Fauna and Flora

'From AD 1761 to 1820 inclusive, the Churchwardens paid for the destruction of the following vermin: 18 Foxes, 4 Vixens, 153 Badgers, 903 Hedgehogs, 2210 Jays, 1661 Hoops*.'
Charles Worthy, Ashburton and Its Neighbourhood, appendix p xiv

* ' "Hoop" is used about Ashburton, not, my informant states, as a name for the bullfinch, but for "A little bird like a snipe, found in meadows in the evenings." '
W Pengelly, Verbal Provincialisms of South-Western Devonshire, Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol VII Plymouth 1875, p495

But is it more likely that a bullfinch would have been considered vermin by the Ashburton churchwardens? 'They feed voraciously on the buds of various trees in spring and were once a 'pest' of fruit crops.'
RSPB https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/bullfinch


'The red deer and stag have abandoned [Dartmoor], the former for the north of Devon. Sometimes, but rarely, one has been perceived near Ashburton.'
H E Carrington, (ed.), The Collected Poems of the late N T Carrington, Devonport, 1834, p161

Wm Smerdon Jun of Higher Bondly, near Ashburton, killed a two foot long viper in March 1841
Western Times 13 March 1841, p3 col4

Great Bat, Vespertilio Noctula. Common about Ashburton and Haldon. Mr T Abraham.
Samuel Rowe, A Perambulation of the Antient and Royal Forest of Dartmoor, Plymouth, 1848, Appendix v

'We toil up past the mine, [Druid], and getting behind and above it have a fine view of the valley to the east, and of the country towards Newton...Here my entomological son got his first prize, for we saw specimens of the beautiful little green hair-streak, which presently became sufficiently abundant, and continued the characteristic butterfly up to the moor.'
The Intellectual Observer, vol 3, London, 1863, p324

In November 1870 The Cornish Telegraph reported that a kingfisher had been caught alive in a wheelwright's shop in Ashburton. 'These birds are very rare'.
The Cornish Telegraph, 23 November 1870, p4 col5

'The bat is called sheerymouse at Prawle in South Devon, leather-bird at Stokenham....leather-bird about Ashburton...'
W Pengelly,
Verbal Provincialisms of South-Western Devonshire, Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol VII Plymouth 1875, p538


'Mr Firth, of Cator Court, Ashburton, Devon, notices the great destruction caused to the Turnip crop in his own fields and the neighbourhood by the caterpillars, of which the specimens forwarded proved to be of the common Turnip Moth, A. segetum. These were found in great numbers round the plants in early summer, and were killed by hundreds by the labourers in cleaning the Turnips; nevertheless they cleared entire fields.
Eleanor Anne Ormerod, Notes for Observations of Injurious Insects, London 1877, p101

Genus Mustela, Linnaeus
Vulgaris Linn. The Common Weasel. Common in thick hedges and borders of woods throughout the county. This is called Vaer in the Ashburton district.
Erminea Linn. The Ermine weasel. Taken plentifully in the vicinity of Dartmoor in the winter dress. Mr Amery informs me that it is plentiful at Ashburton.
Putorius Linn. The Polecat. This has become a scarce species, as keepers of game wage war against it. Not one has been seen at Ashburton for seven years.
Foina, Buffon. The Martin. This species is now, I believe, nearly extinct, as a systematic war is waged against it by the preservers of game. Mr P F Amery informs me the last he has heard of was killed near Ashburton about six years ago.
Martes, Linn. The Pine Martin. "Two specimens killed at Auswell-rock, Ashburton, and were stuffed by Messrs. Hele." This is on the authority of the late T Abraham Esq.
Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 9, 1877, p323

The following list is from The Birds of Devonshire, 1891. Some entries that are virtually the same as those in Birds of Devon (below) have been omitted:

White's Thrush. A rare straggler. 'A good specimen of this Eastern Asiatic Thrush' writes Mr  W E H Holdsworth, 'was killed by  Mr E Studdy in Dene Wood, near Ashburton Devon, during the severe cold weather in January last (1881). it was in company with three or four birds of apparently the same species and when flushed, was mistaken for a Woodcock, from its heavy flight... p3

Nightingale. A summer visitant, rare or very local, and little known in the county. Mr Rawson says he first heard of the Nightingale near Ashburton in mid-Devon, in 1887, when a pair of these birds took up their abode in a coppice near the house of a friend. He went down to satisfy himself the following year, and found two pairs had established themselves in the same coppice. In 1889 two pairs nested in the old locality, and a third pair nested close by, so that the birds are apparently increasing, and likely to form a permanent settlement. p15

Great Spotted Woodpecker. A scarce resident in our more extensive woodlands, rare as a breeding species. Mr Parfitt records the Greater Spotted Woodpecker as having bred in Exwick woods, and also near Ashburton. p58

Montague's Harrier - see below
Kite - see below
Little Crake - see below
William E H Pidsley, The Birds of Devonshire, London and Exeter, 1891


The following list is from
The Birds of Devon, 1892:
NB Wild birds and their eggs are now protected under UK law (http://www.environmentlaw.org.uk/rte.asp?id=217) This was not the case in the Victorian era.

Whinchat. A summer migrant, arriving about the middle or end of April, and departing in October. Breeds.
Though not a numerous species in South Devon, it is met with on the borders of Dartmoor and near Plymouth... Ashburton (Turton and Kingston) is listed. p10

Nightingale. A summer migrant of occasional occurence in the southern part of the county. Breeds occasionally. Mr H E Rawson found several pairs breeding in a coppice near Ashburton, in 1888 and 1889 (Pidsley's Brids of Devonshire p15) p16

Dartford Warbler. Formerly resident in the south-eastern, southern, and south-western parts of the county.There have been no recorded occurrences since 18877, and we fear it must be extinct in Devonshire. Had previously been seen near Ashburton. 'It is likely that a great number of these little birds perished in the severe snow-storms of the memorable winter of 1880-81. p21

Reed Warbler. A casual visitor in summer of rare occurrence. If Turton and Kingston are to be trusted, it was found in the meadows near Newton and Ashburton. p27

Grasshopper Warbler. A summer migrant of very local distribution. Seen occasionally near Ashburton (T and K) p28

Yellow Wagtail. A summer migrant. Dr Tucker constantly observed large flocks about Ashburton at the same season (ie September) (Orn Dic Suppl.) p41

Waxwing. A casual visitor, appearing at long intervals of time during the winter months.
Polwhele (1797) mentions a specimen killed in an orchard at Ashburton p51
Dr Tucker gives the Waxwing a place in his list of rare land-birds which had been discovered near Ashburton (Jones's 'Guide' 1823, p35). A female was shot at Stony Coombe, near Kingskerswell, on January 20th, 1829, and shortly afterwards a male at Ashburton  p52 (T & K 1830; W R H J, Zool, 1843, p188) p52

Hawfinch. A winter visitor of irregular occurence in small numbers from October to April. It has been obtained at Plymouth, Kingsbridge, Milton Abbot, Ashburton....p63

Brambling. A winter visitor of irregular appearance, generally rather scarce, but sometimes abundant near Exeter, Topsham, Torquay, Ashburton...p65

Common Crossbill. A casual visitor of very irregular occurence at all times of the year. Turton and Kingston mention that they had frequently shot specimens in the neighbourhood of Ashburton during the summer months. p72

Crossbill. Gilbert White, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, London, 1884, p39

Cirl Bunting. Resident. It is rather local, but common in some places on the south coast, and near Barnstaple in the north of the county. It has been frequently obtained at Teignmouth, Torquay and Ashburton....p76

Reed Bunting. Resident but not very common. Turton and Kingston found it in meadows near Ashburton, Bradley Meadows, near Newton Abbot, and on Bovey Heathfield. p76

Snow Bunting. A winter visitor of irregular occurence. Turton and Kingston obseved it several successive winters on Ashburton Down. p77

Rose-coloured Pastor. A casual visitor of rather frequent occurence, principally to the South Hams and to Lundy Island. Another bird in the British Museum was obtained by Dr Tucker at Ashburton. p81

Nutcracker. An accidental visitor of rare occurence. Dr A G C Tucker mentions this species in his 'List of birds discovered in the neighbourhood of Ashburton', and his sons include it in the 'List of birds of the district' in Carrington's Dartmoor. p86

Great Spotted Woodpecker. Resident but more often met with in winter and spring than at other times of the year, and probably some arrive from the continent late in the autumn. It is occasionally seen at all times of the year in woods near Plymouth, Slapton Ley.....Ashburton....p111

Wryneck. A casual visitor of rare occurrence. It has occasionally been observed in the vicinity of Teignmouth and at Ashburton ( T & K). One was shot at Topsham...p114

Bee-eater. An accidental visitor during the summer months of rare occurrence, and only in the southern part of the county...One was obtained in the neighbourhood of Ashburton (A G C T ). p118

Little Owl. An accidental visitor of very rare and somewhat doubtful occurrence in a really wild condition, being often imported and kept in captivity...One occurred near Ashburton in 1809 (A G C T). p138

Hen Harrier. Still perhaps a resident; but now for the most part only a casual visitor, principally in autumn, and of rare occurrence. Adult males are very seldom met with...An adult male was killed at Ashburton June 12th 1851 (R A J 'Naturalist' 1851, p269). p142

Montague's Harrier. A casual visitor, occurring not infrequently, especially on the south western part of Dartmoor and in its neighbourhood. It is usually seen in spring and summer, and has been known to breed on several occasions... A nest was (also) found in a furze brake by Dr Tucker, of Ashburton, in July 1808, which contained three young ones and an addled egg. In the following year that gentleman found another nest amongst furze on a hill near Ashburton and two young ones were taken from it, and the female shot...p145

Gos-Hawk. The occurrence of this bird in Devon is very doubtful. It appears to have been admitted into the Devonshire Fauna on the authority of Dr Tucker, of Ashburton, who includes it in a 'List of some rare Land-Birds which have been discovered in the neighbourhood of Ashburton [other sources cited]...The Gos-Hawk very rarely indeed, if ever, visits the South-western counties...p152
Above: Montague's Harrier
W S M D'Urban and the Rev Murray A Mathew, The Birds of Devon, London 1892

Kite. A casual visitor, of rare occurrence at the present day. It is said to have been common in the neighbouhood of Dartmoor at the end of the last century...Mr E H Rodd, however, speaks of it as breeding in King's Wood, near Holne Chase, on the eastern borders of Dartmoor, and says no hawk was better known in the large woodland districts of the central part of Devon when he was a schoolboy at Buckfastleigh...If this was a fact, and not a confusion of memory, it is remarkable that Montagu should have known nothing about it, though in constant correspondence with Dr A G Tucker, of Ashburton, which is close to Buckfastleigh and Holne Chase. p155

Quail. A summer migrant, or irregular appearance, sometimes remaining throughout the winter, but most frequently obtained in autumn...'Found occasionally in the neighbourhood of Ashburton' (T & K) p270

Little Crake. A casual visitor, chiefly during the autumn and winter, and of rare occurrence in the spring and summer months. The first example of this species made known in Britain was shot near Ashburton in 1809, and Col. Montagu received it from Dr Tucker of that place p279

Little Bustard. A casual visitor, of somewhat rare occurrence, during the autumn and winter months...One [was shot] at Ashburton (A G C T)
p293Black-winged Stilt. An accidental visitor, of extremely rare occurrence. No specimen has been obtained in Devonshire within the last half-century...Dr A G C Tucker includes the Black-winger Stilt in his list of some rare birds discovered near Ashburton. p313

Great Snipe. A casual visitor, occasionally met with in autumn on the moors...One [was killed] at Ashburton October 7th, 1854. p324

Wood-Sandpiper. A casual visitor of rare occurrence. ..Dr Tucker includes it in his list of birds found near Ashburton, and Turton and Kingston speak of its being found on the Dart. p346

W S M D'Urban and the Rev Murray A Mathew, The Birds of Devon, London 1892

'The nightingale is nowhere common, but it occurs every season near Ashburton and in the valley of the Teign.
Francis A Knight and Louie M (Knight) Dutton, Devonshire, Cambridge 1910, p46


‘A snake measuring three and a half feet long was killed in Borough Wood, Ashburton, by Mr W Gill…’
Totnes Weekly Times 27 May 1899, p2 col5

1908 Mr F Loveridge, the School Attendance Officer, killed a snake during his rounds. The snake was 2ft 8ins long.
Totnes Weekly Times 18 July 1908, p8 col6


In the correspondence section of the Boy's Own Annual 1893, a reply titled 'Silkworms' says, 'We hear from the Rev T P Levett, of Ashburton, Devon, that he has eggs to spare of Attacus Pernip; perhaps he could help you.'
Boy's Own Annual 1893, vol16, p32

Capt. Stanley Thomas Stidston, of Ashe, Ashburton, features in The History of Entomological Recording in Devon https://devonmoths.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Beavan-et-al.-2018-Devon-Association-Transactions.pdf

At the inaugural meeting of the Entomological Section of the Devonshire Association in 1948, Capt. Stidston was appointed Hon Secretary and Treasurer. At the third meeting he was appointed as the recorder for Lepidoptera. In 1952 he produced a list of Devon lepidoptera, which included locations and dates for uncommon species.
Rep. Trans. Devon. Ass. Advmt Sci., 150, 51−106 © The Devonshire Association, June 2018

In 1946 the numbers of Silver Y Moth, plusia gamma, in Devon had dropped from 1,458 to 702. But Capt. Stidston had seen large numbers of these moths at Ashburton on July 2nd.
Western Morning News 21 November 1946, p5 col8

Only two convolvulus Hawk-moths were recorded in Devon in 1948, one of which was at Ashburton on September 2nd. 'S T S' recorded the insect - it seems likely that this was Capt. Stidston.
Western Morning News 3 January 1950, p7 col3

1948 'Capt.Stidston (Ashburton September 24) and Dr Bickford (Torrington October 9) reported the first Clouded Yellows [butterflies] to be seen this year...'
Western Morning News 3 November 1948, p2 col2


Lichen sinuatus. Leaves roundish, indented, scolloped, brownish green. Saucers of the same colour. Much compressed and crowded in its growth...Rocks, stony and shady places. Near Wigmore, Herefordshire, and Ashburton, Devonshire.
A Botanical Arrangement of British Plants, William Withering, vol III, Birmingham, London and Edinburgh, 1792, p188

Verbascum blattaria (moth Mullein), Hab, hedges occasionally. Between Exminster and Kenn, Ashburton, Chudleigh...Fl July.
The stem 3-5 feet high, angular, smooth; the leaves smooth, radical ones lyrate; spikes terminal, many-flowered; flowers golden yellow with purple lines.
Flora Devoniensis,Rev J P Jones and J F Kingston, London 1829, p40

Plants found in Ashburton. From The New Botanist's Guide to the Localities of the Rarer Plants of Britain, Hewett Cottrell Watson, vol1, London, 1835:
Ranunculus parviflorus. p13 Authority for this and all following - Flora Devoniensis, Kingston and Jones 1829
Oxalis corniculata. A garden weed in different parts of the county. p16
Petroseinum segetum. p18
Sison Amomum. p18
Smynium Olusatrum. p19
Mentha piperita. p22
Quercus sessiliflora. p24
Galanthus nivalis. Orchards at Bickington and Ashburton. p25

'At length we enter Ashburton, between lofty walls, grey, weather-worn and lichened. Old, old walls are these; for the crevices of the courses are thickly studded with dense tufts of the familiar wall spleenwort fern; so thickly that viewed at a slight angle the whole surface of the upper wall seems covered with the feathery fringe. The plants have the appearance of great age; they are very luxuriant, but this is the result of their long growth, for when examined they have a very different character from the long and broad-leafed succulent crowns that adorn the hedges at Daccombe. These are narrow, thin, dry and wiry, and far more plumose, and of a golden-brown tint of green. The great snapdragon also throws out its crimson spikes from the walls.
The Intellectual Observer, vol 3, London, 1863, p319