Taking part

Volunteering opportunities

Neroche Conservation Volunteers

The Neroche Conservation Volunteers are a dynamic and friendly group which meet together mid-week at least twice a month to carry out practical activities in the forest. 

The tasks change throughout the year, and may involve tackling the spread of Himalayam Balsam, scrub clearance or coppicing at some beautiful locations in the Northern Blackdown Hills.

In the spring and summer of 2011 we embarked on a new project in Young Wood near Staple Fitzpaine - establishing a site for woodland activities such as bushcraft and woodskills.  We built a compost toilet and 2 pole shelters, and will be continuing the work in 2012 with a kitchen area, new trails and a second fire-pit.  This area has potential for community involvement and the re-establishment of overstood coppicing for firewood.

Conservation volunteering is a great way to find out about nature reserves and habitat management, and it helps to shape your local landscape.  Come and meet like-minded people, and learn a new skill!

All tools are provided and no prior experience necessary.  Just wear old clothes and solid boots.  Its always advisable to bring a raincoat and wellies if you have them as some sites stay wet year-round.

Hot drinks are provided but please bring your own lunch and drinking water.  We regret we cannot accept children under 10 for these practical events, and all under 18 yr olds need to be accompanied.

Contact Jilly Ould (jilly.ould@forestry.gov.uk , Tel: 01823 680846 / 07840 737127) if you’d like to become involved.

Follow the link to the Events Page or contact us to hear of the next volunteering opportunity


Contact: Jilly Ould
Tel: 01823 680846
Address: Neroche Office, St Ivel House, Hemyock


Brown Hairstreak survey

The Brown Hairstreak butterfly lays its eggs on young blackthorn in hedgerows and scrub.  Its numbers are in decline in many areas, but the Blackdown Hills is an area where a number of colonies are known to live, but further information is needed on their wherabouts.

In partnership with Butterfly Conservation, we are continuing the work of last years survey, by counting the eggs, and recording information to build up information on a national database.

The tiny white eggs can be difficult to find initially, but a single egg indicates there are Brown Hairstreaks in the location, and a number of eggs can indicate a thriving colony.

If you would like to help with the egg survey over the winter months, then get in touch with volunteer coordinator, Jilly Ould.  You can survey in your own time whilst out on a country walk, in an area of the Blackdown Hills which you have selected.

Contact: Jilly Ould
Tel: 01823 680846 / 07840 737127
Address: Neroche Office, St Ivel House, Hemyock, Devon EX15 3SL


Butterfly Conservation Work Party

New volunteers are invited to join us with the management tasks that are making better habitats for threatened butterflies and moths of the area. We are working on a series of sites in the Blackdown Forest that support the Wood White, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Brown Hairstreak, Duke of Burgundy and Marsh Fritillary. The work involves controlling scrub, coppicing and managing grassland.

Tasks start at 10.00, hand tools and instruction provided as required - work at your own pace to keep fit or just warm-up!  

For detaiils of the next work party, see our events page or contact Nigel Spring below.

Contact: Nigel Spring
Tel: 07981 776767 / 01963 23559
Address: www.butterfly-conservation.org


Butterfly identification - Learn to survey butterflies in the Blackdown Hills

Marbled White Two silver washed fritillary's on buddleaDo you know your Grizzled skipper from your Small Skipper?  Or your Brown Hairstreak from your Speckled Wood?

In partnership with Butterfly Conservation, we are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to monitor the butterflies in different locations throughout the Neroche area.  Expert led identification training will be given.  No prior knowledge is required. 

Volunteers learning about butterflies


Monitoring occurs at a number of sites across the Neroche area between June and September.  Volunteers will walk a 'transect' and record butterflies seen.  Usual commitment is once a month, for approximately 2 hours.  The data can be used to spot changes locally, and contribute to a nationwide database.  The key value of monitoring in this way is that it provides early warnings of species decline, in time for conservation action to intervene.


Call the Neroche office on 01823 680846 if you'd like to become involved and have access to expert-led training in butterfly identification.

 Continue reading for a report by John Davis of Butterfly Conservation from a recent Butterfly Monitoring Picnic at Quants.  All photo's used on this page were taken on that day, by Caroline Briggs and James Hodgetts.


 Dear Allringlet

Many thanks for an enthusiastic turn-out for the butterfly picnic at Quants in July– as a reminder these are the species that we saw (not in order!):
Green-veined white, Small White, Large White, Large Skipper, Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Marbled White, Silver-washed Fritillary, Common Blue, Small Copper

We also looked at the foodplants and habitat needs of the site’s key conservation species – which all fly earlier in the year, so are now in their larval stages:
Duke of Burgundy, Marsh Fritillary, Dingy Skipper, Grizzled SkipperGatekeeper

Somerset and Devon Branches are running field trips on sites of interest and importance for their butterflies – these are open to everyone and usually free:

John Davis, Butterfly Conservation




Information about UK butterfly species can be found on our web-site along with help on identification:

A very useful site – with lots of photos helping identification, including aberrations, is:

There are a number of good current field guides available, and the old Hamlyn one (‘Butterflies of the British Isles’ by J A Thomas) which I was using on the walk is available second hand from many sellers such as through Amazon. The flight periods and some other details have however changed for some species since it was produced in 1980s and that needs to be borne in mind.
Some up to date ones to recommend include ‘Britain’s Butterflies’ photo-graphic guide available via our web-site

and as mentioned a comprehensive new hard-back book by Prof. Jeremy Thomas was issued this year, updating to his previous one produced for the National Trust – which is now out of print. Both contain a lot of additional information on species ecology and behaviour to that found in the usual field guides – but it’s not a field-guide format!

His soft-back pocket guide published by Philips – which is really the successor to his Hamlyn guide, is better for field work and is very comprehensive as this review explains:
-again readily available from booksellers.

As for moths; a good starting point is again our web site, with its factsheets and tips on identification.
Likewise the excellent
cannot fail to fascinate with their insight on the variety of moths we have just in this country. The leaf mines are great fun – the site has very handy foodplant reference and excellent photographic identifications. One to look out for in the Blackdowns and South Somerset is the Mistletoe Marble – a conservation priority!
The current recommended field guide for the larger moths is that by Paul Waring and Martin Townsend, illustrated again by the exceptional Richard Lewington ; - published by British Wildlife Publishing:
and available in full and concise forms.


Contact: Jilly Ould
Tel: 01823 680846
Address: Neroche Scheme, St Ivel House, Station Road, Hemyock, Devon, EX15 3SL


Herepath Trailwatchers Scheme

 Would you like to join the Neroche Herepath Trail Watchers Scheme and help us look after the newly developed trails?

Staple Fitzpaine TrailThe first Neroche Herepath Trail around Staple Fitzpaine was opened in May 2008. We already have a team of  volunteers who have adopted  sections of the new trail who help us look after it to ensure it remains open and easy to use for everyone to enjoy.

What will Trail Watchers be expected to do?

Horseriders on the Staple Fitzpaine HerepathAll we will ask is that trail watchers regularly walk the section of the path they've adopted and report any problems they come across such as broken gates, missing signposts and way markers or blocked drains. We will also ask them to take out a pair of secateurs just in case there's any vegetation overhanging a gate or signpost that can easily be cut back.

Who can take part in the Scheme?

The scheme will be open to anyone over 18 years old. Don't worry if your under 18; you can still take part provided that when you go out, you're joined by your parent or guardian.

How do I apply to take part?

Please contact Andy Stevenson from Somerset County Council to register your details.

Contact: Andy Stevenson
Tel: 01823 358250
Address: Rights of Way, Somerset County Council, County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY


LiDAR - Ground truthing exercise


LiDAR stands for (Airborne) Light Detection And Ranging.

LiDAR operates by using a pulsed laser beam (some 10,000 –20,000 pulses per second), which is scanned from side to side as the aircraft flies over the survey area. The LiDAR laser can measure the height of the ground surface and other features in large areas of the landscape with incredible accuracy, providing highly detailed and accurate models of the land surface.

LiDAR can also read beneath the woodland canopy. This makes it a very useful archaeological tool in areas of woodland, particular if these areas have been wooded for a considerable period of time. It gives archaeologists the opportunity to quite literally see through the woodland cover and at last make sense of any earthworks, which may never have been previously recorded.

The Neroche Scheme has been able to fund a LiDAR survey of the project area thanks to additional funding raised by the current funding partners. The results of this survey will be used for a variety of purposes including ‘ground truthing’. Ground truthing is a voluntary field-based exercise involving teams/groups/individuals checking for the presence of any apparent archaeological features identified as a result of the survey. 

 We are currently looking for any volunteers who may be interested in assisting with a ground truthing exercise.


Contact: Caroline Newcombe
Tel: 01823 680846
Address: Neroche Office, St Ivel House, Hemyock, Devon, EX15 3SL


Wildflower Identification and Survey

Yellow WortWould you like to learn to identify the common species of wildflowers in our forests and meadows?

Wildflower ID and Surveying is an ongoing project in the Neroche area.  We want to quantify the effects of low-intensity cattle grazing in the forest, improving habitats for many native wildflower species.

We have been training volunteers to identify key species, and then to record vegetation quadrats over a designated area.  The survey can be completed in your own time, and helps us to build up a quantitave analysis of the changes in vegetation on the forest floor.


For more information, and to register your interest in the wildflower survey, see below:

Contact: Jilly / Caroline
Tel: 01823 680846
Address: Neroche Scheme, St Ivel House, Station Road, Hemyock, Devon, EX15 3SL


Tel: 01823 680846 Email: info@nerochescheme.org

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