Please Note: This website is out of date. The Steward Community Woodland sustainable living project ended in 2018 for legal and planning permission reasons. The contents have been left here as a historical archive.

Steward Wood, a first impression

This account has been adapted from notes made by Pete who was the first person in the group to visit Steward Wood in the late summer of 1999.

Getting there

There are buses every hour or two from Exeter bus station (last is at 18.15) stand 2. I think it cost £2 or so single. Its a 10 or 15 minute walk from the town to site, south on the road to Bovey Tracey (this road links to the A38). It is sited on and behind a dismantled railway. There is parking space on this old railway, which is also used by the residents at the cottages.


A track leads up from the railway track (which is part of the land that is up for sale) to an open grassy glade which is invisible from the road. It is sort of a long thin shape. There are really attractive mossed stone walls on the track into the glade. Most of the tracks are quite steep in places and uneven at the moment. I found some impassable, but I was wearing shorts and sandals at the time, and it was mainly due to nettles and brambles that I had to turn back. They cross the site quite efficiently. I have made a rough map of them I can try and get to people if they are interested. They make pretty good paths, but you'd need a forestry vehicle to drive up and down them.

The Woodland

The site is South West facing. It seemed to be getting a lot of sunshine in the afternoon between the rainstorms. The site itself is quite steep, with the exception of the two hectares beside the railway and the glade. There is a magical heactare of 60 year old ash plantation, directly up hill of the grassy area, with a winding track (steep) leading up through it. The majority of the woodland is heavily thined japanese larch (a tall straight fir thing with very few branches). The outcome of this is that most of the larch area, especially the 6 hectare part to the northwest of the glade, has an emergent layer of broadleaf coming up underneath it (hazel, sycamore, ash, elder, bracken). This layer has the possibility of become a mixed deciduous woodland although the sycamore could be challenging. There is a fair amount of spruce at the bottom of the land, below the glade, which affords privacy. There is a quantity of laurel presenting its problems around the eastern end of the glade and track leading to it.


There are a few streams trickling around site. The land agents reckon some of them are springs. One goes right next to the glade. I dunno how much 49 inches per year of rain is comparitively. It rained lightly while I was there. Its in the shelter of Dartmoor I think, which I appreciated having been to the NW of dartmoor the day before and got soaked..


The most exciting part of the site is the hectare above the railway track. This seems mostly unplanted, except for some 6ft douglas fir and a stand of mature spruce in the middle. It gets good light, is south facing and looks reasonably flat. I reckon it has definite possibilities for planting up stuff. It is visible from the cottages however and there is an electricity line crossing the whole unplanted bit.


The field that cuts into the centre of site at the bottom contained sheep when I looked at it, although the other two at the bottom were unoccupied pasture fields. Up stream of the site the fields showed evidence of recent livestock occupation as well. There is a farm (Budleigh Farm) as a neighbour, which runs some kind of B&B or hostel or something, from where runs a footpath along outside the north boundary of the site. There is a sewage works just off the southern edge of the site, it has only one circular pit thing, and didn't seem to smell. It is downstream of the land, off the stream to the south of site. The road can be heard all over site. Its not too busy, but it is fastish, though wiggly. There are about 5 cottages to the southwest, adjoining and overlooking the railway land, which they park on. There is a farm over the road but that is all for nearby neighbours. Theres another farm off to the east a mile or so, and a few houses off the steep road to the south east, but they are not that close.


I didn't see much of this really. Its a smallish town. Moretonhampstead calls itself 'the gateway to the high moors'. Its fair hilly round here and the moors of dartmoor can be seen from further up the hill. There are buses to Newton Abbot (goes past the A38 junction). Exeter is 12 miles away, while the A38 is just 7 miles.


    * Good points

      Near exeter (quite a lumpy 12 mile cycle though), some really beautiful woodland, springs on site, nice glade hidden from view, lots of fuel and building material on site, near a town (1 mile), near dartmoor, in a beautiful area, okay price, southish facing (rare for woodland say the land agents, and it makes sense), good access from the rest of the country, near M5 link and A38, its not as rainy as N.Devon, emergent broadleaf on a lot of site.

    * Bad points

      inside national park, more plannning restrictions, electricity line, near road, cottage residents can overlook planting area and railway line, steep, lots of canopy conifer, not much level ground, rhodedendron, livestock influence on water supply.


I reckon people should go and see it if they can.

So the rest of us visited the woodland and fell in love with the place. The rest is history.


Last updated: 2009-04-20

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