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Core- Rewilding Hill Crest

The history of the land at Hill Crest

The sixteen acres at Hill Crest used to be a small dairy farm, run by Kate Morley’s great grandmother and great-uncle, and was then used for sheep grazing, with most of the land laid to grass pasture. After Kate’s great-uncle passed away in 1992, bramble and blackthorn scrub began to spread, and naturally regenerating woodland slowly started to reclaim the slopes above the stream. Sheep continued to be grazed on the land, keeping the fields cropped short and restricting the advance of trees and scrub.  Later, when sheep grazing became less intensive, the fields were cut by tractor once a year to keep them looking ‘tidy’.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​When we took over the property in 2012, we made the decision to remove the sheep and stop cutting the fields, to let the land revert to a more natural state and provide habitat for wildlife.  In 2018 we teamed up with Moor Trees, a charity dedicated to increasing native woodland on Dartmoor and the surrounding areas, to speed up the regeneration of woodland by planting 4,500 native trees. As well as increasing the diversity of plants, fungi and animals compared to the previous use as grazed pasture, the trees will stabilise the valley slopes to prevent erosion and landslips, and lock up carbon from the atmosphere, helping to slow climate change.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Wildlife at Hill Crest

Today, tawny owls, barn owls, kestrels and buzzards all hunt for mice, voles and rabbits in the rough grass, and sparrowhawks chase pigeons and other birds at the woodland edge. Roe deer are regularly seen, sometimes with spotted fawns in May/June, and occasionally red deer pass through. Foxes are also frequently seen, and badgers and hedgehogs forage along the tracks under cover of darkness. The overgrown hedges are home to dormice, polecats are occasionally captured on our trail cameras, and an otter has even ventured up the stream.

In the woods by the stream there are great spotted woodpeckers, jays,

treecreepers and woodcock. Green woodpeckers can be seen digging for

ants in the grass. Swallows return from Africa each spring. Butterflies

are abundant in late spring and summer feeding on a variety of wild

flowers – the most common species are peacock, meadow brown,

gatekeeper, large skipper, marbled white, ringlet and common blue. Look

for commas and silver washed fritillaries on the brambles at the woodland

edge. Early purple and southern marsh orchids flower by the tracks in

spring. Glow-worms can be seen along the edges of the tracks in July.

Slow worms are common in spring and summer, and common lizards

can sometimes be seen sunning themselves on stones and logs.  

Neighbouring landowners have shown an interest in what we are doing, and we hope that in the future other sites may revert to a wilder state and link up with Hill Crest to form a significant habitat corridor for wildlife, a wilder backbone for Devon along the Haldon ridge; Devon Wildland. Combined with the vision of Moor Trees for a ‘wild heart of Dartmoor’ this could potentially lead to the creation of a large enough wild area for reintroduction of a range of formerly native species to become feasible, enabling a more natural ecosystem to be restored.

Current enterprises at Hill Crest


Devon Wildland's Tree Hub is located at Hill Crest. This is a community tree nursery that grows native trees from local seed. Volunteers help collect the seeds, grow on and nurture the seedlings and it is hoped that these saplings will be provided to landowners across the Haldon ridge, planted to create the ribbon of connectivity. The Devon Wildland Tree Hub not only benefits nature it also brings people together for a social occasion, marking the changing seasons and helping to tackle eco-anxiety. If you would like to help out please get in touch




Three Hares Carriage is a  self catering holiday accommodation where guests can take part in free Rewilding Walks and Talks and stay in a converted restored Victorian railway carriage.​

Nature's Ear Kate Morley's nature based practice for health and well-being is also based at Hill Crest.

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