Creating wetlands at Cotehele
During 2021 the team at Cotehele created a new intertidal habitat at Cotehele Quay to improve the area’s resilience to the changing climate and provide a richer environment for both people and nature.
Why did we create a new wetland?
Before the wetland area was created, the field next to the Cotehele Quay car park was low grade farmland and was used for grazing cattle. The field was originally part of the main river until 1880s when an enclosing embankment was built to constrain the river and make it navigable for larger vessels. Rising river levels and the degrading bank meant that the field and Cotehele Quay were prone to uncontrolled flooding.
Working in partnership with the Environment Agency and supported by Natural England, we worked with nature to create a new intertidal habitat in a place where it was unsustainable and costly to continue repairing flood banks. Returning the farmland to the River Tamar, also provides space for a diverse array of wildlife to thrive, and protects the car park from flooding.
What did we do?
To create the wetlands at Cotehele Quay, three trenches were dug into the ground to help bring tidal waters further into the field. A new embankment was also built to form a boundary between the car park and the wetland area.
In September 2021, a 15-metre breach was made in the bank, allowing the River Tamar to flood the farmland behind for the first time in over 140 years and to create our new intertidal habitat.
Why are wetlands important?
Wetlands are vital for resident and migratory birds, providing a safe haven for them to nest and find food. Waders can often be seen at low tide, picking invertebrates from the silt, and waiting for fish to come in as the water returns. Many migratory birds travel long distances and rely on a network of wetlands and intertidal habitats to enable them to rest and feed on their journey.
Plants, such as reeds and rushes will flourish in wetland areas, providing cover for wildlife and reducing erosion, due to their roots holding soil in place against the tide. Some of these plants rarely grow in other habitats; Triangular Club Rush, known locally as Tamar Tiger grows by Cotehele bridge and has been reintroduced in the intertidal area. Once abundant in rivers, this is now one of the only places it can be found.
Fighting climate change
By creating space for the tide to ebb and flow and land to soak up and store water, this project, along with others in the Tamar Valley will work to alleviate the impact of rising sea levels and coastal squeeze which causes the loss of these wetland and tidal habitats. Wetlands are fantastic for storing and absorbing carbon and greenhouse gases; even more so than rainforests. Our Rangers regularly monitor how much carbon is being captured within this wetland at Cotehele Quay.
Wetland habitats also improve the water quality by trapping sediment and naturally filtering out pollutants. Helping to improve the health of the Tamar by cleaning the river of unwanted nutrients which are present due to industry and farming in the valley.
New accessible viewing platform
This autumn we’re building an accessible viewing platform to provide everyone who visits Cotehele with the opportunity to get closer to the nature that is flourishing at the intertidal section of the river Tamar. The platform will provide unparalleled view of the wetland area and some of the wildlife that calls this section of the river home.
Feasibility study at Haye Marsh
We have commissioned a feasibility study to explore the best options for the future management of a 17 hectare piece of land we look after at Haye Marsh.
Following the success of the Cotehele intertidal site and other similar projects in the Tamar Valley, the study will look at how this area could be improved to help make it more resilient to climate change and for wildlife.
No decisions have been made. At this stage we are working with our partners Natural England and the Environment Agency to gather information and we will be having discussions with the local community, our tenants and neighbours to help us understand the best options for the future.
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With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Environmental Agency is a public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, working to create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development.
The team at Cotehele work hard to protect the wildlife that call the estate home, including dormice and bats, as well as maintaining their habitats to encourage population growth.
Cotehele relies on its dedicated gardeners and volunteers to care for the estate’s orchards, protecting them for the future and allowing resident wildlife to thrive.
There's lots to discover at the Cotehele estate. Miles of pathways lead you through ancient woodland, past a historic chapel, and to an important Victorian quay.
Uncover centuries of Cotehele’s history, from a medieval home, developed after the Battle of Bosworth to a family estate given to the National Trust after the Second World War.
We believe that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. That’s why we’re supporting wildlife, protecting historic sites and more. Find out about our work.
Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.
Find out more about the funding the National Trust receives from grants, and the projects it has helped support.