The Island in Detail
This is ancient pasture land on deep loamy sand, which has almost certainly never been sprayed or ploughed. After being let for grazing it was left empty for five years until acquired by the trust in 1994, when it was cut and raked in the summer and then grazed in the early autumn. Grazing is now problematic owing to foot and mouth disease, and new guidelines concerning the use of electric fences. Since 2001 the meadow has been cut every autumn. The cut grass is raked and removed to reduce fertility and encourage wild flowers and finer grass species, which support a diversity of insects.
Areas of Tussocky Grass
These provide important habitat for small mammals, including voles, and for insects and the birds which feed on them. It is important to keep brambles and sapling trees out of these areas, and so this area less often, at the discretion of the committee.
An area at the south western end of the meadow was planted with orchard apple trees in the winter of 2009/10 in memory of the trust’s first secretary, Don Stansbury, who died at the end of 2008. Traditional and local varieties have been chosen:
Browns Apple - from Staverton and used in cider making.
Peter Lock - a 19th century variety, sweet and used in desserts.
Don's Delight - a culinary variety
Fair Maid of Devon - used in cider making
Ben's Red - origin Cornwall but it is descended from the Devonshire Quarrenden!
Areas of Bramble, Nettle, Blackthorn & Willow
Bramble patches provide food and shelter for wildlife and create less accessible areas. Thickets of blackthorn and willow provide nesting areas for blackcaps and dense bank cover which is protected by brambles is essential for the otters known to be on this river. Areas that are less used by dogs and less frequently entered by people need to be conserved and remain undisturbed to protect the wildlife which shelters there. One area of brambles will be cut back with brushcutters every winter in a rolling programme to prevent invasion by sapling trees and keep the bramble growth young and healthy.
Large trees shelter the meadow. The bramble and shrub cover provides shelter for wildlife. Otters pass along the River Avon but have not yet been recorded on the Island. Views of the river have been opened up, but it is important to restrict access to other areas of the river bank. Rhododendron on the banks has to be kept in check or removed where possible, and invasive Himalayan Balsam is removed. Bracken is prevented from encroaching on the meadow by removing the top of young growth in early summer.
The River Avon
The aim is to preserve the natural character of the river for most of the length of The Island with occasional viewpoints. Checks are made for signs of otters and salmon.
This provides a different water environment because it is shallow and slow moving. The aim has been to keep a consistent flow and depth. A new gate with adjustable valves was provided by Dartmoor National Park in 2003, although these are prone to being blocked by debris in the river and need regular clearing. In 2006 DNP installed a third opening at a higher level and fitted a fine mesh grille to filter the debris. In 2005 skilled masons from the DNP repaired areas of the walled bank of the leat which had collapsed.
This is essential for the preservation of the weirpool - an important feeding area for insects, birds and bats. Rare Brandt bats breed in nearby Church House. The weir is also important for the leat, and for the balance between the two arms of the river. The weir was rebuilt with a pumped concrete monolith base in August 2003. Gravel may have to be removed from the fish pools to provide sufficient depth for fish to migrate upriver. In the Autumn spate salmon are regularly seen running upstream at Lydia Bridge. A watch has to be kept for large tree trunks in the river and these should be reported.
The area between the leat and the lane is rarely entered by dogs or walkers. It is being kept as woodland. It contains several of our largest trees and significant piles of wood on the ground, which are good for wildlife and which are not disturbed. The area of mature woodland across the river from the northern side of the Island is in private ownership and is an important part of the natural landscape, with similar effect to the area across the leat. All large trees on the Island have been identified and measured around the girth at a height of four feet. Some heights are being recorded periodically. The coppice of oak and the north eastern end is being left to grow naturally, although saplings are thinned as necessary. Two white willows have been planted in the brambles south of the linhay and two wild cherries to the north of the linhay.
Between the Gate and the Weir
Young oaks to the north of the path are being left to grow to maturity. Hazels and alders are naturalising in the area between the path and the leat, and these should be encouraged as they will provide a good habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including birds and small mammals. Larger species of trees should be removed. The oak with the plaque beyond the bridge is dying and will be kept under observation. The path will be surfaced periodically with wood chips.
The linhay was renovated with help from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Dartmoor National Park, English China Clays and the Spurr family in the summer of 1997 by local builder Alan Lake. The display boards provide information about the island and its wildlife. There are two separate loft areas which are suitable for barn owls but which could be used by other species. The space under the eaves at the front and back of the building has been partitioned into 20 areas suitable for a variety of birds and bats. They may also be used by insects and mammals.
Some stones on the central pier which had fallen out were replaced in 2004 and the bridge was repointed in 2009.