On the moors

DartmoorDartmoor by Micheal Symes

Devon can call one moor its own: Dartmoor, and has a part share in another: Exmoor.

The wildlife and wild spaces of both draw thousands of visitors each year.

  • Both of Devon’s moorlands are National Parks
  • At 400 square miles Dartmoor is southern England’s largest and wildest open space  

Things are looking up

Visit the moors at any time of year and you’ll hear the distinctive ka-ronk calls of ravens patrolling the skies on big, black wings. Look up too to see the eagle-shaped outlines of buzzards as they soar on thermals above moorland tors.

As the spring sunshine strengthens you’ll have a good chance of seeing an adder basking amongst the heather and rocks. Common lizards, toads and frogs are also to be found, especially around moorland bogs and streams.

Late summer and autumn sees the moors burst into colour as the pinks and purples of ling, cross-leaved and bell heather combine with the yellow and deep green of gorse.

Plants become meat-eaters

Dartmoor’s famous bogs are wildlife havens. Amid enormous clumps of purple moor grass the white heads of cotton grass wave in the wind, while carnivorous sundews and butterwort eke out a meagre living by preying on bog insects careless enough to wander into their grasp.

From May onwards butterflies weave their way across the moors. Meadow browns are the most common, but look out too for common blues, small coppers and gatekeepers.

In summer, moorland also comes to life with the sound of skylarks and meadow pipits. Dartmoor also remains one of the last places you are guaranteed to hear a cuckoo’s call.

Planning a moorland visit?

Devon Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves at Emsworthy Mire (near Hay Tor) and Bellever Moor and Meadows (near Postbridge) provide great introductions to Dartmoor and its special wildlife.