Category Archives: Environment


News from the North Devon Biosphere

The North Devon Marine Pioneer held its second stakeholder workshop recently, at Alverdiscott Community Hall in North Devon. A wide range of people from across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset braved the snow to participate in this event.

With over 40 attendees, it was a lively day with input from a range of different marine sectors, including the fishing industry, local government, tourism and recreation, maritime industry and conservation.

The beginning of the day was led by the Marine Pioneer partners; they presented some demonstration projects commencing as part of the North Devon Marine Pioneer. Later, participants were asked for their advice and expertise, focusing on four subjects: marine governance and management; the local fishing industry; the Taw Torridge estuary; and how we can sustainably fund the management of North Devon’s Marine Protected Areas.

“This workshop showed just how engaged North Devon people and our neighbours are with their sea, estuaries and rivers. This was a successful day and the information from the day will be used to guide our next steps in the Pioneer,” says Chrissie Ingle, the Marine Pioneer Coordinator.

What is the Marine Pioneer?
The Government has committed to ensure that our natural environment that provides our prosperity and health is protected and improved for us and future generations. The 25 Year Environment Plan was launched on 11 January by Theresa May and sets out how this would be achieved.

To help accomplish this there are four ‘Pioneer’ areas – where new approaches from the plan will be trialled. The four pioneers are: the landscape of North Devon, the marine environment in North Devon and Suffolk, a river catchment in Cumbria and the urban area of Greater Manchester.

What has happened so far?
There have already been two North Devon Marine Pioneer workshops: one in March 2017 produced long-term aims and ambitions for North Devon’s Marine area, with agreed goals such as ‘improved local fisheries management’, ‘robust protection of biodiversity’ and ‘increased local decision-making’. The second, in November 2017, was a focussed workshop with licencers and planners to consider how our natural marine environment can be better incorporated into local decision making – both reports from these workshops can be found online at

From this second workshop local information and experiences can define how we proceed with the Pioneer. There will be a report from the day, which will be made available on the North Devon Biosphere’s Marine Pioneer webpage

PHOTO by Andrew Wheatley.


Environmental charity the Westcountry Rivers Trust is urging local people to do their bit to look after the region’s rivers this year.

Nick Paling, Head of Evidence and Engagement at the Westcountry Rivers Trust (pictured), says: “Rivers are crucial to our health, happiness and prosperity. It is now well known that being in nature is good for our health and wellbeing.  Spending time by the river can be extremely relaxing and rejuvenating and a great antidote to modern life. Most of the time we take them for granted, but at the Westcountry Rivers Trust we would like to encourage more people to do their bit to look after their local river.

“Once you have discovered your local river, we hope you will be inspired to do more to protect it. From volunteering for a river clean-up, to taking part in monitoring activity, there is lots you can do to help the Westcountry Rivers Trust in our efforts to restore and protect the South West’s rivers.”

The Westcountry Rivers Trust has identified six ways people can help to protect their local river.

1. Get out and enjoy your local river
Many of our rivers are hidden underground, but the South West has a number of beautiful riverside walks. The Westcountry Rivers Trust website can help you to find your local river . Once you know where it is, try to visit it every now and again. If more of us get to know our local rivers we can also all do our bit to keep an eye on them and report any problems, such as littering or pollution.

2. Go for grass in your garden
More pressure on parking spaces means that many front gardens have now been paved or concreted over. Hard surfaces cannot soak up water, so this water flows across the surface into the drainage system, which can become overwhelmed and cause flooding. In many of our towns and cities, there is just not enough space for surface water to drain away. Localised flooding is becoming a real problem.

The Westcountry Rivers Trust is encouraging people to choose grass for their gardens. Nick Paling says: “If you really want to keep your paving or concrete, think about including at least some permeable surfaces – perhaps incorporate a planted border, place a water butt under your guttering or choose gravel for your driveway.”

3. Keep your drains clear
The water companies have a major job to keep our water clean and safe to drink. British households apparently pour enough fat down their drains every year to fill seven Olympic swimming pools. The Westcountry Rivers Trust recommends using empty jars or margarine tubs to collect it, then throw it away. Other common culprits for blocked sinks are coffee grinds, produce stickers and broken eggshell, which should instead be binned or composted to prevent unwanted waste entering our water systems.

4. Don’t waste water
Reducing your water usage won’t just save you money, it will also help the environment. From having a water butt in your garden, to taking shorter showers, there is so much that you can do. South West Water also provides free-water saving devices, which you can get here

5. Get your septic tank checked
If septic tanks are not emptied regularly or are not working properly, they can overflow and discharge straight into the river. This is a particular problem during heavy rain. So, if you have a septic tank – and plenty of rural homes in the South West do – then make sure you understand how to keep it working properly and stop it overflowing. This Government document outlines what you need to do.

6. Become a citizen scientist
The Westcountry Rivers Trust now has more than 100 volunteer ‘citizen scientists’ who are helping to monitor the health of rivers across the South West. Find out how you can join them here


Exmoor National Park Authority is pleased to announce the launch of the 2017/18 Exmoor Hedge Competition.

The competition is aimed at the landowners, managers and contractors who carry out the high-quality hedgelaying work for the benefit of Exmoor’s farming, wildlife and landscape.

To be eligible to apply, all or part of the farm must be within Exmoor National Park and the hedge laid during the winter of 2017/18. There will be two classes – ‘Open’ and ‘Novice’ – and the winner of each class will receive £200, 2nd place £100 and £50 will go to the 3rd place. The judges include members of the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups, who are experienced West Country hedgelayers themselves. The previous year’s Open Class winners are also invited to join the judging panel.

Work carried out during the autumn and winter months has resulted in a considerable transformation along many lanes and field edges, as once-shady, outgrown hedges are cut and laid. This traditional management is crucial in order to rejuvenate the hedgerows which are iconic features of the Exmoor landscape, reflecting our cultural heritage and supporting an incredible range of wildlife. The work is very skilled and provides employment for numerous people on Exmoor during the winter months.

Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, said: “The Exmoor Trust is delighted to sponsor this competition again this year and encourages all hedge layers to enter.”

Heather Harley, Conservation Officer (Farming & Land Management) for Exmoor National Park, said: “If you would like to enter the competition you have until 4  May 2018 to submit your entry form together with at least one photo of the completed hedge and if possible a photo of the hedge before work took place. For further information or an entry form please ring us on 01398 323665 or email”

The Exmoor Hedge Competition is being run by Exmoor National Park Authority and again has been possible through the generous sponsorship of the Exmoor Trust.


Somerset Wildlife Trust is pleased to present the return of its successful Somerset Nature Reserves Fund. Launched in 2016, the Fund was established to raise money to safeguard some of Somerset’s most iconic landscapes and precious wildlife, and has already helped achieve some enormous gains for wildlife across the county. The Trust hopes that this year it will be able to do the same with the help and support of wildlife lovers across Somerset who will hopefully kindly donate this year.

Tim Youngs, Director of Land Management, explained, “In Somerset we are incredibly lucky to have some amazing habitats from internationally renowned wetlands and ancient woodland, to species-rich grassland and magnificent meadows, each requiring specific conservation programmes in order for the unique biodiversity to not only survive, but thrive.

“Our nature reserves within these special places are the bedrock upon which we are able to deliver critical conservation work and, to ensure these special places are kept healthy, an incredible amount of planning and resource is involved – our reserves cost nearly £2,000 a day to maintain, which is a significant outlay.  As the seasons and weather change, we have to continually adjust and fine-tune our work and habitat programmes, such as grazing management – with the failure to provide the necessary feeding and breeding grounds at certain times potentially having detrimental consequences for species the following year.

“Having extra funds not only means that we can continue with our practical conservation work on our reserves, but helps us to be prepared for what the future may hold. We will be able to respond faster and provide on the ground solutions when we are faced with unforeseen challenges – such as ash dieback.”

The Fund last year supported some amazing results for wildlife and was critical in conserving habitats for populations of some of Somerset’s most charismatic wildlife, from otters to dormice. The county is now the stronghold for Bittern, with five booming males recorded last year on Somerset Wildlife Trust’s National Nature Reserve Westhay Moor, thanks to the restoration of their reedbed habitat. And the Trust’s Green Down Reserve now holds 36% of the UK population of Large Blue Butterfly.

Katie Arber, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Director of Fundraising and Marketing, added, “It is very clear from the response we received last year that Somerset Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves are held dear by many people. Somerset’s wildlife is part of what makes living, working and visiting the county so special. Our members and supporters have been always been generous and we hope that they will give what they can again for what is a very important fundraising initiative for the Trust.  We also hope the wider public and local businesses who value their green spaces, and understand and appreciate their value in their lives, will support the Fund and help us ensure Somerset remains a wildlife rich county.”

For more information on the Fund and some examples of where monies raised will be spent, please visit Somerset Wildlife Trust’s website:

Any gift given to The Somerset Nature Reserves Fund will go directly to wherever the need is greatest on Somerset Wildlife nature reserves, ensuring that they are kept in the best possible condition to support wildlife and our conservation goals.  You can donate securely by card on our website (link above) or by telephoning 01823 652429. Every donation, whatever the size, will make a difference.

PHOTO: Hazel dormouse by James Maben.


More than a one and a half kilometres of dense rhododendron has been cleared from Glenthorne to Wingate Combe on the South West Coast Path, thanks to a partnership between Exmoor National Park and the South West Coast Path Association.

The work was undertaken by Mike Bowden from Lyn Valley Contractors and it took a five-man team seven days to clear the rhododendron, which in three places had formed large tunnels along an important stretch of the Coast Path.

National Park Ranger Adam Vasey said: “We’re working hard, in partnership with the South West Coast Path Association and local landowners, to improve long stretches of the Coast Path.  This section of path was heavily overgrown with rhododendron, making it difficult for our maintenance teams to keep it open.  By clearing back one and half kilometres of dense growth we’ve opened up sea views and widened the path, making it more accessible.

“We are grateful to the South West Coast Path Association for sharing the cost of this work and look forward to further joint working in the future.”



Exmoor National Park Authority and South West Water are offering grants of up to £4,000 for projects that will benefit water quality in the upper reaches of the River Exe catchment. A total of £250,000 is available in grant funding from the two organisations between now and 2020 as part of the Headwaters of the Exe project.

Through the Project, funding is available for work that will improve water quality in the catchment, such as improvements in yard infrastructure or the provision of alternative water supplies to enable farmers to keep livestock away from watercourses at key times of year. For instance, £37.20 is available per square metre for covering manure stores, £16.28 is available per square metre for renewed concrete yards, or £66.00 is available for each new livestock drinking trough

Bea Davis, Headwaters of the Exe project manager, said, “Grants are available to all those who receive advisory visits through the Headwaters of the Exe project. If you are interested in receiving a visit and a grant please contact Adam Lockyear, lead farm advisor for the Headwaters of the Exe project, on or 01823 660684.”

The Headwaters of the Exe project is funded by South West Water and Exmoor National Park Authority, working in partnership with organisations including the Exmoor Hill Farming Network and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West. The project forms part of South West Water’s innovative Upstream Thinking programme. For further details on the Headwaters of the Exe project please contact project manager Bea Davis on or 01398 322278 or take a look at the project webpage on>

PHOTO by Steve Guscott


The Somerset Hedge Group is delighted to offer a great opportunity to gain training in traditional hedgelaying, FOR FREE!

Set within the stunning Quantocks AONB, the one-day course, led by qualified trainers, is being held on two dates – Saturday 24 September near Fiddington and Saturday 8 October near Crowcombe Heathfield.

Funded by West Somerset Council’s Land Management & Skills Scheme, the training days are open to anyone who would like to learn about and develop hedgelaying skills.

Heather Harley, Chair of the Somerset Hedge Group, said, “We are delighted to offer this exciting opportunity for skilled, professional hedgelayers to pass on their knowledge to farmers, landowners, students, conservation volunteers or anyone who would like to receive training in this traditional craft.

“We particularly welcome younger people, the hedgelayers of the future. In fact, this training can also be used to contribute to the Federation of Young Farmers Club’s Skills for Life Award.

“The training days will culminate in the opportunity for participants to put their training into practice by entering our hedge laying competition which will be held in November. This will be a superb opportunity to meet other hedge layers, both novice and experienced in the beautiful Quantocks landscape.”

Booking is essential to guarantee a space. To book, please contact Tony Serjeant on 01823 358143 or For more information ring George Pidgeon on 07970 644631.


Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) has just launched its Somerset’s Brilliant Coast appeal which aims to deliver vital funds to explore and better understand the county’s coastline in order to protect its diverse habitats and wealth of species that are facing many threats – the need for reinforced coastal flood defenses, tidal and nuclear energy generation and the conversion of coastal habitats for development to name just a few.

Contrary to what might be the public perception, Somerset’s 73km coastline is an extraordinarily diverse place, rich in habitats, wildlife, world-class geology and historical heritage. However, little is known about our coastal wildlife and, coupled with increased development pressures, this lack of awareness could lead to poor decision-making for its future, which may have irreversible consequences for wildlife further across the county.

Based on a successful pilot year of activity along the coast, Somerset Wildlife Trust has been able to develop a conservation plan for Somerset’s Coast. A key part of this is developing the existing knowledge base of coastal wildlife by undertaking systematic surveys of some of our more difficult-to-reach-environments.  The Trust has received a contribution from the Peter De Haan Charitable Trust that will support this much-needed coastal wildlife survey work over the next three years, however it still needs £85,000 in funds to carry out the necessary surveys to increase the scientific evidence base on, and raise awareness of the importance of, Somerset’s coastal wildlife.

Michele Bowe, Director of Conservation at SWT, explains why the appeal is so important and hopes that the people of Somerset feel inspired to contribute to it:

“If you ask your neighbour what they know about Somerset’s coast, it is quite possible they may wonder if the county actually has one. Or they may proffer a terse description of a nuclear power station sandwiched between holiday parks, with little of interest in between. But if you take the time to look more carefully you’ll find a wealth of natural treasures, which are now in need of our urgent and long-term support.

“For many years Somerset’s coastline has been largely misunderstood, and its extreme ecological importance underappreciated. We are working hard to discover and spread awareness of the wealth of species, habitats and history that it hosts. We know that there are sharks, seals and thousands of migratory birds, but our knowledge of the intertidal zone is extremely limited. In the last year we have been carrying out exploratory surveys, including Somerset’s first dive survey in more than 30 years. Even with this limited effort we found that our coast is home to the stalked jellyfish – a new species for Somerset and one of national conservation importance.

“It is vital that we gain more funds for our research and survey, as all the information that we gather is essential in developing an evidence base that will assist with the long-term protection of the county’s coastline, by empowering local landowners, authorities and developers to make more informed decisions about the future of our coast.  We know the appeal target is ambitious, but it is one we are very focussed on achieving, and hope that the enthusiasm and interest we have experienced so far will also encourage people to donate generously.”

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Somerset’s Brilliant Coast Appeal hopes to gain support from existing Trust members, conservations enthusiasts, and the wider public whether their passion is the county’s iconic wildlife, its diverse habitats or the world-class geology that underpins our fantastically varied landscape.

For more information on the Appeal and some examples of where monies raised will be spent, please visit Somerset Wildlife Trust’s website:

Any gift given to Somerset’s Brilliant Coast Appeal will go directly to helping SWT carryout critical survey work along the coast and supporting the wildlife here and throughout the county.
You can also donate securely by card on our website at or by telephoning 01823 652429. Every donation, whatever the size, will make a difference.

PHOTO: Dunlin by Tom Marshall.


The Exmoor Knotweed Control Project has achieved tremendous success in controlling the spread of Japanese and Himalayan knotweed in some of Exmoor’s most beautiful river valleys such as the Exe, Lyn and Heddon. The project, which comprises a partnership of the Environment Agency, the National Trust, Natural England and Exmoor National Park Authority, now has over 1,100 sites recorded on Exmoor and each year it treats or monitors all sites where landowners have given consent. Without this treatment not only many of Exmoor’s rivers and streams but also woodlands, farmland, hedgebanks and gardens would be ravaged by these aggressive non-native plants.

Japanese knotweed
Japanese knotweed

Owning a property where knotweed is present can be a real problem and new government legislation means that people who do not control the spread of knotweed could now face fines of up to £2,500 or receive anti-social behaviour orders for failing to control it. Knotweed’s stout rhizomes are notorious for pushing through tarmac, building foundations and even drains, causing significant damage. This can have implications for selling properties and obtaining mortgages.

For over ten years the project has been treating sites across the National Park using a professional, qualified contractor. Offering this level of service and being able to treat sites in such a co-ordinated way makes the project unique. Each year the project’s partners have donated money to enable this work to be carried out free of charge.

In these difficult financial times the project cannot carry on with this level of contributions, so this year ENPA have launched a Knotweed Appeal and they are asking landowners to help control the knotweed on their land by making a small donation towards the cost of carrying out the work. As the project covers a large number of sites across Exmoor it can offer economies of scale which allows it to treat sites at a very much reduced price. The Authority hopes that these valuable contributions will allow the project to continue its important work for many years into the future.

TOP PHOTO: Spraying Himalayan knotweed.


A willing band of volunteers who work to protect communities across West Somerset from flooding has scooped a top award.

West Somerset Flood Group, set up just two years ago, won the Prince of Wales Award for their tireless work in harnessing community effort and making a practical difference in the district.

Presented by the Royal Bath and West of England Society and the Duchy of Cornwall, the award recognises community groups who have made a difference to their communities in an innovative and sustainable way.

West Somerset Flood Group is made up of 14 towns and parishes and one local flood group who work to make their communities safer from flooding.

Representatives from the group attended the award ceremony at the Royal Bath and West Show along with the four other finalists from across the region – and learning they had won was a complete surprise.

The group was delighted to receive a cut-glass vase, a certificate signed by the Prince of Wales and a cheque for £1,000. Judges were Sarah Bird (Duchy of Cornwall), Rupert Cox (Chief Executive, Bath and West) and Cathy Nicholls (Exmoor Community Youth Club). The club – again West Somerset-based – won the award last year

Dr Teresa Bridgeman, secretary of the flood group, said: “This award recognises the hard work of all the flood volunteers across West Somerset who protect their communities in a very unglamorous way.

“There is not much that is cuddly or heart-warming about clearing gullies and ditches in the rain or lugging sandbags, but our volunteers are out doing it just the same. The award also recognises the towns and parishes who have been prepared to roll up their sleeves and get on with planning for emergencies and who are speaking out for the communities of West Somerset.

“The group is very grateful to the Royal Bath and West of England Society and to the Duchy of Cornwall for presenting us with this award but we would also like to say thank you to our local risk management authorities and colleagues on the District Flood Board for taking the time to listen to what we have to say and for responding so positively.”

The judges had met 22 volunteers from the flood group at Williton Fire Station last month and were told about the work the volunteers are doing for their local communities across the district.

In the past two years the group has become a voice for West Somerset, providing a bridge between local communities and the authorities. It represents towns and parishes on the District Flood Board, which it helped create, bringing together communities and experts to discuss local issues and to plan funding applications to bodies such as the Somerset Rivers Authority.

The group has already brought hundreds of thousands of pounds of funding into West Somerset for road drainage improvements, river maintenance and property level protection.

Currently, members are working on closer liaison with the emergency services and on a catchment management project with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West. Catchment management is already a focus for the Royal Bath and West of England Society which has been the driving force in setting up the Hills to Levels project.

Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew, Leader of West Somerset Council, said he was delighted the flood group had won such prestigious recognition: “This is a tremendous achievement and just reward for the extraordinary amount of work carried out by volunteers. They are true pioneers, setting an example that could and should be followed across the country.”

 PHOTO: Pictured at the award presentation are (from left): Doug Human (flood volunteer from Williton); Michael Eavis (President of the Royal Bath and West of England Society), Teresa Bridgeman (founder and secretary of the West Somerset Flood Group),  Sarah Bird (assistant land steward, Duchy of Cornwall, judge) Alistair Martin (Secretary and Keeper of the Records for the Duchy of Cornwall). Photo courtesy of the Royal Bath & West.