A partnership between the Woodland Trust and the National Trust

Clear for Take Off

As part of the team at work on the restoration of Fingle Woods, I am sometimes reminded of just what a special place this part of the Teign valley is and, what’s more, this is only the start of the adventure. There is surely more to come, lots more. Each year as the seasons change, the woods take on a whole new appearance. Even though you might well know what’s coming next, it doesn’t lose any of the impact when it arrives … and this week, winter is here!

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The morning after the coldest night of the year so far, the frost formations in the shadier parts of the Teign Valley were spectacular. Hoar frost had crystallised on twigs and leaves, forming some beautiful and delicate structures; frost flowers emerged from decaying twigs and branches lying among the crispy carpet of leaves.


Hair ice with a centre parting

The BBC has recently reported that these frost flowers or “hair ice” as they have called them, are quite a rare occurrence BBC weather news

The high humidity by the river and steep shady valley of the Teign provide the ideal conditions for these natural wonders to form, making Fingle an even more exceptional place to be during the winter.

As the temperature was well below zero on that cloudless blue morning, only a truly worthwhile task would keep us standing in the winter wonderland for long. Working with the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and National Trust have set out three specific areas to use in the study of specific species of birds. As the restoration work goes on, these small fragments of good quality habitat are expected to spread; the gradual removal of conifers, making way for homes for birds under threat. The three species in question are the pied flycatcher, spotted flycatcher and, in this plot, the marsh tit.

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Checking our map, we set off into the woods to look for a suitable open space or a gap in the trees. Newly qualified quadcopter pilot Tom Williams was putting his skills to work to fly a remote-controlled camera over the designated bird study plot. Each area needs to be recorded at regular intervals to monitor the landscape changes alongside any changes in the bird population. (see the previous blog about bird monitoring)

Our first task of the day was to find a take-off and landing place. Among the frost coated bracken and gorse, Tom found the ideal spot, flattened a small patch of vegetation and set up the quadcopter ready for a flight. Once the pre-flight checks were complete we were clear for take-off.


Keep a safe distance – Flying the drone requires a good awareness of other users of airspace whether at 30 feet or 30,000 feet up

Using this technique to film the landscape from the air will provide an accurate visual record of the changing woodland structure, whatever the weather.

by Matt Parkins


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