Devon Wildlife Trust to not only enhance the wildlife value at Emsworthy but to also ensure that the access improvements mean it is accessible to as many people as possible to enjoy.”

Community Heritage Officer Emma Stockley, who runs Parishscapes said:

“Parishscapes helps support local communities to run heritage projects and this has been a great opportunity to use a Parishscapes grant to help DWT and local volunteers make fantastic improvements to the Emsworthy site”.

Like most of Devon Wildlife Trust’s 49 nature reserves around the county, Emsworthy Mire is open 365 days a year and is free to enter. The charity recommends that visitors be prepared for some wet and muddy sections when going to Emsworthy Mire nature reserve, especially during autumn and winter.

Visiting Emsworthy Mire nature reserve:

To explore the reserve you can start at grid reference SX 748 761, Saddle Tor car park (head down into the network of stone-walled fields); or at SX 739 779, the layby at Holwell Lawn (look out for the new five-bar gate with Devon Wildlife Trust signs). Both of these entrances are on the seasonal Haytor Hoppa bus route. Mounted maps by the gateways show a network of paths which you can follow using arrowed marker posts and a series of boardwalks.