Hill Crest Rewilding Park Joins Letts Safari
A stunning smaller-scale rewilding park in southwest England joins the growing Letts Safari Network of parks
Hill Crest is the latest rewilding park to join the Letts Safari Network of parks. Kate Morley’s family farm, on the edge of Dartmoor, has turned to smaller-scale rewilding to restore its natural biodiversity and remove carbon. She has joined Letts Safari to further develop this exciting project.
The nearly 20 acres at Hill Crest used to be a small dairy farm and was used for sheep grazing, with most of the land laid to grass pasture. After Kate’s great-uncle passed away in 1992, bramble and blackthorn scrub began to spread, and naturally regenerating woodland slowly started to reclaim the slopes above the stream.
Sheep continued to be grazed on the land, keeping the fields cropped short and restricting the advance of trees and scrub. Later, when sheep grazing became less intensive, the fields were cut by tractor once a year to keep them looking ‘tidy’.
When Kate took over the property in 2012, she made the decision to remove the sheep and stop cutting the fields, to let the land revert to a more natural state and provide habitats for wildlife.
In 2018 she teamed up with Moor Trees, a charity dedicated to increasing native woodland on Dartmoor and the surrounding areas, to speed up the regeneration of woodland by planting 4,500 native trees. As well as increasing the diversity of plants, fungi and animals compared to the previous use as grazed pasture, the trees are stabilising the valley slopes to prevent erosion and landslips, and lock up carbon from the atmosphere, helping to slow climate change.
The overgrown hedges are home to dormice, while polecats are occasionally captured on their trail cameras, and an otter has even ventured up the stream. The wild grassland supports a growing variety of insects and small mammals.
In the woods by the stream there are great spotted woodpeckers, jays, treecreepers and woodcock. Green woodpeckers can be seen digging for ants in the grass and swallows return from Africa each spring.
Early purple and southern marsh orchids flower by the tracks in spring. Glow-worms can be seen along the edges of the tracks in July. Slow worms are common in spring and summer, and common lizards can sometimes be seen sunning themselves on stones and logs.
Kate’s rewilding park at Hill Crest is an impressive project, proving how, with just a handful of acres, landholders and communities can restore biodiversity, protect endangered wildlife and remove carbon. She has joined the Letts Safari Network of parks to further develop her project and join the growing community of climate enthusiasts at Letts Safari +.
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