Thousands of trees planted in Devon to improve water quality

Group of people who have been packing trees
Image caption,Tens of thousands of trees will be planted on 60 farms around Devon

By Johanna Carr

BBC News

More than 40,000 saplings are being planted on land near eight river catchments in Devon.

It is part of a long-running project, called Upstream Thinking, to improve water quality.

South West Water, which is leading the project, said the trees would reduce run-off into watercourses.

The latest trees will be delivered to about 60 farms, taking the number of trees planted as part of the scheme across the region to 260,000.

The trees were provided by the Woodland Trust and will be delivered and planted by Upstream Thinking partners Devon Wildlife Trust.

They include native tree species such as blackthorn, hazel and oak.

Tom Edwards, from Devon Wildlife Trust, said the trees were planted strategically.

“If we’ve got a hedgerow along a contour then we’re just breaking up that water pathway so any nutrients or soil erosion that’s happening above the hedgerow or planted woodland then that’s going to be intercepted before it gets to a watercourse,” he said.

Two men and a woman standing in field
Image caption,Landowner Jonathan Morris with South West Water’s Carolyn Cadman and Tom Edwards from Devon Wildlife Trust

Landowner Jonathan Morris has previously taken part in the project and has been working to improve the biodiversity of his land.

His 600 trees were planted to create a 100m (328ft) hedge in one of his sloping fields, which overlooks Roadford Reservoir.

He said: “This is a very young hedge. If you come back in four or five years’ time I’m sure there will be a lot more birds in this hedge.”

He said they had noticed species in the hedge that were not anywhere else, adding there was “stuff happening but it’s going to take time”.

Trees ready to be sorted and packed
Image caption,The trees are native species including blackthorn, hazel and oak

Carolyn Cadman, South West Water’s director of natural resources, said Upstream Thinking had brought a number of benefits.

She said: “Firstly water quality is enhanced in the reservoirs so we don’t have to use so many treatment processes and chemicals to make the water safe for drinking, but there’s other benefits too – so there’s wildlife benefits, there’s water resources benefits, so the amount of water that is kept in the landscape, which is better for the environment too.”

She said the project would continue to expand.

By 2025, South West Water plans to have planted 300,000 trees and hopes Upstream Thinking will provide benefits to 146,500 hectares of land by 2030.

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