February 2024

If you have walked or cycled around Siblyback Lake in recent times you can’t fail to have noticed that there has been a lot of action on the ground, such as large-scale conifer felling and new tree planting. 

It’s all being done as part of a five-year project to understand more about the lake’s habitats and species and to improve the site for biodiversity.

Ecologist Emma Scotney explains more: 

Siblyback Lake, near Liskeard, is owned by South West Water and managed by South West Lakes Trust for conservation, access and recreation. 

South West Lakes Trust and South West Water work in partnership on many different sites and environmental projects, including Siblyback Lake, which is designated as a County Wildlife Site. County Wildlife Sites are not legally protected but comprise a network of non-statutory wildlife sites recognising special habitats and species. 

A five-year Water Industry National Environment Programme project started in 2020 with the aims of understanding this County Wildlife Site (and others in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset) in terms of its habitats and species and delivering suitable habitat management to improve the site for biodiversity.

Common Toad

So far, at Siblyback, we have identified important habitats and species and have started managing the site to conserve these. Important habitats include wet woodlands, neutral and marshy grasslands, pond and streams. Some of the species we have recorded are common toad, violet oil beetle, reed bunting and pipistrelle bats. Now we understand more about the habitats and species on this site we have undertaken management and monitoring.

Habitats - woodland, grassland and pond 

In 2021, we felled a large section of non-native conifer plantation woodland. This was due to several factors including these commercial trees reaching their peak growth and needing to be felled to prevent them becoming unsafe. This will also have brilliant benefits for biodiversity over time.

This area has been replanted with thousands of native broadleaved trees, including 900 sessile oak, 600 each of willow and alder and 300 each of rowan, hazel and dogwood. Local schools and colleges helped us to plant these trees.


2022                                                  2023 

From our habitat surveys in 2021, we knew that our small pond at Siblyback needed some management. In the summer time, it was drying out and the amount of sediment was increasing. So, in 2022, we instructed contractors to dig some of the sediments out of the pond so that it is able to hold water all year long and in the long term will become a more valuable habitat to species which rely on it.


Pond before restoration                                         Pond after restoration 

Also, from our habitat surveys we knew that our grasslands could be in better condition with more sensitive habitat management. Therefore, in 2022 and 2023 we have been removing scrub and small trees to stop encroachment of the grasslands. We have been cutting our pathways less frequently and now leave some longer grass at the edges. We saw lots of yellow rattle in these strips of grasslands this year and even recorded some greater butterfly orchids.


Grassland management 

Monitoring for bats

We have 37 bat boxes at Siblyback, which are all in conifer trees at about four metres high and monitored by ecologists from South West Lakes Trust and South West Water, who recorded this year a total of eight pipistrelles using them. 

As well as monitoring our boxes, we have also been identifying natural places where bats may be able to roost on site. We have looked at some of our trees and found cracks, cavities, peeling bark and holes which may be suitable for bats in the future. We aim to retain all of these tree features and our bat boxes to ensure that bats have roost spaces as well as healthy habitats to forage in.


Pipistrelle bats in box                                                       Natural tree features 

Looking forwards

This project will run until 2025 and aims to improve the ecological condition of the habitats at the county wildlife site, in turn supporting many species which rely on them. 

If you have any records or observations from Siblyback we would love to hear from you. Please email [email protected]. We share all of our biological records with the local record centres. 

Keep a look out on our website under the ‘Whats On’ tab for events and volunteering opportunities at Siblyback Lake. 


This article first appeared in the January/February 2024 edition of Granite Post