From open moorland and rolling fields to wooded valleys and sheltered gardens, the parish of Brentor contains a varied mix of habitats, and wildlife to match.

Gibbett Hill, Brentor – Photo by Colin Dawes

Gibbet Hill is the dominant feature, rising to the east of the village of North Brentor and its landmark church. At first glance this treeless expanse on the western fringes of Dartmoor can appear devoid of life.  Apart from scattered sheep and hardy free-ranging ponies, little seems to stir among the exposed low-lying gorse and long grasses. However, a surprising diversity of species can be encountered by following the numerous tracks which fan out across the open moorland.  On the lower slopes, birds such as stonechats take advantage of the cover provided by taller gorse bushes, while tiny carnivorous sundew plants that catch insects on their pink sticky leaves can be found in boggy areas.  Cuckoos are regular summer visitors, and in the open grassy areas meadow pipits and skylarks are commonplace.  Higher up the slopes of Gibbet Hill ravens, over-wintering snipe, and flocks of golden plover are a regular feature.

Peacock butterfly

The disused railway track that runs beneath the hill and alongside the River Burn provides a sanctuary for wildlife.  Overgrown and wooded areas are home to everything from roe deer and tawny owls to badgers and speckled wood butterflies.  Overhead, buzzards patrol the woodland edges and farmland fields, while further to the west Bowden Down is the place to find yellowhammers and adders.

In the heart of North Brentor an established colony of jackdaws often used to stop the Christchurch clock in spring with nest-building activities! Garden flowers are regularly visited in the summer by hummingbird hawkmoths, and for younger wildlife enthusiasts the pond beside the church is the place to find common newts. Garden birds include bullfinch – a species very much in decline across the UK – also nuthatch, great-spotted woodpeckers and long-tailed tits. In the summer months blackcaps and willow warblers add their songs to the musical medley, while flocks of fieldfare, redwing and brambling visit during the winter.

A provisional list of wildlife sightings in Brentor has been compiled, and includes such species of interest as hen harrier, water rail, merlin and grasshopper warbler, green hairstreak and clouded yellow butterflies, convolvulus and oleander hawkmoths, water shrew and harvest mouse.  Click here to go to wildlife sightings page.

New sightings are always welcome!