Project to save the Culm's native crayfish

Under threat: the River Culm's white clawed crayfish

The River Culm is at the centre of a project to save Britain's only native crayfish from extinction. In Devon, only two small populations survive. The other is on the Creedy/Yeo.
The white-clawed crayfish is facing extinction because of an invasive alien crayfish, falling water quality and habitat change.
So now the Blackdown Hills AONB team, backed by a wide consortium of organisations coordinated by the East Devon Catchment Partnership want local help to save the species.
James Maben gave a talk on 20 March to the annual meeting of Clayhidon Parish Council, and said community involvement and volunteers was going to be the key to the success of this project. He said the Culm's white-clawed crayfish would need protecting for years to come.
In the 1970's there were plentiful native crayfish all over the county but by 2009, very few sites were left.
The American signal crayfish carries a catastrophic fungal plague lethal to the native crayfish, and being bigger, out compete our white claws. They are spreading gradually up and down the Culm, having originally escaped from a pond on the Whitehall Stream. They can cross land.
The River Culm drains an area of over 100kmsq from its source at Culmhead through Hemyock, Culmstock and Uffculme gathering in waters of the Sheldon Stream, Bolham Water and Madford Stream and many others.
The AONB partnership has had volunteers checking the situation for the last 10 years and say it is now clear the white-claws are in serious trouble, with numbers rapidly dwindling.
The Culm Comunity Crayfish Project has applied for £60,000 of Heritage Lottery funds and will know in September if this has been successful. This has four main aims- to raise awareness of the plight of the native crayfish, improve the river habitat, protect the native crayfish from the invasive signal crayfish, and reconnect communities with their local rivers and provide practical ways people can help improve their health.
They plan to work with local schools and youth groups, train volunteers, plant trees on the riverbank, monitor the wildlife of the river, have an annual crayfish festival, set up a webcam to record the underwater life of the river. It is also planned to appoint Culm Crayfish officer to lead the work, and have asked all local parish councils and landowners to help their work.
Bristol and Bournemouth Universities will also be involved.
James Maben said Nicky Green had been surveying the River Culm for the past ten years and has invented a special trap for the native crayfish which the signal ones cannot enter.
He explained that the aliens were introduced when the Government were encouraging farmers to diversify but said: " It didn't quite work out."
And he stressed that a licence is needed from the Department of the Environment to catch either kind of crayfish, and they are hard to tell apart.
Clayhidon Parrish Council will discuss whether to help the scheme at their next meeting.

>More details and how you can help.  >Parish Council minutes.  

Inside a hornets nest

When hornets build a nest too close to humans and start threatening us with their powerful stings the result is sadly predictable. This weird scene is the aftermath of a pest controller's visit to a farm building in Clayhidon, where the nest was judged to dangerous too remain.  This hornet died as it emerged from the cell where it had grown from egg to larvae to adult, in a marvellously ornate paper structure which the colony had created in an owl box under the roof of a barn at Deadbeer.

Alien lands in Clayhidon

APRIL 2016: It looks like a B movie science fiction monster from outer space, but this weird and terrifying creature is real - and it lives in Clayhidon!
Its name is Evarcha Arcuata and it's a male jumping spider, very rare in the south west, quite harmless and one of 298 species of invertebrates recorded on the Clayhidon Turbary nature reserve by Dr Keith Alexander.
The Turbary was once the place where the poor of the parish would cut peat and gorse for their fires, and the way they used the land created ideal conditions for a huge variety of wildlife, Devon Wildlife Trust reserves officer Edric Hopkinson told the parish meeting on 18 April.
But over recent decades this unique 13.7 hectare area of heath and bog was overwhelmed by purple moor-grass, bracken and encroaching woodland and this perfect habitat for many unusual species began to disappear.
After a deal with the parish council Edric and a team of helpers have been putting that right by harnessing the chomping power of four Exmoor ponies.
This tawny owl chick got a surprise when it peeped out of its nest box on the Clayhidon Turbary and found itself facing the lens of Edric Hopkinson. 
Other creatures found on the site include adders, slow worms, common lizards small pearl-bordered fritillaries and many plants of interest, including round leaved sundews and lesser butterfly orchids.
This beautiful bench, etched with a design showing the wildlife of the Turbary has been erected in a prime picnic spot looking across the site towards the Wellington Monument.
Some of the recent works at Clayhidon have been paid for by money secured from Biffa (landfill tax credits).
The spider picture was taken by Peter Harvey and is published by courtesy of the Essex Field Club. 

Big changes afoot for footpaths and bridleways
Six proposals for change to the public rights of way in Clayhidon have been published on the parish consultation map and are under consideration. They are:
1. Suggested upgrading of Footpath No.14 (part) Clayhidon to a public
2. Suggested addition of a public bridleway; Nick Reed’s Lane
3. Suggested upgrading of Footpath No.31 Clayhidon Ridgewood Lane (part) and Footpath No.40, Hemyock Lemons Hill to a Bridleway
4. Suggested addition of a public footpath as a continuation to join Bakers Farm footpath in Somerset
5. Suggested downgrading of Bridleway No.38, Gotleigh Moor, Clayhidon to a public footpath
6. Suggested addition of a public bridleway along Routy Lane near Newcot Cross.
You can see full details of the proposals in a notice from Devon County Counci, and download the Clayhidon parish consultation map and the county Public Rights of Way Committee’s plans and reports on this link. 

How blue is my valley . . .
A view of Clayhidon from Lillycombe Lane as the bluebell season reaches its peak on 12 May.

Exmoor ponies bring Turbary back to life

Four Exmoor ponies are helping Devon Wildlife Trust to nurse the newly-fenced Clayhidon Turbary back to health thanks to a £34,000 donation.
The Turbary was once used by local people who grazed their cattle there and cut peat for fuel to heat their homes. Its 34 acres of heathland, marsh and wet woodland form a combination of landscape types which has disappeared from much of the English landscape.

Commandos go to war on overgrown wood
Royal Marine commandos armed with chainsaws are helping Clayhidon Parish Council create new woodland walks. 
Hidon Wood was bought by the council for the Parish about 10 years ago. Some work was done in the woodland at the time, but since then it has become completely overgrown with holly and birch. >Read more.

Fresh pheasant for breakfast

February 2014: A magpie joins a buzzard for a breakfast of fresh pheasant in a Clayhidon meadow.

>Click here

Up-to-date map of 
local footpaths and bridleways 
and zoom in on Clayhidon

Walking, Riding and Cycling routes from the Blackdown Hills AONB >Click here


Four bridleways being considered
for Clayhidon
Four new bridleways could be created in Clayhidon under proposals being considered by Devon County Council. 

Clayhidon walking route features in The Times
MARCH 2013: The footpaths and lanes of Clayhidon featured in The Times on 9 March when the newspaper devoted nearly a page to “A Good Walk: Clayhidon and Culm Valley, Devon.”
Christopher Somerville and his companion dressed “like lifeboatmen” when they braved rainy winter weather to explore “this beautiful green corner of the mist-shrouded East Devon countryside”. 
Their four-mile walk began and ended at the Half Moon Inn – an “excellent village pub” concluded the writer as he peeled off his muddy clothes and steaming boots.>You can read the full walk and many others and see his photographs here.