It has been another busy year for our Environment team, with exciting conservation projects and new team members.
Here are our highlights of 2022 from Emma Scotney, James Fantom, Morwenna Moore, Rick Lockwood, David Lee and Tim Burton.

Emma Scotney, Ecologist
This year I have focused on the habitat management of our County Wildlife Sites in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. From my ecological surveys, in the last couple of years, I now know what management our habitats require to ensure they are in a good ecological condition. Our rangers and contractors will be instrumental in helping me achieve this. Our aim is to create and maintain more healthy habitats.
The highlight for me in 2022 was leading the Burrator Reservoir bat box checks with South West Water. We checked 120 bat boxes, once per month, between April and October. You can read more about what we found here. Offering my knowledge and new experiences to various people interested in wildlife is hugely rewarding. I also met lots of people interested in bats and wildlife and learnt a lot myself doing these surveys.

Photo by Kat Bray.

James Fantom, Invasive Species Officer
During 2022 I focused on number of things, but notably the increase of biosecurity awareness and biosecurity practice around our sites. I wrote a blog about it here. South West Lakes has installed a number of biosecurity facilities around the lakes for people to use to help reduce the spread of invasive species. I met a lot of people who use our sites regularly and it was a pleasure to work with them. As well as this, the year saw awareness events, volunteering, invasive species control, workshops, presentations, school visits, and more. I am very pleased in how the site guardian team is strengthening as well. We still need more Site Guardians though, especially in Exmoor and North Devon. Site Guardians are the network of volunteers that are helping to protect our sites from new invasive species. If you would like to join a team of keen volunteers taking part in an exemplary invasive species mitigation programme, please get in touch at [email protected].
A highlight of mine is definitely assisting with the American signal crayfish trapping project in October. SWW contracted environmental consultancy APEM to undertake 3 weeks of trapping at Burrator Reservoir. The team had 200 traps in the water, checked daily. By the end of the 3 weeks 6,000 American signal crayfish had been trapped and removed from the lake. There were other interesting findings about the crayfish population as well.

Photo: Rupert from APEM mooring the boat full of crayfish and crayfish traps for the last time in October

Morwenna Moore, Dartmoor Biodiversity Officer
I joined the South West Lakes team in late September as the new Dartmoor biodiversity officer. I have been getting to know the team, the volunteers, and the site at Burrator. My role will eventually bring biodiversity enhancements to the whole Burrator catchment. I have planned a number of actions to improve biodiversity, which will include planting areas of new wood pasture, wet woodland and orchards, experiments in diversifying the Molinia dominated moorland and creation of wet valley mires which will hold water on the hill for longer, increasing the catchment’s resilience to both droughts and flash flooding.
I have met with some commoners and aim to hold more stakeholder engagement meetings, to build positive relationships with our neighbours and share ideas for biodiversity enhancements in the catchment. We will also be working with Plymouth community forest to create areas of woodland to be used by the local community.

Rick Lockwood, Connecting Communities Lead
This year has been one of delivery for our Connecting Communities project, funded through the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The three trainee rangers - Ethan, Laura, and Chamonix, have excelled in delivering a variety of creative engagement events for local families and groups across the three project sites at Tamar Lakes, Wistlandpound, and Stithians providing memorable experiences and much-needed nature connection for hundreds of people.
And my personal highlights have included finally getting our Woodland Wellness sessions established and connected with local social prescribers, enabling people in need to experience the nature at Tamar Lakes and benefit from the physical and mental wellbeing associated with spending shared time outdoors.
Unlike most people, I have also enjoyed seeing the lake levels drop at Tamar over the summer as it allowed many species of wading bird to stop and feed on the exposed mud during their autumn migrations.

David Lee, County Wildlife Site Ranger
I started with the South West Lakes Trust in mid-September as the Wildlife Ranger for the County Wildlife Sites. Based from Roadford I’ll be covering the 9 chosen County Wildlife Sites across Devon and Cornwall, implementing the habitat management plans that have been drawn up by Emma Scotney.

My highlight is being selected for this role as I get to utilise my countryside skills and knowledge in order to improve nature’s chance of thriving. Creating hibernaculums, from the trees and scrub that have been thinned, is particularly satisfying. I look forward to seeing how the implementation of the habitat management plans positively impacts the habitats on the Trust sites.

Tim Burton, Environment and Engagement Ranger, Dartmoor
Since starting with the Trust in June 2022, I have been lucky enough to get to know the amazing group of volunteers across Dartmoor. Together, we have kept the many scheduled archaeological monuments on our sites to a good condition; we have ensured site safety by managing dangerous trees, especially with ash dieback being so prevalent; we have kept paths clear so that everyone can enjoy our lakes; we have managed sensitive habitats to ensure the survival and growth of protected species populations, and we have also drank much tea and eaten many biscuits.
Every day is a highlight, but if I could choose one it would be coppicing hazel. It is a joy to see everyone getting stuck in to change a dark and overgrown woodland in to a woodland of diverse structure, similar to what our extinct megafauna would have created.

We would like to thank all of our volunteers for joining us on our ventures this year. You have helped us put up bat and bird boxes, manage habitats, manage invasive non-native species, record species on our lakes and reservoirs and so much more.
If you would like to join us on our wildlife surveys, do sign up to our mailing list by emailing [email protected]. If you would like to get involved in volunteering with us doing various conservation activities such as managing habitats, email us on [email protected].

And finally, if you have any records of wildlife at our lakes and reservoirs, do let us at know at [email protected] and we will share these with local record centres to ensure that all of our records and wildlife count.