Crowdy Marsh Restored for Wildlife

Crowdy Marsh, a South West Water reservoir site, managed by regional charity South West Lakes Trust, provides a vitally important refuge for a range of wildlife including birds, dragonflies, butterflies and a diverse assemblage of plants including Butterwort and Bogbean. The wet conditions, alongside the seasonal cattle grazing by the Davidstow Moor Commoners Association, provides the particular conditions favoured by many of the animals and plants found here.

As part of a joint South West Lakes Trust and South West Water programme focussing on wildlife and habitat restoration on South West Water’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the ditches in the peat at Crowdy Marsh have been blocked up. Crowdy Marsh was designated as a SSSI in 1951 and latterly as a Special Area of Conservation in 2005 in recognition of its exceptional nature conservation and ecological value.

Historic ditches and channels are some of the many remnants from the past that remain here, which have dried out the peat; for grazing or enabling forestry. These channels and ditches have been draining away the water within the marsh and peat soil thus reducing the quality of the mire for wildlife which are dependent on wet conditions.

In order to allow the ditches and marsh to hold water for longer, South West Water’s Peatland restoration team, who also lead the Exmoor Mires Partnership, have used novel techniques, including the use of an amphibious excavator, to carefully place timber and peat into the ditches. This will help create more opportunities for wildlife to breed, find shelter and food. It may also have additional benefits such as reducing the erosion of peat and enable the continuation of peat formation and carbon storage.

This project was funded by Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and the South West Water / South West Lakes Trust Sites of Special Scientific Interest Programme.

The key objective of this programme is to maintain or change the existing condition of the important SSSI habitats within South West Water’s ownership at Crowdy Marsh, Countess Wear, Lopwell Dam and Dendles Wood into favourable conservation status by 2020 and help achieve South West Water’s goal of ensuring that 100% of its SSSIs are in favourable condition by 2020.

James Parkin, Natural Environment Officer for South West Lakes Trust, said “The survival of vulnerable and declining species is dependent on the presence of multiple sites which are well managed and in good condition. The ditch blocking will help restore habitat condition at Crowdy and thus benefit a range of species.”

Morag Angus, South West Water’s Exmoor Mires Partnership Manager who oversaw the work, said “Carrying out this peatland restoration has been an amazing opportunity. Not only does it help to preserve a habitat for future generations to enjoy, it also helps to improve the water stored on the site and the quality of the water entering into Crowdy Reservoir. The peatland habitat is also an archaeologically rich area and by keeping this area wetter we are helping to preserve that history whilst adding to the story.”

Clare Fitzgibbon from Natural England said “The careful way in which the ditch blocking work has been carried out by the restoration team has been key to the success of this project, on such a sensitive site. This work will help to provide excellent habitat for a wide range of wildlife in the mire.”

Walking is welcomed year-round from the free South West Lakes Trust car park on the western side of the reservoir from grid reference (SX 13887 83338). For the purposes of protecting ground nesting birds from disturbance, we kindly request that you do not access Crowdy Marsh SSSI (on the eastern side of the reservoir) between March and July.

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