Meet Neil Reeves

Hi Everyone,
I would just like to introduce myself. My name is Neil Reeves and I am the Countryside and Angling Manager (Devon) for South West Lakes Trust and I am responsible for the day to day management of Burrator Reservoir. I manage public access, conservation work, education and informal recreation across 13 reservoirs in the Dartmoor/ Devon region. I manage a team of five wardens and Emily… whom I’m sure many of you have met at the Discovery Centre.

I grew up in Staffordshire in the eighties and I spent the majority of my childhood fishing on the canals and rivers, climbing trees and falling out of trees, which is where my love affair with British wildlife began.  After studying Environmental Science at Plymouth University in the late nineties I decided that the South West was the place for me – moors, beaches and fantastic people, it has it all. I started working for South West Lakes in 2003 on a seasonal contract and I’m still here, which says a lot about this fantastic charity.

I currently live in Moretonhampstead with my wife and 3 children and it’s fair to say we are making the most of everything Dartmoor has to offer.

‘Burrator will always be a beautiful place. 5 years ago it was a beautiful place where lots of people came to do “what they’ve always done”, be that walk, cycle, ride or simply have an ice cream. This project has brought that beautiful place to life. It has brought people’s expectations to life, their experience to life and their imaginations to life. The wildlife, historic environment and cultural heritage are better protected for future generations. Most importantly, we have built a family, community, call it what you will. I think we call it “like minded individuals pulling together for benefit of place, purpose and people”. Thank you to all the volunteers that have helped us along the way.’

This was a quote that I wrote at the end of our recent Burrator Natural & Historic Environment project and I thought it was worth sharing with you all to understand what that project meant to me and the other staff involved.


Managing Burrator can be a challenge. A fantastically rewarding job, but a challenge none the less.

When I came to Burrator in 2004 the site looked a bit neglected, you couldn’t see Burrator Lodge through Rhododendron, we knew very little about the wildlife and history (let alone how to look after it), the fishery was struggling, the forest was in desperate need of management and people were doing whatever they wanted in contravention of almost every reservoir regulation written down by the landowner (South West Water). ‘This is Burrator. Can you please manage it? It’s only 2,500 hectares and, by the way, the fishing feast is next week!’ is what I was told on my first day here! “This is going to be interesting” I thought. Little did I know…..

It is worth remembering that whilst the “natural beauty” of Burrator is often quoted, there is very little that is natural about a man-made reservoir surrounded by a planted forest on land that had been altered dramatically through farming and the tin industry prior to the reservoir.  The modern Burrator is a fantastic and ultimately beautiful resource for the people of Plymouth (who built and gifted it to South West Water), locals, tourists and the flora and fauna to share, enjoy, learn from and respect.

In 2017 Burrator looks very different (cleaner, tidier, more user friendly and yes, we cut some trees down for very good reason), feels very different (brighter, safer, more welcoming, informative) and better managed (more staff, productive forest, improving fishery, events, parking, habitat management). We now know a huge amount about the history and wildlife of the place and as a result how to protect it for future generations. We have engaged a huge number of people in education and volunteering and people can actually learn something about the place via the Discovery Centre, leaflets, online, knowledgeable staff or give something back through volunteering.


During my time at Burrator I have also seen a huge exponential increase in visitor numbers to the area, both local and from further afield. 5 years ago the estimated figure was 250,000 p/a and it wouldn’t surprise me if that figure was now closer to 400,000 p/a. Fuelled by an increased knowledge and appreciation of wildlife and environment or the upsurge in outdoor recreation, I can only see this number increasing year on year. Burrator is a honey pot site and will only become a bigger pot in years to come.

If you would like to know more about our work at Burrator or get involved, please keep an eye on this blog, drop into the Discovery Centre or simply come and explore!


Replies for “Meet Neil Reeves”

  • simon stokes

    Hi Neil, i’m a keen angler and a huge fan of Burrator, whilst fishing last night 11/5/17 i netted a lovely blue trout, it caused quite a stir in landing it. i released it back into the water to find a crayfish in my net too. In all my years of fishing the rivers and reservoirs of SW lakes trust i have never come across any crayfish, it was an indigenous british cray, not our destructive american friend. i was wondering if you were aware of the presence of them in Burrator i also know they are protected and wondered if it was something you’d investigate/teach on your outward bound walks/talks. i have a pic of it if you’d like me to forward it.

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