Proís and Cons of environmental modification.
The ecosystem of the Valley of Rocks is interesting in terms of its long history as a tourist attraction and Devonís local heritage. It is probably ranks as one of the longest documented areas in the UK in terms of visitor impressions, etchings and postcards. Many of these sources are being made available on he web via the Local Studies Information of Devon Library Service. Probably there is also much knowledge known to the local community which has been left unrecorded.
The Woodlands of Hollerday Hill, at first site, seem an unimportant mixture of common trees,
planted conifers, exotics including residual shrubs from the Newnes period (Olearia spp).
However, viewed in historical perspective, it is an interesting example of woodland establishment, which can be dated from the period of c.1870 when it was known to be enclosed fields. The change is linked with the local historical perspectives, the rise and fall of the Newnes estate and the subsequent purchase of this land by Holman and presentation to the Council of Lynton & Lynmouth. This last act apparently meant that it was more or less free from grazing, an important factor in the woodland establishment.
Whilst Devon is mostly noted for its ancient oak woodlands, oak woods did not establish on Hollerday Hill, whilst being found on comparable areas elsewhere along the coast, e.g. Woody Bay. Glenthorne has been modified by historical estate management, Culbone probably by historical industrial management, coppiced sweet chestnut for Porlock tannery .
A whole spectrum of historical woodland landscapes is thus available in a small area.
In this context the woodland of Hollerday Hill has a significant role in the study of woodland establishment. A natural laboratory in our own backyard.
The idea of Malcolm New to leave it as it is has many merits. The oak woods have seen many yesterdays, being remnants of England's ancient woodlands. Yesterday for Hollerday Hill was open fields
The newly established woodlands, including the sycamore, is what nature has produced. Elimination of the sycamore would be expensive, and leave obvious landscape scars
Should the established woodlands be modified or left alone?
Bracken, is comparable to rhododendron and knotweed, it invasive. This may be related to changing grazing regimes in the valley. There are no longer large numbers of sheep grazing the area, as is allowed in the historical rights, and seen in old etchings.
Uncontrolled fires, from careless cigarette buts, also gives the bracken the an advantage over the heather. Here some positive management to encourage heather could be an advantage, even if this is tourist education.
As stated, the site is about goats, which seem to have no negative influence on these processes, whilst the human factor has the greatest influence, on the vegetation and the goats.
Colin E. Ridsdale