Stella Tracey and Rob Hubble

Shaugh Prior, Plymouth

A garden and adjoining 1 acre meadow have developed into a biodiversity hot-spot

We moved to Shaugh Prior in 1979 and in 1988 had the opportunity to acquire a piece of land abutting the bottom of our garden.

The garden and bungalow stand on 0.9 acres and have, from the start, been developed for wildlife. The adjacent purchased land covers 1.1 acres making 2 acres overall

This new land now comprises a wildflower meadow of about ½ an acre, a small bluebell wood and two copses and is bisected by a fast running stream. It had been used for pigs and was covered with coarse grasses like Yorkshire Fog and also creeping thistle. It took many years to clear these and other unwanted plants  and reduce the fertility of the ground, greatly helped by the regular introduction of Yellow Rattle seed and the use of Dartmoor wildflower meadow hay from which orchids, eye-bright and many other plants such as knapweed have arisen in the meadow sward.

The garden, and what we now call the ‘Reserve’, complement each other creating a biodiversity hot-spot. The meadow produces 200-300 orchids – mainly Southern Marsh, Common Spotted and their hybrids along with a few Greater Butterfly orchids all of which have come from the Dartmoor hay. There are many other plants there now including Primroses, Cow-slips, Betony, Lady’s Smock and Devil’s bit Scabious.

The Bluebell wood is bordered by a north facing bank alive with snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and wild Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus).

In 2023 we arranged for John Walters to make short visits throughout the year to carry out an invertebrate survey. This produced a fascinating list including 15 species of bees and, amongst the two-winged flies (Diptera), an unexpected Hornet Robberfly.

We ourselves regularly record up to 20 species of butterfly and our moth list is up to about 330 species.

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