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Landscape-scale conservation on West Exmoor

Coastal woodland, with a river running through and streams of sunlight breaking through the canopy
Coastal woodland on West Exmoor | © Dave Howes

Landscape-scale conservation, with its huge benefits for nature and wildlife, is a focus for our West Exmoor ranger team. Read on to find out about 3 of our current projects.

Tattiscombe, Near the Heddon Valley

The Tattiscombe project is a 50ha site. Since 2019, when the the area came under the care of the National Trust, the rangers have begun a large-scale rewetting project. Miles of stock fencing have been removed, thousands of trees have been planted and new ponds created.

Longhorn cattle and mangalitsa pigs have also been busy doing what they do best - creating a mess, which breaks up thich grasses and opens up the ground for new plants to grow.

As part of the work to re-wet the site, old land-drains (historically placed to dry wet fields making them suitable for grazing or growing crops) have also been dug up or broken to allow water to flow more freely as it would have done many years ago. Leaky dams have also been made to slow the flow of the water and encourage it to spill outwards to further help create wetlands.

The landscape is already looking completely different to just a few years ago and wildlife there is thriving. This will only continue to improve with time and soon this incredible site will become accessible to the public.

West Challacombe Farm, Combe Martin

The West Challacombe project is 580ha of land ranging from Combe Martin to Sherrycombe, coming back under the care of the ranger team this year (2023). While this project is very much in its infancy, that hasn’t stopped the Rangers and volunteers from getting stuck in. They are already making great strides.

Like the Tattiscombe project, this will also be a rewetting site; thousands of trees have been planted, including fruit trees that were planted with the help of some students at the local school; hundreds of metres of stock fencing has been removed and a new access point has been created.

There are many exciting plans with this site, with access for everyone to enjoy nature at its best staying in the heart of this project.

Kipscombe Farm, Countisbury

Another new project is at Kipscombe, near Lynmouth. Home to the West Exmoor herd of longhorn cattle and Exmoor ponies, this 350ha site has been carefully managed and grazed in previous years through short-duration, high-intensity grazing; known as mob grazing.

Mob grazing has been shown to improve soil microbiology and health, and is beneficial to wild flora and fauna too as all the plants in the area being grazed get nibbled - allowing a diverse range to thrive. It encourages improved soil microbiology, increases soil health, improves. The fields are then left undisturbed for weeks, sometimes even months which allows grasses and wildflowers a chance to flower and set seed. it also allows space for wildlife like birds, bees, and small mammals to make use of the space.

The Kipscombe Project began at the beginning of this year (2023) with a specific team of Rangers taking it on. They have already been busy removing hundreds of metres of stock fencing and planting thousands of trees.

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