Stockland Turbaries

Conservation through Higher Level Stewardship

What are they?

Throughout England, open or common land was gradually parceled out to owners by the various Enclosure Acts that were passed from the 16th century onwards. In the parish of Stockland, following the Enclosures, a number of pockets of land that were thought to be unsuitable for arable farming remained as common land and became known as the Stockland Turbaries. The word 'turbary' is believed to derive from Anglo-French 'turberie' and Low German 'turf', and refers to the ancient right to cut turf or peat for fuel on a particular area of land. The word is also used to describe the particular area of land itself. Turbary rights, or more correctly common of turbary are associated with having rights or access to a piece of land. Today, the turbaries are owned by Stockland Parish Council and the people of the parish have access rights to them, including the gathering of fallen trees and branches for firewood.

Springwatch on the Stockland Turbaries, No 2

"The new pond at Brimpit Gate on Quantock Turbary is brim-full and lined with Yellow Flag Iris. In sunny weather, very unlike this morning's walk, there are dragonflies that quarter the water surface in search of prey. There are now twelve cattle, eight Highlands and four Belted Galloways, at work grazing the open heath and mire, received at the beginning of June from Pitfield Farm. Over winter, much work was done in enlarging the open areas, in line with the Higher Level Stewardship Agreements, and the fence-line has been both repaired and extended in anticipation of the cattle's arrival.

Toward the southern end of the enclosure near Featherlake, the fluffy white fruit of Cotton-grass dominate the Molinia mire where there are frequent flowering spikes of Heath-spotted Orchid. Golden-green tufts of Star Sedge are also conspicuous whereas closer inspection is needed to detect the tiny rosettes of the insectivorous Pale Butterwort, also in flower this morning. I found a good patch of another carnivore, Round-leaved Sundew, in some local abundance, its crimson, ping-pong bat-like leaves glistening with droplets of sticky dew that attract small insects that then become fatally entangled before they are digested. The survival strategy of the pink Lousewort, also now in flower, is to parasitise the rootsystem of its companion grasses, in a manner similar to the Yellow Hay Rattle to which it is related.

My main purpose was to count the number of flowering spikes this season of Early Marsh Orchid, a rare species that has its stronghold locally. I counted 74 of this beautiful, purple flowered orchid, making this one of the largest populations in the county.

Come and have a look!

David Allen, 5th June 2017.

The Turbaries Management Committee

Since its inception in about 1996, the Turbaries Management Committee, which operates as a sub-committee of the Stockland Parish Council, has been made up informally of members of the Parish Council and other parishioners, supplemented by invited representatives of organisations known for their expertise in land management for wildlife conservation. Currently, the committee comprises:

  • two residents of Stockland Parish, one of whom is a farmer, plus the Clerk to the Parish Council
  • three Parish Councillors, of whom one is a professional botanist and one is an agriculturalist
  • a representative of the Devon Bird Watching & Preservation Society who is a professional wildlife cameraman
  • a representative of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds who is a nature reserve warden
  • a representative of Natural England (the public body responsible to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for the protection and improvement of England’s natural environment)
  • a representative of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Committee Meetings
Committee meetings, which are open to all Stockland electors, are held three times a year in the Victory Hall. Their principal purpose is to discuss and decide on the practicalities of management of our turbaries, with particular emphasis at present on those parcels under agreement with Natural England on the Higher Level Stewardship scheme. You will find the dates of committee meetings on the Calendar of Council Meetings published by the Parish Clerk.

Your contact for the Stockland Turbaries Management Committee is Dr David Allen 01404 861394

Parish Residents' Rights to Firewood
Residents of Stockland parish may collect logs and fallen wood from the turbaries for their own personal use but not for sale. A licence may be obtained to cut specified standing wood on application to the Turbaries Management Committee.

Biodiversity in the Stockland Turbaries

A briefing by Dr David Allen, August 2015

Through a combination of scrub clearance, light summer grazing and occasional swaling (back-burning in winter), we are well on the way toward regaining the species-rich floral diversity once typical of spring-line mires and wet heathland. On Bucehayes Common, where we began work in 1997, the mire north of the cottage is deemed by Natural England to be of the standard of Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Quantock Common, the southern enclosure between Brimpit and Featherlake, is not far behind. Between them, they now support three County Rarities (Royal Fern, Early Marsh Orchid and Long-stalked Yellow Sedge) in addition to plant species regarded as Devon Notables (Bog Myrtle, Oblong-leaved Sundew and Round-leaved Crowfoot). The number of flowering spikes of Early Marsh Orchid this year is 78, down on 2014 when it was the second largest population in the county. Typical common species of this habitat are now frequent; these include Marsh St.John's-wort, Pale Butterwort, Bog Pimpernel, Lesser Skullcap and Lousewort, in addition to the three common heathers. Other attractive plants include Cotton-grass and Heath Spotted Orchid.

Both the enclosure on Shortmoor and the small one on Quantock near the kennels are also improving in biodiversity, with many of the typical species present but they remain occasional to rare. The newly cleared enclosure at Bucehayes, south of the cottage, has much further to go. Much rank, ruderal vegetation remains despite some patches of the heathers and a long-established area of Bog Myrtle. Horner Hill, which lies largely above the spring-line, is potential dry heath and progress has been made in re-establishing this habitat. We have opted to manage the open area by winter burning, not by grazing, but it has not been easy.

Publications Available

Please help to support Stockland Parish Council in managing the Turbaries by buying one of our publications:
Heathland in East Devon and the Blackdown Hills, an informative booklet by Dr David Allen is available for £5.
A DVD recording, The Management of the Stockland Turbaries, is available for £12.
Prices include postage and packing.
Cheques should be made out to Stockland Parish Council and sent to:
Dr D Allen
Higher Quantock
EX14 9DX
Please remember to include your own postal address!

Facts, Figures and Photographs in a range of documents we hope you will explore