December 2023 

It has been another busy year for our Environment team, with exciting conservation projects and new team members. Here are our highlights of 2023 from Nicola Morris, Emma Scotney, Morwenna Moore, Laura Dee, Teri Nicholls and Kat Serjant. 

Emma, Morwenna, Laura and Kat are all working on South West Water-funded projects benefitting the environment. 

Nicola Morris, Head of Environment

The highlights for me this year have been having a full team of amazing ecologists and project officers all so engaged, willing to support each other and the wider team and learn together. 

Together we have worked on so many interesting and also complex projects. For me the forestry projects coming together, at what seems like all at once, has been a real achievement. 

Work at Venford to fell the last of the commercial conifer ready to restore the habitat and create new connected native broadleaf habitat has been such hard work but incredible to know it is now complete after so many years. At Crowdy (right), we clear felled two conifer blocks and with the fantastic support of our neighbours and Forestry Commission we were able to remove the timber meaning we have a clear site to replant with native trees in the New Year. 

Working with our partners is very important too and the number we have collaborated with over this last year has been huge. From the local wildlife groups to national organisations who are supporting us to achieve our aims, we are truly grateful. 

One last thing which has been a highlight is the never ending support of our volunteers who are vital members of our team. They inspire us to keep going when we are down (everyone has days like these don’t they!) and their passion and knowledge is just incredible. I am always blown away by their willingness to help out and will forever by grateful for everything they do.

Emma Scotney, Ecologist

This year I have focused on the habitat management of our County Wildlife Sites in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. We have created management plans for our County Wildlife Sites to ensure that we are improving their ecological condition. Our rangers and contractors have been helping achieve this. 

The highlight for me in 2023 has been working with our contractors at Dart Forest Trees. Dart Forest Trees have been undertaking sensitive woodland management for us at Roadford Lake and Lower Tamar Lake and have created healthier habitats with some special extras. 

Aside from coppicing, felling and the creation of monoliths, hibernacula and wind-rows, they have also created more spaces for birds, invertebrates and bats by creating cavities and crevices in trees.

We have already seen animals using these features such as marsh tits, wrens, pygmy shrews and wood mice!

Morwenna Moore, Dartmoor Biodiversity Officer

At Burrator, we have been working hard at slowing the flow of water and creating new wetland habitats all year. Volunteers have been making leaky dams throughout the catchment, using willow and logs from our woodlands to hold water back, creating boggy pools which are great habitats for mosses, dragonflies, frogs and more. 

We’ve also placed 32 larger woody debris dams in the River Meavy which will create habitats in the river for fish and invertebrates, and will cause the river to spread onto the floodplain more frequently, creating large areas of wetland. 

We’ve fenced a few important woodland areas, where upland oak wood and wet woodland trees are struggling to produce new trees due to overgrazing. We have updated the fencing in the areas to allow new saplings to grow into healthy mature trees.

The Venford investigations have been completed with many exciting species being found, including hazel dormouse, at least 11 bat species and 14 veteran trees! Megan and Nic who completed these surveys took me and our Burrator Ranger Tim around the site to discuss future management, for which we are very excited!

Laura Dee, Invasive Species Officer

Even though I have not been here for a whole year, I still have some great highlights since my start in September. Joining such a welcoming team has been wonderful, everyone has been very supportive as I have settled into the new role. 

Overseeing my first dip tank installation was great, and I'm pleased it went through smoothly. Visiting all the lakes has been enjoyable, I've managed to visit 18 sites so far, and many more to come. I have attended a few angling events, this has been educating and allowed me to meet a variety of new people and engage in a new area that I have not had much experience in. 

A key highlight was prepping two sites for the AQUA panel, Jennetts and Bussow reservoir were both approved and are now at Silver level. I'm very happy with the results and have learnt so much in the process. This would not be possible without the help of our amazing Site Guardians and rangers. 

Site Guardians are the network of volunteers that are helping to protect our sites from new invasive species. If you would like to join our Site Guardian scheme please get in touch at [email protected]. We have some training events and awareness sessions coming in the New Year available for the volunteers. 

Teri Nicholls, Early Career Ecologist

Since joining South West Lakes part-time in July, I have been busy getting to know the team, and eight Sites of Special Scientific Interest over the Devon and Cornwall area. Being a part of this South West Water funded project has been an incredible start to my career in ecology and conservation management.

Over the summer months I have been enjoying getting to know the rangers, finding out all of the amazing work they do across the lakes and learning about our sites that lie within designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest. These include Burrator and Lopwell Dam in Devon and Crowdy in Cornwall. 

The highlight for me has been getting out onto site and seeing the range of wonderful habitats these sites hold and their importance for the species that inhabit them. Collaborating with my new work colleagues, South West Water and other organisations such as Cornwall Butterfly Conservation, Dartmoor National Park team, Devon Wildlife Trust and Natural England, we hope to soon have all eight sites actively managed. 

Kat Serjeant, Trainee Ecologist 

My highlights since joining in October! I have:

  • Visited all 14 of my sites and met lots of lovely volunteers
  • Joined volunteers on Wetland Bird Surveys at: Roadford, Stithians, Crowdy and Colliford
  • Joined one of Emma’s bat box checks at Tamar Lakes. It was great to find many boxes inhabited and I had my first close encounter with a bat which was awesome!
  • Joined volunteers putting up barn owl boxes at farms around Colliford and also visited the salmon hatchery
  • Started tree planting at Crowdy in strong winds and heavy rain which was a challenge but also very rewarding!

I’m looking forward to joining ecologists next year as they conduct baseline surveys on 11 of my sites. It will be a great opportunity to gain hands-on skills and knowledge.