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Landscape Recovery Project at Killerton

A hazy photo of lilac dainty flowers in a meadow
Newly planted meadows are thriving at Killerton | © National Trust / KIND

The ‘Three Rivers’ Landscape Recovery Project aims to restore nature and the natural landscape at Killerton, with a focus on improving habitats for the future. It will provide even more areas of priority natural habitat on the 2,500-hectare estate, ensuring that the land achieves High Nature Status and Priority Habitat.

Building on success

The project is named ‘Three Rivers’ after the Clyst, Culm, and Cranny Brook Rivers which flow through the estate. We're aiming to restore nature and the natural landscape, with a focus on improving habitats for the future. The two-year development stage is already underway.

Killerton is one of only twenty-two places in the UK that have benefited from the DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Landscape Recovery Scheme. The estate has been awarded £541,000 to develop plans for nature recovery and build on the success of the award-winning Green Recovery Challenge fund work completed here in 2022. The conservation work delivered by the team at Killerton won the Countryside Management Association’s Gordon Miller Award for improvements made to habitats and the landscape.

Some bird species such as heron, little egret and kestrels have been reported thriving in the newly created wetland area that was part of the previous work, and the team are looking at plans to enhance the estate further for nature. We’ve also seen cirl bunting, one of Britain’s rarest birds, breed in hedges alongside new areas of wood pasture and breeding barn owl pairs have increased from just one to three on the estate.

Planning for the future

We aim to restore and create even more areas of priority natural habitat on the 2,500-hectare estate to benefit wildlife and nature, ensuring that the land achieves High Nature Status (meaning the majority of the landscape provides high quality habitat) and Priority Habitat. Priority Habitats are key to ensuring at-risk species are given space to thrive. There are areas of Priority Habitat at Killerton that require conservation action to maintain and improve their condition. This will be in addition to restoring and establishing carbon rich habitats. It will also include planting 600,000 trees, and planting 20km of hedgerows to help tackle climate change by increasing carbon storage and water quality. All of this work not only benefits the estate, but will be a major contributor to the National Trust’s ambition to tackle climate change.

Nature is regenerating

Improving the land quality across the estate will pave the way for more native species such as water voles, bats, butterflies and insects to thrive. Changes implemented through the previous Green Recovery Scheme project are becoming evident. Marbled white and brown argus butterflies have been recorded on the estate; these butterflies are associated with hay meadows. In the newly established and restored hay meadows across the estate, Oxeye daisies and yellow rattle are flowering. These hay meadows were created by sowing wild seed and ‘green hay’ sourced from nearby National Trust Knightshayes.

The wetland areas on the Culm floodplain are now harbouring dragonflies and frogs. The ancient trees on the estate have been given a boost by fencing their root zones, preventing damage from livestock. Barn owls are now regularly spotted on the estate due to a burgeoning field vole population.

A dark brown butterfly wit white marking feeding from a purple thistle
Marbled white butterflies have been spotted on the Killerton estate | © National Trust / Charlie the Volunteer Wildlife Photographer

The Killerton team are looking at plans to enhance the estate further for nature with the Landscape Recovery Scheme. In these two years of development time, a lot of work is going in to monitoring soils, water, and wildlife, to ensure any land management changes made will maximise benefits to all these things for generations to come.

We're working in partnership with the estate farm tenants as their knowledge and experience of the land is invaluable. Phillip Smart, General Manager at Killerton, said ‘We’re working together to ensure Killerton has a sustainable future. It’s important to us that we have a positive relationship with our tenant farmers, and we want to be supportive where we can. It is important that we help them put nature at the heart of managing the land whilst still running successful businesses and producing great food. The conservation work already undertaken across the estate over the last two years has made a significant impact on nature and wildlife in a relatively short space of time.”

Two volunteers  in a field planting hedging with protective tubes on the saplings
Hedge planting on the Killerton estate | © National Trust Images / Fi Hailstone
White background with green text logos for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency and  Natural England
The Landscape Recovery programme logo | © Landscape Recovery

Landscape Recovery development work

April 2024

What bugs will we find in the parkland?

You may have spotted one of these unusual-looking bottles on your walk at Killerton. They are part of a survey being undertaken over the next couple of months by Keith Alexander, a specialist on bugs that eat decaying wood; otherwise known as saproxylic invertebrates. The survey will give us a score for the parkland to see how significant the ancient and veteran tree population is for this habitat compared to other veteran tree sites such as Windsor Great Park. 

If you see one of these, please do not tamper with it - we're curious to see what the survey shows!

Plastic bottles in a tree that allow the team to survey bugs in the parkland
Bug survey in progress at Killerton | © Fi Hailstone

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Things to do on the estate at Killerton 

Explore the forests, orchards and parkland on the vast estate at Killerton and discover the creatures that live here, from Highland cows and dormice to bats and butterflies.

Volunteers and staff members carry out restoration planting on the grounds at Killerton, Devon

Volunteering at Killerton 

Killerton relies on more than 400 volunteers to carry out conservation work across its house and estate and is looking for more people to join its friendly and dedicated team.

A view of the bookshelves and table with the draped windows in the background, inside the Library at Killerton, Devon

Things to do in Killerton House 

Step inside and explore the country house residence of Sir Francis Acland, 14th Baronet, home of the Acland family from the late 17th century. The house is open daily.

Birds eye view of the kitchen garden project at Florence Court, County Fermanagh

Grants and funding 

Find out more about the funding the National Trust receives from grants, and the projects it has helped support.