John Muir Award 2018

During May some of the Thursday volunteers have had the opportunity to take part in the John Muir award. This took place over the first four Wednesdays in May, the first two in Fingle Woods and the second two at Poltimore.

Week 1

Meeting up at the Young Farmers car park in Cheriton Bishop we met up with Matt who was leading the scheme. In convoy we then followed him through Clifford Bridge and on to the saw mill car park. After some introductions Matt instructed us on how to count steps to measure distance covered and reading the OS map. These skills were then put to use to navigate our way down to a clearing with a fire pit.

On the way Matt told us about the plans to restore the woods.

new fern frond

Having been cleared of the native trees and planted with quick growing conifers over a hundred years ago for commercial reasons the plan is to slowly open up areas where native trees can reestablish and improve the biodiversity. It was noticeable how the ground plants varied from next to nothing under the denser conifers to lush spring growth were the sunlight could penetrate to the ground.

Fresh Spring growthFire lightingfire lighting

Having gathered some firewood some of the group then had a go at starting the fire using fire-steels. Once it was going the kettle went on and we all had a brew some popcorn, flapjack and toasted crumpets.

fire pit pop-corn

Best pop-corn ever

Refreshed, we set off through the woods to the iron age fort.

way marker

Where am I?

View from the fort

View from the fort

Standing on the edge of the fort area looking down the valley, with no man-made structures in sight it was easy to imaging the landscape as it may have been back when the fort was inhabited. We were lucky that there had been some archaeologists investigating one of the outer fortifications and the dig had not been refilled yet. Amazing to see the depth of the ditches and that they had even dug down into the bedrock using what must have been quite primitive tools. There must have been a need for protection to go to all that effort.

fortification ditch

Fortification ditch

After the fort we followed Matt to see some of the charcoal makers platforms in the woods. This must have been quite an industry as there are signs of many platforms. With a bit of a rummage you can still find pieces of charcoal.

A yomp back up through the woods and the day was over.

Week 2

meet and greeter as we arrived

This week was focused on flora and fauna. new oak leavesStarting with a meander down to the fire pit/platform Matt gave more details on the

New oak tree foliage

Fresh growth on an oak tree near the saw mill building.

habits of the differing trees and how to use a key to identify them.  Samples of conifers were picked up to use in the display back at Poltimore.



Once the fire had got going Matt demonstrated how to make charcoal in a biscuit tin. We used pencil thickness pieces of willow and after about 15 mins the colour of the smoke coming from the holes in the tin indicated that the water and gases had been driven off. Some sketching was then done with our fresh charcoal. After a snack we ventured off in convoy to a stream a short way away.  Matt demonstrated how to kick-sample the stream bed to check what invertebrates were present. This is a good indicator of the clarity and purity of the water in the watercourse.  Using the key we found that there were caddisfly lavae along with other indicators of good quality water.

Dog violet

Dog violet

A wander up the stream brought us to some spots showing otter activity, bare areas on the top of moss covered rocks mid-stream. Matt also showed us some of the dormice boxes and we had a good look at the nibbled nuts on the ground to try and find the distinctive dormouse  tooth marks.

At the limit of our venture we came to an area where some giant redwoods had been thinned. Wedges of the beautiful wood, with its fibrous outer bark lay on the ground and a few of these were collected by the group to use back at Poltimore.


Grounds in May

Wandering around the grounds in May it was plain to see spring had definitely sprung. From the tulips in the sensory garden to the leaf burst on so many trees and the abundant blossom on the apple and cherry tree nature had woken  up.



Pulling Weeds at Poltimore

Not as hot as it was last week and a little light rain for parts of the day which was perfect for the Poltimore volunteers today.

We’ve been clearing the weeds and cutting the grass from the front gate up to the House and again in front of the Chapel. Looks rather good and more visually appealing for visitors.

Just a shame those pesky weeds they keep growing back !

I love being a volunteer as I meet the most interesting people from the young to the ‘not so’ young. We’ve sat and had coffee together (other drinks are available) and shared lunch together and caught up with what’s going in. Moaned a little as well, but that’s a good thing, don’t you think? Mostly about the heat, what’s going on in the news etc.

Oh! and I got to play with a very powerful leaf blower today and a lawn mower that I’m sure didn’t like me (kept stalling). However, I have to admit it was more about the user than the machine :). Hubby was at one with the strimmer and with lots to do he was in his element.

All in all a great day with a great result by all the volunteers today… thank you.

If you are interested in volunteering then why not drop us an email at or turn up to our work party days (usually 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month- 0930-1630). We don’t just do gardening though!!

2017 at Poltimore

Last year at Politmore we welcomed more people than ever before to all the events we hosted.

In July we celebrated Queeen Elizabeth’s Birthday as did many people in the rest of the Country. A cake was made in her honour

Heritage Open Day brought crowds of people from Cornwall and Dorset to see the PERS (Poltimore Estate Research Society) exhibition and to tour the House and Grounds.

In October Dr Todd Gray kindly gave an informative and entertaining talk to a large enthralled audience and he will be returning again in October 2017.

We welcomed over 200 people to the Halloween event decorated by our enthusiastic volunteers Phil, his daughter Jess and a few bits by Janette.  Everyone dressed up to support the occasion and no one was sick or passed out which was a bonus.

Who wouldn’t want to visit the biggest and spookiest house in Devon. Put an entry in the diary for this year.

Philip Henry and Hannah Martin were amazing and performed an fabulous concert for us back in November which was given an brilliant write up in the local paper. We’re looking forward to their return.

The Christmas Fair was bigger and better than ever before with record attendance. We went all out to ensure our stallholders and all our guests had a great experience in buying all the Christmas gifts. Hand bell ringers gave us their rendition of well loved Christmas Carols and the Chapel Tea room was non-stop serving up seasonal refreshments.

In December we welcomed back the Broadclyst Community Primary School who gave a Christmas Concert enjoyed by a room full of proud parents, their friends and people from the nearby community.

Now we are starting a new season of exciting events, details of which will appears on our Events page of the website.

Join us for a Chocolate Making Workshop  19th March

Bring your mum and family along on Mother’s Day – 26th March.

Enjoy an Early Easter Celebrations on the 9th April with lots of activities to enjoy.

Our First Flower Festival will be the talk of the town during the 22nd & 23rd April

Call by and pick up one of our Events Leaflets to see all events from March – July ’17