By Neil Reeves, Head of Countryside and Recreation

“Burrator will always be a beautiful place. Five years ago it was a beautiful place, lots of people came to do "what they've always done" - be that walk, cycle, fish or simply have an ice cream. This project has brought that beautiful place to life... it has brought people's expectations to life, their experiences 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 Burrator Natural and Historic Environment project and I thought it was worth sharing to show 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 moved to Burrator in 2004 the site looked and felt a bit neglected, you couldn’t see the reservoir for 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 going to be interesting... and what is the fishing feast?”

“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... and what is the fishing feast?” 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.

Writing the 2020-25 management plan for Burrator, it has been important to reflect how far we have come. There are many challenges ahead: increased demand for water and green space as Plymouth grows, climate change, the balancing act between conservation and recreation and managing visitor expectations are all high on the agenda.

In 2020 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), better managed (clear strategy, 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. Five years ago the estimated figure was 250, 000 p/a and it wouldn’t surprise me if that it 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, then drop into the Discovery Centre, or simply come and explore!

#ItsYourOutdoors - come and explore!