North Devon with the National Trust

Saturday 28th May and its off on third working holiday this year.
Bargain railfare to and from Barnstaple – just £13 each way – for a week of varied tasks, based at Countisbury, just east of Lynmouth, high on Exmoor. Not as isolated as it may sound because there is a free house/hotel next door – The Blue Ball – serving St Austell Tribute and two beers from the new Clearwater Brewery in Torridge. Proper Ansome is about 4%, dark with a hint of Chocolate malt whilst Real Smiler is pale and heading towards hoppy, but a little thin for my palate.
Had time on Saturday afternoon to visit Wetherspoons in Barnstaple and drink a pint (OK – two pints) of excellent Rooster’s Elderflower (3.4%, American hops and an elderflower nose – who could ask for more).
Sunday was putting up post-and-rail sweet chestnut fencing in the grounds of Arlington Court. Our team of three got quite good at cutting a mortise in the fixed post, fitting in the next rail, digging the new 2’6″ deep post hole, cutting another mortise, fitting rail into mortise and slowly but vigorously backfilling the hole. No photos here, too wet and muddy to get my camera out, but you can see the digging bit here, from an earlier holiday at Haslemere.  There is a picture of all of us on Head Ranger Julian’s blog though.

Monday was still wet, but more sheltered in the wooded valleys of the East and West Lyn just 30 minutes walk down from our bunkhouse, but a good half hour’s drive because there are no direct roads in this deeply dissected landscape.  Julian, the NT Head Ranger who was with us all week, showed us the slightly bulbous root of Meadowsweet, chewed, once peeled clean, to relieve pain – it’s a natural source of salicylic acid (aspirin).  The leaves of what I consider to be my wild plant – Herb Robert – can be chewed to aid relief and recovery from mouth ulcers.  He also suggested a bird we heard giving a simple plaintive noted call might be a wood warbler, but I managed to photograph one calling, collecting insects and feeding its young in a hole in an oak tree, and I now know it to be a redstart (female).  The male is much brighter, but apparently takes a backseat role in the feeding business.

Female Redstart beside nest in hollow oak

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