Our Woodlands for Water (W4W) team have good reason to celebrate since completing their first planting site in the Westcountry.
The ambitions of the W4W project are to restore and protect ‘lost’ wetland and riparian habitat, as a means of improving river health. In this instance they have achieved just that, with 2ha of woodland creation, around 1600 trees planted and five leaky dams installed. All of which are so far having the desired effects on the waterways and surrounding environment.
Deriving from its proximity to the River Deer, the new planting site has been named the ‘Deer Meadows.’ A beautiful name for a beautiful site, described by our Natural Capital Advisor, Nick Donohue as having “a lovely naturalised river” alongside “a great mosaic of habitats”.
The project links small wood blocks along the River Deer, significantly expanding woodland habitat and its connectivity. The woodland design will create dappled shade on the river, mitigating excess heat while maintaining optimum light levels for in-river habitats. It also enhances the existing mosaic of habitats: productive grassland, marshy grassland, hedgerows, small wood blocks and the river.
The five leaky dams were installed on a shallow watercourse (a tributary of the River Deer), which will expand adjacent marshy grassland, help mitigate peak flows during rain fall, and trap sediment that would have otherwise reached the river.
This project has taught the W4W team many valuable lessons that they can take forwards to future planting sites. Primarily, they have learnt of the complexity of riparian design and how best to balance optimum densities. As implied, ‘Deer Meadows’ needed deer-proofing, so the team had the added task of protecting the trees while minimising the use of plastic guards and fencing in a floodplain.
The value of engaging with landowners, from conception to planting and beyond, has been another lesson learnt on this journey. Nick Donohue has been integral to the project and naturally formed a strong relationship with landowners Louise and Derek Ching, guiding them through the many obstacles of executing a large restoration project. The Ching’s are thrilled with the outcome and sing Nick’s praises regarding his efforts and expertise into the project, stating that “Nick’s outstanding contribution has gone far beyond simply doing his day job” and that their “whole experience of his work can only be praised as exemplary”.
A massive thank you to Louise and Derek, who own the land at Lower Chasty, where the works were completed, for allowing access to their estate and cooperating fully throughout the project, which started back in May 2022.
With their generous offer of assisting with any future woodland development monitoring at Deer Meadows, we hope to see great ecological gain from this site and cannot wait to see how it all grows.
This project is supported by DEFRA and carried out as a part of the ‘Riverscapes’ Partnership. Project partners include: the Rivers Trust, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, the Beaver Trust, Forestry England, the Environment Agency, Natural England and Cornwall Council.