Sylvan sojourn

17/05/2013 - 10:12

Dendle's Wood - a meeting with remarkable trees


“What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
Oh let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”

(Gerald Manley Hopkins)


Dendle’s  Wood is ancient upland Oak & Beech wood, declared as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)  . It supports a rich lichen and moss flora and high numbers of breeding bird species.


Within an altitude range of 160 m to 280 m the woodlands cover the valley slopes at the confluence of Broadall Lake and Ford Brook with the River Yealm.


*Access to the site is restricted by Natural England and a permit is required – I feel  incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to have access to this site over the next year.


*(The photos below are from my first two visists in May 2013 - there is still so much to explore...)


On my first visit, once off the long approach track over private farmland and into the edge of the wood, I felt like 'The Doctor' stepping out of the Tardis - into a beguiling pocket of the ancient world - much of Dartmoor, except for the granite Tors on the summits, would have been covered in woodland following the last Ice Age from around 12,00 years ago.



(This was view photographed in the 'golden hour' of a spring evening in May 2013

- overlooking a series of 'dog-leg' falls & rapids on the River Yealm)



It was following the Ice Age that people really started to inhabit Dartmoor, to use the natural resources and to hunt for wild animals.


They would make clearings in the trees to attract the animals to graze. It is within places such as Dendle's Wood,  Black Tor Beare, Pile's Copse, Black-a-Tor Copse, Dewerstone and Whistman's Wood that one can get a sense of what it must have looked like in the halcyon days of the sylvan cover of the moors.


 It was for me a numinous experience; the wood had a tangible ‘atmosphere’ of its own – not threatening in the daylight but one which made me feel very, very small amongst 28 hectares of wild oaks and beeches surrounding a very steep gorge. The journey into the woods was very zen-like and one of those places/ experience that has a profound effect on one, in a way that is hard to describe in words.


I climbed out of the gorge towards the approach track in the gloaming twilight and was glad to get back to the country road in the last light of day; I think the woods would be rather eerie to be benighted in - despite their daytime charm!



History of Dendle's Wood:


According to the title deeds of Blachford Manor, the wood was formerly known as 'Daniels', probably in reference to a former landowner - 'Dendles' is almost certainly a corruption of this name.


For much of its history since the medieval period, the wood has been used for coppice. In particular, when mines on Dartmoor were active, oak coppice was used to produce charcoal for smelting. At the end of the nineteenth century, with the decline in the mining industry, the demand for coppice products ceased and Dendles Wood was no longer used for this purpose.


Instead, Hawns Wood and Dendles Wood, which was part of the Blachford Estate, became a popular tourist location, opened to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.


At the turn of the last century, the United Devon Association described it as 'one of the most charming sylvan spots in the whole of Devonshire'.


In October 1965, the Nature Conservancy purchased 29 hectares (72 acres) of the wood from the Economic Forestry Group, to create the Dendles Wood National Nature Reserve.


In his 1909 novel ‘The Three Brothers’, Dartmoor author Eden Phillpotts described Dendles Wood as follows:


“In the glen beneath spread Dendles Wood, with fringes of larch and pine hiding the River Yealm and spreading a verdant medley of deep summer green in the lap of the grey hills”



Flora and Fauna in Dendle's Wood:


The woodland is dominated by Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur), occurring with Beech (Fagus sylvatica) on the lower slopes. Hazel Corylus avellana, Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) are scattered throughout the woodland.




The ground flora is characterised by Creeping Soft-grass (Holcus Mollis), Sweet Vernal-grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum), Bramble (Rubus spp.), Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), Wood-sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) and Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) . Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is scattered throughout, forming dense stands in places.





In some parts, where drainage is impeded or seepage flushes occur, marshy vegetation has developed, with willows (Salix spp)., Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus), Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea), Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia Nemorum), Marsh Violet (Viola palustris) and Bog Mosses (Sphagnum spp.) present.



(A fallen tree festooned with moss and Wood-sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and (I think) Eurhynchium praelongum moss) - which can be seen in close up detail below:





The site’s cool and moist conditions have enabled a profuse growth of mosses to develop.





Common species of the sward are Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus and Thuidium tamariscinum, while many boulders carry a mat of mosses including Isothecium myosuroides, Dicranum scoparium, Polytrichum formosum and Plagiothecium undulatum.






The well lit trees and a high rainfall have also enabled a luxuriant epiphytic lichen flora to develop, characterised by the Parmelietum laevigatae community.


There is a profuse growth of Usnea species and the site is also the richest locality in south west England for the rare Graphina ruiziana. Cetrelia cetrarioides, a rare lichen widespread in Dartmoor woodlands, is also frequent here. The riverside banks support abundant ferns including Royal Fern Osmunda regalis and Tunbridge Filmy-fern Hymenophyllum tunbrigense; both local species.


The woods support a breeding bird community highly representative of upland oak woods: -


Species present include Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) and Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus); while Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) and Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) nest alongside the water-courses.


 A diverse invertebrate fauna is present which includes the Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis Paphia) and Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) butterflies.


Dendles Wood is home to a breeding colony of Barbastelles, one of Britain's rarest species of bat. The mammal fauna includes Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) and Fallow Deer (Dama dama) as regular visitors



Image Copyrights: Phil Hemsley

Permission to use images granted to:


*[Reference sources for the natural history of Dendles Wood include: English Nature, Natural England, Dartmoor National Park Authority, BBC]


Deborah dendle
24/11/2013 - 14:42
For many years I have wanted to see dendles wood . WOW how beautiful such amazing pictures . Such a dreamy fairy tale place

Add a Comment


Email (not displayed):