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.

A new permissive path in the Quantock Turbary

Stockland Parish Council has opened a new permissive path that links the Public Footpath near Brimpit Farm, at ST 225053, with the Public Footpath near Featherlake, at ST 225046, crossing Quantock Turbary. The route (although open to the public) is not designated as a public right of way. Wellington Boots are recommended.

The Turbaries Management Committee

Since 2015, the Turbaries Management Committee now operates as a committee of the Stockland Parish Council, and has been made up 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:

  • three residents of Stockland Parish, as community representatives
  • three Parish Councillors, of whom one is a professional botanist and one is an agriculturalist
  • a representative of the Devon Bird Watching & Preservation Society
  • a representative of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • a representative of Natural England
  • a representative of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • The Parish Clerk also attends and in line with the Terms of Reference any decisions on finance can only be voted on by the 3 Parish Councillors.

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