A LANDSCAPE recovery project in Devon has received £750,000 from Defra.

Clinton Devon Estates, a family business that owns and manages 25,000 acres across Devon, has launched the Heaths to Sea: Landscape recovery of the Lower Otter Valley project. 

Kirstie Ellis has been appointed project manager and will lead the two-year development phase of the project. 

The development plans will then be assessed by Defra, and if approved, the project will move to the implementation phase - which means the planting of more woodland, an expansion of wildlife-rich wetland, mitigation of the impact of climate change and improved access to the countryside.

The project will include: 

  • Engaging with local people, neighbouring landowners and other stakeholders to agree landscape priorities.
  • Considering what actions are feasible and achievable.
  • Assessing what the delivery of the project will cost – and identifying sources of private, as well as public funding.
  • Producing a fully costed plan for Government outlining what the gains for nature and society will be in the long-term.

It will cover around 5,000 hectares of East Devon, including the Pebblebed Heaths National Nature Reserve. 

Kirstie previously worked for the RSPB as Cloud Forest Project manager on St Helena - a British Overseases Territory in the South Atlantic. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity in my home county,” she said.

“I have been in Devon for six or seven years. I grew up in Dorset and I love the South West. I was aware of the Government plans for Landscape Recovery and when I worked for Devon County Council, I came across Clinton Devon Estates and their environmental work.

“One of the interesting things about the Cloud Forest Project was how positive and engaged the local community are. 

“That interest in the local landscape and how it is used is shared here and we are looking forward to having a similar dialogue on all aspects of land use in East Devon. Although this scheme has a focus on nature recovery, it is not about stopping food production; we believe that nature recovery and agriculture can and indeed must co-exist.”

Dr Sam Bridgewater, Clinton Devon Estates' director of environment strategy and evidence, said the project is a natural progression from the ten-year Lower Otter Restoration Project, which restored the flood plain of the Otter estuary. 

Heaths to Sea: Landscape Recovery of the Lower Otter Valley is one of 34 projects across England to share in a £25million investment from Defra.