The virtual pasture home page - natural history of an East Devon holding
On this page: We are lucky to own a small piece of East Devon - probably viewed as a disgrace by professional farmers, but a source of great enjoyment to me, as well as worry and hard work! This is your chance to share in the best bits, without having to don unfashionable garments to go out in the rain, get covered in mud, or do any of the hard work.
This picture shows a view to the north-east taken from the top of the hill, on a sunny day in February (yes, we have had a few). Chancer is coming towards me in the hope of getting his hay for breakfast, along the ramshackle fence that keeps him off the footpath. As you can see, the grass is cropped very short, and the most noticeable feature is the terraces on the slope: more about this on the geology and geomophology page.
On Gore Lane, in Uplyme, a village in East Devon, UK. If you have an OS map, the grid reference is SY 320 922 - look for the triangular field on the side of Horseman's Hill just south of Hill Farm, with a stream running along its eastern edge.
As you can see from the pictures, it's a patch of rough grassland and scrub on the side of a hill. There is very little flat ground, the majority of the slope being 20-25 degrees. The whole area is just over 2 hectares in area (6 1/2 acres for the pre-metric reader).
The field runs from the crest of Horseman's Hill, on the left of the photo above (there's supposed to be a horseman's ghost, though no-one I know has ever seen it!), down to a steep-sided valley with a small stream in it, then up part of the other side of the valley to the lane. Such valleys are called "goyles" hereabouts - ours is not very large, but some are like wooded ravines.
Our goyle is shaded by a hedge that's been allowed to grow up, so there's now a small mixed wood with hazel, ash, hawthorn, blackthorn, bullace, field maple, sycamore, elm, spindle tree, holly, oak, pussy willow and probably some others I haven't spotted. Through the trees and shrubs there is a tangle of old man's beard, honeysuckle, wild rose, ivy and brambles, making the wood almost impenetrable from May till November.
The field encompasses a range of habitats - rough grassland, bracken, woodland, hedge-banks, patches of gorse and bramble scrub, stream-banks and a small marshy area.
It's home to a good variety of plants, fungi, and animals - details of their daily goings-on are available in the diary that I kept from March 1999 for three years.
If this has whetted your appetite, there is some more detailed information about the field:
- a diary - observations on all aspects of the natural world that were taken over a three year period
- Devon Life blog - assorted reflections on local natural history, some relating to the field
- some notes on the geology and geomorphology
- a short history of the field
- DIY tips for smallholders
You can try this database of plants for a listing of plants recorded from the Lyme Regis area (our closest town). By Latin/English names, many with photos you can pop up. And if birds are your special interest - you can visit the Portland Bird Observatory site for avian news from only about 25 miles away.