An unusual extraction

Laura White
Laura White
Hound Tor mediaeval village near Manaton © Martin Bodman

When a helicopter hovers over the moorland village of Manaton one day later this month, the residents needn’t worry that the Air Ambulance is attending an emergency or the police tracking a criminal.

In fact, it will be doing a routine job in a most unusual way.

The National Trust, which bought Manaton Rocks in 2017, wants to remove a group of trees which is spoiling the beauty spot’s panoramic views towards Haytor, Bowerman’s Nose and over the eastern edge of Dartmoor.

And it’s going to use a helicopter to do it.
The National Trust says pulling the trees out from above is not only the best way to do the job, because of problems over access for tractors or horses, but it will be the most cost-effective.

The trees coming out are Sitka Spruce, plus some Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock, and the Trust says that their work is ‘to improve the view from the top of Manaton Rocks for local walkers and visitors, and as part of our policy of conifer removal from these high value woodlands’.

In a statement to residents the National Trust explains: “The site is inaccessible to any other wheeled or tracked machines to remove the trees.
‘Lifting the material straight up, rather than attempting to winch it along the ground, will reduce damage to the soils in the area.

‘The site is too steep and rocky to allow extraction by horses.”

Insisting that the helicopter option is cost-effective, the Trust says: “We have a local firm who can do the work.
‘The job will take only a couple of hours and will be cheaper than all other means of extraction and will cause negligible damage to the site.”

It added: “Although helicopters do use fossil fuels, because they can get jobs like this done very quickly, the fuel used is less than might be used by other forms of mechanical extraction.

‘Helicopters aren’t the quietest machines, but the speed with which we can do this operation will make up for this.

‘We expect to undertake the whole operation within two hours.”

The date for the work has yet to be confirmed, although it will be on a weekday in late February, and the public will be allowed to watch, not from the site itself, but from the footpath from
St Winifred’s Church nearby.

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