Like 2020, 2021 was another strange year for us all – although, thankfully, we were able to run more events and hold more volunteering opportunities. Here are our highlights of 2021 from Emma Scotney, Lisa Tame, Deborah Deveney, Sammy Brisdon, Rick Lockwood and James Fantom.

Emma Scotney, Ecologist

I was out and about over Devon, Cornwall and Somerset over the summer to look for habitats and species of principal importance. I did a lot of driving, walking and note taking but most of all enjoyed my time outdoors with nature.

I’ve done bird surveys, plant and habitats surveys, reptile surveys, butterfly surveys, moth surveys…you name it!

The highlight for me in 2021 was at Tamar Lakes in North Cornwall, or Devon, depending on where you are standing. I did 17 reptile surveys and found seven grass snakes, five common lizards, two harvest mouse nests, two field vole nest and a common shrew. My first experience with the grass snake in April was filled with pure shock and excitement and I didn’t expect it to stay still for a photo, but it did so here is my first ever grass snake!

Lisa Tame, Environment and Engagement Director

2021 was another interesting year full of challenges but also lots of highlights. We welcomed new team members to deliver funded projects, we secured the funds to upgrade our play space at Roadford Lake, our Friends of South West Lakes has grown from strength to strength and is supporting the valuable environmental and engagement work the team delivers across the region. I could go on, however for me the highlight of the year was the completion of two projects which actually commenced literally weeks before the first 2020 lockdown. With huge challenges of working remotely we did eventually manage to re-open the revamped visitor centre and water wise garden at Roadford Lake in July. 

The visitor centre and garden both focus on water sustainability, how we use water in our own lives, why we need to conserve water and how as individual households we can do this. I am absolutely delighted with the end result; the visitor centre is bright and vibrant, appealing to all ages of visitor, whilst the garden transformed an underused area of amenity grassland into a stunning two tiered space with an array of flowers and plants topped off with artefacts from a cider press at Lower Goodacre Farm on the opposite side of the lake. The garden was a labour of love and it is with so many thanks to some dedicated volunteers for their time weeding and planting that it looks so fantastic. We’ve just planted about 3,000 bulbs and I am I very much looking forward to seeing the garden in spring 2022!

Deborah Deveney, Biodiversity Officer

2021 was a whirlwind of species surveys starting in February with frost on the ground looking for willow tit and lesser spotted woodpecker and finishing in December with nibbled hazelnut searches to provide evidence of dormice presence.

Several contractors and local recording groups have joined us to carry out specialist species surveys focussing on lichens, beetles, spiders, flies and woodland birds. Enormous thanks to all the volunteers who have helped me with butterfly, dormice, moth, reptile, harvest mice dragonfly and deadwood surveys.

As I hunker down over the winter months and try to pull all this data together, I will fondly remember the fantastic opportunity of moth trapping with Graham from Devon Moth Group and thank him for sharing his knowledge with me. I haven’t counted the number of different species we recorded yet but just seeing the variety of colourful moths we have at Burrator has inspired me to purchase my own moth trap for the garden!

Sammy Brisdon, Environment and Engagement Ranger – I Love Water

Hi, my name is Sammy and I am the I Love Water Ranger, linking water conservation, efficiency and fun together. I started in August 2021 and I am so thrilled to be in my new role.

We did many things over late summer, autumn and winter such as family activity days focusing on invasive species and learning how to use woodwork tools all the while thinking about water. My fantastic Roadford Lake volunteers have helped me weed and bulb the water garden and hopefully we should start to see some flowers emerge in spring.

I have had the pleasure of working with many different school groups and community groups as well as working with the NCS (National Citizen Service) where we looked at direct and indirect water footprint. If anyone fancies it the site is here (it will ask you for your state, put Oregon as it is closest in size to the UK).

I hope to work with more of you in the New Year!

Rick Lockwood, Connecting Communities Lead

I joined South West Lakes at the beginning of November as the Connecting Communities Project Lead. This exciting project is funded through the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and will run until March 2023. The aim is to train three 18 to 25-year-olds as Environment and Engagement Rangers, helping them to forge future careers in the environment sector.

The trainees will initially shadow other staff within the Environment and Engagement Team until they have gained some skills and experience and will then reach out to and engage with community organisations close to Tamar Lakes (where the project will be based), Stithians Lake and Wistlandpound reservoir. The project is looking to connect with those sectors that find it more difficult to access the natural spaces close to them and that would benefit most from taking part in activities that would be of benefit to their physical and mental wellbeing.

In the short time I have been here I have been getting to know the places where the project will work and discovering what is special about them with the help of site rangers. During a day out at Tamar with Emma Scotney I also learnt more about the endangered dormouse and willow tit. I’ve been tree-planting at Argal Reservoir with Jeremy Fielden and volunteers from the Upstream Thinking project.

The Connecting Communities Project will begin in earnest now we have recruited the trainees and I am looking forward to working with them in what promises to be an exciting year ahead.

James Fantom, Invasive Species Officer

Hi there, I am James Fantom, the new Invasive Species Officer. I joined in early July 2021, making a big move from St Helena Island, where I was living and working managing a Defra-funded invasive species project. When I got here, there was a lot to learn! Not just about the natural life of England and the geography but about the organisation, other organisations, anglers, sailors, and of course the volunteers. I spent much of the first couple of months soaking it all in. We have a few new Site Guardians signed up and roaming our sites monitoring for invasive species which is amazing. I really am blown away by the level of commitment levels of the volunteers.

So far, the work has been incredibly varied! I’ve had my fingers in many different pies, so to speak, ranging from attending angling competitions to teaching school classes, and crayfish trapping to even doing a spot of perch fishing (rather unsuccessfully). A highlight of my time so far was in August we opened the Roadford Lake washdown facility, a permanent biosecurity boat wash that allows boaters at Roadford Lake wash their boats off before and after using the lake, preventing the accidental spread of invasive species. This great achievement set up by my predecessors is the first of its kind. We are currently monitoring and assessing its usage and taking away lessons from it.

Another highlight has been the engagement with school groups about invasive species and the environment. It is amazing to watch kids learn and soak up the information; their enthusiasm is unrivalled! I wish all of my audiences were that receptive and interested.


We would love to hear if you are discovering any exciting wildlife of your own at our lakes. If you do and want to share this with us and local record centres then please email: [email protected]. Please include a date, location (a site name, grid reference or What3Words) and a picture if you have taken one and any other information. This will help us to build a bigger picture of the wildlife using our sites and will help to inform habitat management.