Stover Country Park is situated between Newton Abbot and Bovey Tracey. The Country Park historically formed part of the Bovey Heath, an area of wet boggy lowland heath covering the majority of the Bovey Basin. After the decline and sale of the estate in the 1930’s the site was brought by the Forestry Commission and is now owned and administered by Devon County Council who purchased it in 1979.
Stover an 80,00 acre estate was first purchased in 1765 by James Templer who was a Devonian entrepreneur who was brought up as an orphan. He ran away to sea after giving up his apprenticeship as a carpenter and earned his wealth working for an East India Shipping Company. Templer built himself a large mansion house in 1777 in Palladian style which replaced the original house named Stoford Lodge. He named his home Stover House which from 1932 has been a school. He landscaped the grounds to form the gardens of the house and much of these now form the country park.
Stover Lake covers approximately 4.05 hectares with water originally entering from the Ventiford Brook. Templers project included planting of exotic trees and shrubs and the construction of a 1.5 mile carriage drive.
James Templer II constructed The Stover canal at his own expense in January 1790. He aimed to reach Bovey Tracey, passing through Jewsbridge, near Heathfield en route with a branch to Chudleigh. He invested over 1000 GBP into the project. To raise more capital Templer sought an act of parliament which was passed on 11 June 1792. However despite this he never invoked its powers due to the fact that the canal had already reached Ventiford and he did not extend it further. Stover canal was 1.7 miles (2.7 km) long, included five locks. The water was supplied from three feeders, Ventiford Brook, a stream which supplies Stover Lake, the River Bovey at Jewsbridge and the River Teign at Fishwick. The exit from the canal was on to the tidal Whitelake channel, and from there to the River Teign and the docks. George Templer (James II’s son) constructed the Haytor Granite Tramway in 1820 which went from the Stover Canal Basin at Ventiford to the quarries at Haytor. The 18 mile Templer Way from Haytor to Teignmouth passes through Stover Country Park. It follows the route of granite transported from Dartmoor to the coast. (For more information on the Templer Way route see Walking). The Stover estate remained in the Templer family until 1829 when it was sold to Edward Adolphus Seymour who was the the eleventh Duke of Somerset. Stover remained the residence of the Seymour family until the death of the grandson of the twelfth Duke of Somerset in 1927. Some of the Stover estate however had been sold prior to this in 1921.
Stover Country Park covers 114 acres consisting of six main habitats: *Freshwater, *marshland, *coniferous plantation, *mixed broadleaved woodland, *lowland heath and *grassland. You can appreciate these different habitats by taking a walk along the many paths of the park. The park has a widespread plantation of both deciduous trees and shrubs mixed with coniferous woodland. Theses are intermingled with areas of lowland heath and grassland which provides habitats for a range of both resident and visting wildlife. There is ample varieties of wildlife including dragonflies, wildfowl, other bird life (a bird hide is found within the park), insects and mammals.
Stover lake acts as the main attribute of the Park which has existed for 230 years. The depth of the lake varies between 0.5 to 1.5 meters and extends to approximately 4.05 hectares (10 acres). Stover Lake is unique in the fact that it is the only single inland water body of its size, naturalness and diversity of habitats & species to be found in Devon. The most common seen plant species in the lake is the white water lily, which can cover up to 70% of the open water in the summer. The lake has a wide range of semi-natural habitats in its vicinity which has helped in attracted nationally scarce dragonflies. The lake also attracts a broad variety of bird species with species including mallard, mute swan, pochard, tufted duck, kingfisher, great crested grebes, heron, cormorant, gull, moorhen and coot. Other species such as common sandpiper, teal, goose, shelduck, goosander, little grebe, pintail, wigeon, shoveler and vagrant sora rail, night heron, bittern can be seen from time to time. If you keep your eyes peeled you may be fortunate enough to spot a grass snake swimming in the lake or even catch sight of an otter, mink or water shrew.
Set up around the park are a number of small marsh ponds which have been created in order to boost the specific habitat required by freshwater invertebrates species such as the dragonflies. As a result of this management Stover has now recorded a total of 24 out of the 26 species found in Devon. As well as these smaller marshes the lake hosts valuable larger marshed areas which contain interesting flora such as Reedmace which has a distinctive thick, grass-like leaves with prominent, brown seed heads and the Yellow Iris, a handsome plant, admired by visitors and locals alike by its bright yellow Iris flowers and the long narrow, pointed leaves of light green. Also to be found are alder, willow shrub and bog-myrtle a distinctive shrubby deciduous plant.
These marshed areas are also imperative for attracting rare flies with common reedmace and hemlock-water dropwort noted as significant species. Also Snipe the skulking wading birds vist the marsh for winter feeding in numbers in excess of 250 individuals. Some other species which have been seen in the marsh are water rail, water shrew, mink and on occassions harvest mice which have been found nesting.
The main woodland area within Stover is primarily made up of English oak , birch with some scots pine. Since the late 1920’s the under storey has been dominated by rhododendron which has had a damaging effect on the habitat therefore there has been some management regeneration. This has allowed the growth of hazel, apsen, spindle and holly among others. Any wood that decays is left in situ because the rare longhorn beetle and stag beetle which depend on it for their survival. Birds that find shelter in the woodland during the winter months include Greenfinch and Siskin while during the summer the tit species, spotted flycatcher, woodpecker and tawny owl among others breed. You may also see roe deer, grey squirrels and dormice all living amongst the woodland area. During the autumn a assorted range of fungi can be seen including the rare earth star fungi which opens out by folding back ‘rays’ of flesh, forming an unusual star shape.
Another habitat found in Stover is the Heathland. Within this area vast amounts of ling heather are growing along with cross leaved heath a downy, grey-green undershrub and bell heather. These heathland areas are particularly important for the hoverfly species along with wasps, bees, ants and spiders. Larger mammals such as roe deer and fox also use this habitat along with nightjar and adders.
Stover also has three well defined larger areas which are managed specifically for grassland and meadow species. Inside these regions you have plants growing such as broad-leaved helleborine, common spotted-orchid, meadowsweet, ragged robin, vetch species and hemp agrimony.
Within the park is a Nature Interpretation Centre which opened in 2000 and is situated near the entrance of the park. The centre consists of a visitor centre which houses displays which show both the plants and wildlife that can be found in the park. There are also two CCTV camera links. One of these is a fixed camera in a nest box and the other is a camera on a pole in the lake which you can control with a joystick to look out onto the park. The centre also has a classroom, rangers’ office and public toilets. Around the park you will also find extra resources such as interpretation boards scattered aroundin different areas.
In 2003 Stover opened an aerial walkway to enable visitors to gain a bird’s eye view of the woodland and ponds that are situaited below. Along the boardwalk you will see some large carved wooden boards designed to give you an insight into what you will be observing. The walkway is wheelchair and pushchair friendly and has a number of benches so that visitors can take in the beautiful surrounding wildlife and views. Bird and bat boxes have also been erected along with bird feeders to enhance your wildlife experience.
There are a number of different trails and walks to enjoy around stover including The Ted Hughes Poetry Trail (2 miles) which by following you will come accross a number of posts which display poems by Ted Hughes themed on wildlife and the natural world. There is also a short Children’s Poetry Trail which contains some of Ted Hughes’ most memorable poems about the world of animals, some of which are illustrated by Raymond Briggs. To follow the trails you can either look at the information boards situated within the park or leaflets can be obtained or downloaded from Devon County Councils Website.
Pay and Display Car park (70p for 2 hours or £1.20 from sunrise to sunset)
Nature Interpretaion Centre
Designated Cycle Route
Bus stops are located outside the parks boundary
For travel information please contact Travel Line: 0870 6082608 or visit: http://www.travelinesw.com/nbindex.htm