Footpaths, Woods and Lengthsman Report

 2018/19 by Sue Hay

Clayhidon has 42 public rights of way. There are 4 bridleways, 1 public by-way and 37 footpaths. These have all been walked at least once over the year. The annual footpath report was sent to Devon County Council in February. The paths are generally in good condition, bearing in mind the local terrain.

The Parish Council has not undertaken any major footpath projects this year but Devon County have worked on the recently designated routes, to clear and mark them. These are Routy Lane which is now Bridleway 54 and the northern section of footpath 28 from Denshayes to Shackels Cross.

The three Parish woods are expertly maintained by Chris Houghton and Pete Clarke. It is good to see the wildlife and ground plants returning to Hidon Wood following the major clearance work, a few years ago.

Chris also works as our Parish Lengthsman and has done an excellent job of keeping the ditches and drains clear. Although there are still areas of the Parish which require work the overall situation is much improved and the Parish Council have successfully bid for additional funding to enable more work over the coming year.

I would like to thank Chris and Pete for their hard work and also any footpath walkers who have sent me reports over the year. 

Sue Hay


Thousands of crayfish invaders in Bolham

NOVEMBER 2018: The Culm River is one of only two places left in Devon where the critically endangered native white-clawed crayfish can still be found, writes Alison Weekes.
In less than 50 years the population has decreased dramatically until they only exist around Culmstock and to a smaller extent in the River Creedy-Yeo.
This is largely due to the invasive signal crayfish which can survive 90 days out of water and walk between streams, ponds and rivers at a rate of one kilometre a day. They carry a fungal pathogen which causes mass die offs of the native crayfish, as well as eating them. 
A comprehensive survey of the River Culm and its tributaries the Madford and Bolham Rivers this year has found thousands of signal crayfish in the Madford and Bolham, some west of Hemyock, some at Uffculme, but none east of Hemyock on the Upper Culm. 
Now experts are going to try and build stocks of the white clawed natives to try and seed this part of the river.
Organisers of the Culm Community Crayfish Project held at meeting in the Healthy Living Centre in Hemyock on November 7th to explain what has been done in the last couple of years in monitoring the situation.
James Mabel and Nicky Green said that cash had come from the Heritage Lottery Fund the AONB, the Environment Agency and from Culmstock, Hemyock and Clayhidon Parish Councils.
Between April and October this year 48 volunteers ranging in age from five to 75 plus took part i. 43 survey days. A school’s education programme involved 1800 children and 45 teachers from eight schools and the project also took part in the Devon County Show, Honiton Show and held other events raising awareness of the plight of the white clawed crayfish, river ecology and biosecurity.
Nicky Green explained that out of 650 species of crayfish worldwide, Europe had only five. She explained that signal crayfish were introduced into Britain in 1976 and came into the Culm in 2008 at Whitehall near Hemyock when they escaped from a pond. The government of the day were trying to introduce diversity for farmers in the 1980s and even set up a Crayfish Marketing Board. They spread through fish farms. Nicky has been monitoring the crayfish for many years, working with Paignton and Bristol Zoos. Bristol now has 50 babies of the native species.
This year the project has contacted 80 landowners and surveyed 27 km of river involving 380 traps and a manual hand search, with each trap checked three times, seven days apart. Fisheries are the likely source of the signal crayfish in the Bolham and Madford Rivers.
Nicky Green said the money for the project had now all gone but she and James would like to keep going if possible. Some research taking place on Exmoor might lead to some way of controlling the invasive species, and meanwhile they were looking for “ark” sites near the Upper Culm in Clayhidon.
Both speakers praised the volunteers for all their work and said with luck the work could continue.
James Maben said tests showed the water quality of the Culm was ok but could be better, and mentioned a new programme called Connecting the Culm, bringing together all parts of the community to restore natural systems to reduce flood risk to homes on the Culm and 5000 houses downstream in Exeter.
* The public are not allowed to search for crayfish in Devon without a licence from the Environment Agency.
>Culm Community Crayfish Project  >Connecting the Culm

Clayhidon search for the crays

OCTOBER 2018; Volunteers have been working in Clayhidon, searching for signs of crayfish in a survey organised by the Blackdown Hills AONB.  They have laid dozens of "refuges" in the River Culm - a series of small pipes where creatures hide -  in the hope of catching either the American signal crayfish or the smaller native white clawed species. 
A search upstream from Clayhidon Mill in early October revealed plenty of fish, a few water scorpions but no crayfish. This might mean it
would be safe to reintroduce white claws to the river, provided water quality tests confirm that the river is clean.
The signal crayfish is larger and carries a deadly fungal infection which is fatal to the white claws. See below.

Project to save the Culm's native crayfish

Under threat: the River Culm's white clawed crayfish

MARCH 2018: 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.

>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.