A scheme to improve water quality and reduce flooding across parts of East Devon may benefit rare butterflies and birds at one of our sanctuaries. Learn more here.

Butterflies, birds and bats are three species that are integral to our ongoing wildlife monitoring programme, as they are important indicators of habitat quality across our sanctuaries. 

A wide range of farmland and woodland birds depend on hedges for food and safe places to nest and take shelter. Many species of bat, including the brown long-eared bat, also use them for commuting and foraging.

Our teams have planted more than 500 young hedge trees so far to help restore and extend hedgerows at our Woods Farm site near Sidmouth, East Devon.

The trees, a mix of native species including beech, rowan, hawthorn, blackthorn and spindle, were planted as part of the Upstream Thinking Project. The project aims to reduce sediment and water run-off at the site, which will, in turn, help reduce the risk of flooding across the catchment of the nearby River Otter.

South West Water funds The Upstream Thinking Project. It aims to improve water quality by providing grants and advice on measures for landowners and managers located within river catchments. The project’s partnership with the Woodland Trust enables them to provide free native trees.

Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT), a partner in the Upstream Thinking Project, kindly provided the trees.

Hedges can play an essential role in improving water quality and reducing flooding risk. Their presence can reduce the speed and amount of water running off the land following heavy rain and reduce sediment run-off.

The wildlife-friendly hedges will enrich the environment of the resident donkeys and provide a home to rare, threatened farmland birds such as linnet and yellowhammer. We also hope that it will provide habitat for the rare brown hairstreak butterfly.

Ruth Angell, Ecology and Conservation Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “We are very grateful to the Upstream Thinking project for helping us make these improvements. Hedges are a really important component of the landscape - visually, culturally and ecologically.

“We also think they are very important for our donkeys, as they give them shade, shelter and browse.”

David Rolls, Working Wetlands Advisory Officer/DWT, added: “We are delighted to be able to team up with The Donkey Sanctuary in this way on this important project.

“The provision of free trees is just one of the ways we are working with a range of landowners in the Otter catchment who are undertaking some really significant work in the local area. It’s all very positive.”