Autumn colour

41, Teign river below Castle Drogo

Pull on your walking boots and explore the Castle Drogo estate in all its glory with colours of ambers and reds. The Teign Valley is at its most spectacular in autumn, why not walk from the castle down to Fingle Bridge and back along the bubbling river? There are many veteran oak trees to admire, lots of wildlife to spot including buzzards and lots of mushrooms dotted along the paths. If you’d like to know more about which ones you can eat join us for a fungi foray workshop on Sunday 11 October, 2–4pm. An experienced mycologist will find and identify the wide range of fungi on the Castle Drogo estate. (£5 per adult, £2 per child, booking essential on 01647 433306.)


Across the valley into Fingle Woods you may even glimpse the fallow deer as mid- October sees the peak of the deer rut. If you fail to spot this you could join one of our rangers for an autumn woodland deer walk and breakfast on Saturday 17 & Sunday 18 October, 7.30-10am. Join the guided walk during the fallow deer rut to search for the sights and sounds of deer in the colourful woods. Afterwards enjoy a delicious home cooked full English breakfast in our café. (£17.50 per person (£10 children), booking essential on 01647 433306.)

Along the river Teign there are large scale photographs by Mike Smallcombe which hint at the history of the valley. One photograph depicts a charcoal burner and another depicts a mother and daughter with the ruins of Fingle Mill behind them. There are 10 photographs to find located down in the valley and also at Castle Drogo.

mikesmallcombe8 WEB RESIZE

If you’re inspired by Mike Smallcombe’s large scale photos we’re launching our annual photography competition on Monday 12 October which will end on Sunday 8 November, the winner will receive a meal for 2 in our café. For more details visit the Save Castle Drogo Facebook page.

10 butterflies to spot in the Teign Valley

 common blue

We’re very lucky that the Teign Valley is home to array of wildlife including lots of butterflies, but generally butterfly populations have been on the decline since the 1970s.

HLF High Impact RGBBC logo

The project All the Moor Butterflies aims to save some of the south wests most threatened butterfly and moth species. The project will work with landowners to help them conserve these target species, as well as engaging with communities to show them the wonder of their local wildlife. You can find more information on the project here.

Also to have your say on how the project is designed you can take the short survey which can be found here >>>

Below are listed the top 10 butterflies to spot on the estate;

1.Common blue butterfly

The common blue is the most widespread blue butterfly in Britain and Ireland and is found in a variety of grassy habitats including down land, coastal dunes, road verges and woodland clearings.
The males wings have a bright blue upperside, the female is primarily brown, with a highly variable amount of blue.

2. Speckled wood butterfly

They are most commonly found in woodland, gardens and hedgerows. They are often found perched in sunny spots.
The speckled wood is dark brown with creamy white patches on the wings.

3. Gate keeper butterfly

Gate keeper butterflies are found at field edges and along hedgerows and you can expect to find this butterfly in scrubby grassland, woodland rides and country lanes.

They look similar to the meadow brown butterflies with orange and brown wings with a black eyespot on the forewing tip. The eyespots have two white pupils whereas the meadow brown has just one.

4. Holly blue butterfly

The holly blue is found in many different types of habitat, including gardens, churchyards, woodland, parks and anywhere its nectar sources can be found.
This butterfly has bright blue wings. Females have black wing edges with an underside of pale blue with small black spots which distinguish them from common blue.

5. Meadow brown butterfly

The meadow brown butterfly can be found in almost any grassy habitat. Their typical habitats include grassland, field margins, hedgerows, road verges and even overgrown gardens.
The meadow brown wings are orange and brown, with a black eyespot on the forewing tip.

6. Brimstone butterfly

The brimstone butterfly can be found in scrubby grassland, woodland, along roadside verges and hedgerows.
The wings of the female are very pale green and almost white, males have yellow-green underwings and yellow upper wings.

7. Peacock butterfly

This butterfly has a broad distribution and can often be encountered while hibernating in outbuildings, such as a garage, shed or barn, where they are often in the company of other butterflies. Other hibernation sites include hollow trees and wood piles, where their dark undersides provide excellent camouflage. They have red wings with black markings and distinctive eyespots on the tips of fore and hind wings.

8. Small tortoiseshell butterfly

This butterfly is most-often seen where nettles grow in abundance, such as field margins. The two sexes are almost identical in appearance, with the distinctive yellow and an orange upperside providing a contrast with the drab undersides.

9. Green veined white butterfly

The butterfly can be found in a variety of locations including parks, gardens, meadows, woodland, hedgerows and, in fact, anywhere nectar sources exist. This species favours damp areas but can also be found in small sheltered pockets, such as patches of scrub, in dry and open habitat such as chalk grassland.
The females have two spots on each forewing whilst the male only has one. The underside hindwings are pale yellow with the veins highlighted by black scales giving a greenish tint.

10. Large white butterfly

This species is found in a wide variety of habitats and can turn up almost anywhere, including gardens, allotments, parks, meadows, open grassland, and hedgerows.
Their wings mainly consisted of white and black. The female is distinguished from the male by the presence of 2 black spots, together with a black dash on the forewing upperside.

Teign Spirits – an exhibition of large scale contemporary photographs in the landscape at Castle Drogo


As the huge 5-year building conservation project to save Castle Drogo continues, artists have been invited to create new contemporary artworks to respond to and interpret the project and the fascinating history of the site.

Visitors to the castle over the next two years will find that ‘nothing is normal’.  The building work which will make the Lutyens’ designed building watertight for the first time in its history, has presented a rare opportunity for people to get up close to the conservation work and view the interior of the house as never before!

One of the creative partners working at Castle Drogo is the established photographer Mike Smallcombe. For the past year Mike has been gathering stories and images to create a series of ten large-scale photographs to display around the site.

Mike’s work aims to represent the human story of Castle Drogo and the surrounding landscape to create intriguing and rich images. The inspiration of these photographs will bring a wider understanding of the castle, inspired by the people who lived there, the history of the estate and the landscape of Dartmoor.

The photographs add another fascinating layer to the new 2015 visitor experience at Castle Drogo.  The ten high resolution images each measuring approximately 3m x 2m and printed on waterproof canvas, are suspended between trees in the formal garden and around the wider estate near Hunter’s Path, Fingle Bridge and along the River Teign for visitors to discover.

The images reference such stories and places as Julius Drewe’s passion for salmon fishing in the River Teign, the Waifs and Strays Society, the charcoal burning that used to take place in the valley, and Blackenstone Quarry where much of the granite used to build the castle was sourced. 


The exhibition aims to connect more people to this special place, highlighting links between the house, garden and estate, as well as some of the lesser known stories of the surrounding landscape.    A map of locations will help visitors to discover the photographs.  A number are in the immediate grounds and others displayed further afield, encouraging walks out onto the estate.

Creative Programme Manager Louise Donovan says, ‘This is an exciting and ambitious project for Castle Drogo and we expect that the stunning images will intrigue and delight our current audience as well as introducing the stunning garden and estate to new visitors.’

Mike Smallcombe is a photographer/artist living and working from his Devon studio for the past 21 years, and on projects in London.  In 2007 he won the photography award at the Exeter Contemporary Open, and in 2008 Mike was awarded Arts Council funding for his touring exhibition Ghosts in the Wood shown at Haldon Forest, Exeter, Kielder Forest, Northumberland and Grizedale Forest in the Lake District.

The south end is now watertight

The south end is now watertight

The south end of Castle Drogo is now watertight. A month ago the scaffolding came off to show the castle is all its glory. All of the windows have been cleaned and we’d forgotten how good the views of Dartmoor are.


Currently the central section of building work will be finished by September, and then the scaffolding dismantled. There is a great view of the south end from Hunter’s path and from the front door.Because every stone has been cleaned it is looking brand new! It’s also much more obvious that Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect, chose specific granite blocks, as there are very subtle colours on the south end ranging from orange to black (the black colour is because the mineral tourmaline is present in granite and was cut in such a way that the tourmaline is on the outer face of the stone).

Thank you to everyone who has supported the project the south end wouldn’t be watertight without your help.

Teign Spirits exhibition

mike smallcombe 1

Nothing is normal at Castle Drogo and coming this summer is an exciting photographic exhibition around the garden and grounds.

These photographs will focus on untold stories of Castle Drogo, one photograph references the charcoal burning that took place in the Teign Valley and another depicts a chandelier from the Drawing Room in the garden, telling the story of how Julius and Frances bought 2 chandeliers on honeymoon to Venice.

You can find out more from an article written by manor magazine or keep updated on when the photos will be on display on our social media pages.

Unsung volunteers


Our last story is from Hazel who is a plant centre volunteer and garden tour guide;

I have always loved gardening. When I worked as an NHSmanger, it proved to be a great stress-buster. Upon my retirement, as a carer for my parents, I could let off steam by tending their lovely garden, full of Rhododendrons, just like Castle Drogo.

Last year, finding myself with time to spare, following their sad demise, I paid a visit to Castle Drogo. I was immediately drawn to the garden feeling there was something special here. I approached Laurence (volunteer co-ordinator), to ask if there was a vacancy for a volunteer in the plant centre, I was struck be the friendliness of everybody I met.

I started volunteering in April last year; initially my duties were to tend the plants in the plant centre. Laurence asked me if I would be willing to undertake conducting a garden tour to add to our visitor’s enjoyment. As I can talk for England, I was keen to give it a try!

Within 2 weeks, I had boned up on the history of the Castle and the Gardens and nervously conducted my first tour. I need not have worried, the people I took around the garden were lovely and their positive comments gave me confidence.

Now I work on a Monday, there is a team of 4 of us, Mary, Helen, Julie and myself. Collectively we are responsible for looking after the plant centre plants, weeding watering & merchandising, making the plants look as good as possible, so that hopefully, people are tempted to buy. In addition we conduct up to 2 garden tours a day. We tell people all about the gardens, giving a brief history of how it all came to be here.

I love my day each week at Castle Drogo, from the start I have felt well supported by both the staff and volunteers. I hope to continue in this role for many years to come.

If you’d like to get involved at Castle Drogo please contact our volunteer coordinator, Laurence Harvey on 01647 434114 or email