Our work at Watersmeet
It's all part of our Ranger Team’s daily work, but we thought you might be interested to find out about some of the tasks they’ve been undertaking at Watersmeet over the last few years. From woodland management to preserving Iron Age hillforts, our work is important and ongoing, and we’re always on the lookout for volunteers to help out – contact details at the bottom for anyone who’d like to apply.
We've been working on a huge programme of rhododendron control to allow the natural ground plants, and some rarer species like Irish spurge, to flourish. The rare whitebeam tree also grows in the valley, so special care has been taken to create nearby glades to give it the light to flourish.
Footpath work for visitor access
With about 70 miles of footpaths to care for, a lot of our time during summer is spent maintaining them. Every mile has to be strimmed and some paths need to be levelled to combat erosion and improve access.
Repairs also have to be made to gates, benches, signposts and steps along the paths. This work is often only made possible with the assistance of numerous volunteer groups.
The main road above the Watersmeet Valley contains vast outcrops of geologically important rocks. These make the valley look spectacular, but also need to be carefully monitored to ensure that they are safe.
As well as being constantly monitored by Rangers there is also a major survey carried out each year. Following the survey we may remove trees, topple rocks to a safe place or add netting and pins to secure and stabilise some rocks.
Every year we undertake the historic practice of ‘swaling’. This is where an area of the moor is deliberately set on fire to control the growth of gorse and to allow the heather a chance to grow.
This is important work as good-quality coastal heathland is rare. It’s a challenging task as it can only be done in late winter when the weather is suitable.
Preservation of hillforts
This area has four Iron Age hillforts which are of historical importance. We have carried out survey work to establish the forts' history and to preserve them for the future.
Our management involves cutting grass, but more importantly cutting bracken as the roots can damage the archaeological features.
The National Trust cares for 55 per cent of the Exmoor coastline which lies within Exmoor National Park, stretching from Watersmeet and Countisbury in Devon to Somerset's sweeping Holnicote estate in the east of the national park.
The changing climate is an important issue for us, as it has an impact on plants. Up to 75 per cent of heather has been lost on the hills at the Holnicote estate due to a combination of summer drought and damage from the heather beetle, which is able to thrive due to warmer winters.
Our ongoing aim is to reverse the decline of nature on Exmoor and the surrounding area by improving the land, encouraging sustainable farming and working with local people and partners to create more wildlife-friendly ecosystems.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Discover more about Watersmeet, once a romantic retreat and fishing lodge and a popular tea-room since the early 1900s.
From fishing to canoeing, there's an outdoor adventure to suit everyone at Watersmeet. Take a walk through ancient woodland or along the banks of the river.
After a walk or a spot of canoeing, grab a bite to eat or a drink at Watersmeet tea-room. You can also pick up a pre-loved treasure from the second-hand bookshop.
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.