Our Environment

Places For Wildlife And People

Many of the reservoirs and lakes host valuable habitats and endangered species, such as native woodlands, Culm grassland, dormouse, bats and valley mire. In order to ensure adequate protection and to balance conservation with recreation many of the sites have specially designated reserves which are set aside for conservation purposes.

Ponds, Wetlands, Fen, Mudflats, Saltmarsh, Freshwater marsh , Reedbeds

It goes without saying that water habitats are a common occurrence at the sites we manage, however we must remember that it’s not just about the big water bodies but rather the variety of ‘water-based’ habitats that the lakes boast. Conserving and enhancing these habitats is important for a variety of species including otters, dragonflies, wetland birds, newts and a wide range of flora.

Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is a statutory designation made under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 by local authorities. LNR’s are designed to be for both people and wildlife and are places with wildlife or geological features that are of local special interest.
There are over 1,280 LNRs in England alone. These range from coastal headlands, ancient woodlands and flower-rich meadows to former industrial areas now re-colonised by wildlife.

Within the Trust’s management are two Local Nature Reserves:
• Lopwell Dam
• Roadford Lake (Southweek)

Lopwell Dam
Lopwell Dam is situated on the upper tidal reaches of the River Tavy just 3 miles north of Plymouth and 7 miles from Tavistock. It is an excellent site for bird watching, walking and just relaxing.
The LNR designation in October 2004 by West Devon Borough Council is 4.6 hectares. The site is of high conservation value due to the flora and fauna and associated habitats that occur here. The LNR designation includes tidal mudflats, scrub-grassland, saltmarsh and semi-natural, broadleaved woodland of ancient character.
Lopwell Dam was already designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its Saltmarsh habitat and is part of the Tamar Tavy Estuary SSSI. The estuary mudflats support internationally important populations of over-wintering wildfowl and waders and the area has been proposed as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EC Council Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds.
Other habitats on site include freshwater marsh, wildflower meadow and freshwater and estuarine. No other LNR in Devon has this unique combination of salt and freshwater habitats.
In 2011 the Trust re-opened the redundant pumphouse at Lopwell Dam it is now an interactive visitor centre with a cafe overlooking the river.

Roadford Lake
The Roadford Lake LNR at the northern end of the reservoir is 34 hectares of freshwater, swamp, marshy grassland, dense scrub willow carr, broadleaved woodland and coniferous plantations.
The LNR was designated in 2006 by West Devon Borough Council and includes Southweek Wood which has good conservation value and a wealth of features of interest. Valuable mudflats are exposed and the original stream bed which feeds the lake can be seen as water is drawn down during the summer months.
The LNR is visible from the causeway which crosses the lake and part of the reserve is accessible via a public footpath which allows access to part of the site whilst the remaining area is kept quiet for conservation purposes.
Evidence suggests that dormice were present at Roadford pre-1989 before the valley was flooded. Surveys have been carried out since 2005 and have revealed that the Roadford LNR hosts a healthy population of Hazel Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius). The Dormouse Monitoring project is detailed further on our Projects page.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) protect the country’s most valuable wildlife and geological sites. In England alone there are over 4,000 SSSIs. They cover approximately 7% of the country’s land area and include a range of spectacular habitats including wetlands, chalk rivers, upland moorland, flower-rich meadows and upland moorland.

Many SSSI sites are also internationally important for their wildlife, and have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) or Ramsar sites. Often SSSIs are also National Nature Reserves (NNRs) or Local Nature Reserves (LNRs).

SSSIs are graded to identify their condition by Natural England:

• Favourable
• Unfavourable recovering
• Unfavourable no change
• Unfavourable declining
• Part destroyed
• Destroyed

Within its management the Trust has five SSSI sites:
• Lopwell Dam
• Crowdy Reservoir
• Burrator Reservoir
• Mary Tavy
• Squabmoor

Lopwell Dam
Part of the Tamar Tavy SSSI complex this site is also designated as a Local Nature Reserve. The unit (No. 42) is designated for littoral sediment and comprises 114 hectares of which The Trust manages 1.5 hectares.
Littoral sediment is widespread around the UK and forms features such as beaches, sand banks, and intertidal mudflats. A large proportion of this habitat occurs in estuaries and inlets such as the Tamar/Tavy Estuaries.
At the extreme upper margins of the littoral zone, a typical community of undisturbed muddy sheltered areas is saltmarsh and it is this habitat that is found at Lopwell Dam. The habitat provides a transition from mudflat areas on the lower marsh, where the vegetation is frequently flooded by the tide, through to the upper saltmarsh.
Typical species found at Lopwell include common saltmarsh-grass, red fescue, sea couch, sea purslane, sea aster, sea arrowgrass, sea club-rush and English scurvygrass.
The total area for the Tamar/Tavy SSSI is 1,413 hectares, the majority of which is in a favourable condition. The Trust plans to provide improved interpretation at Lopwell which will include the area of SSSI it manages.

Crowdy Reservoir
85 hectares of water and land at Crowdy Reservoir fall into the North Bodmin Moor SSSI. The total area of this SSSI is 4,889 hectares and the area designated as unit 14 (a total of 99.72 hectares) is known as Crowdy Marsh. The unit is designated for its upland acid grassland and the site is also a Special Area of Conservation.
The SSSI unit is currently in an Unfavourable condition mainly due to overgrazing.
The Trust and South West Water have been working with the Davidstow Moor Commoners Association to rectify this problem and new fencing, along with a grazing agreement, have been arranged in order to achieve an Unfavourable Recovering condition. The site is now in a 10 year Higher Level Stewardship agreement with Natural England the site must be put in to a management agreement with Natural England.
Crowdy Marsh is a fine example of valley mire and has a mosaic of habitats including acid grassland, wet dwarf shrub, transition mire and rush dominated mire. Species found here include bogbean, purple moor-grass, common cottongrass and two species of sundew: oblong-leaved and round-leaved.

Burrator Reservoir
The SSSI designation at Burrator is for the ‘earth heritage’ of the quarries located on the road leading to the dam. The whole SSSI falls within the Trust’s management and it is currently in an Unfavourable Recovering condition.
The total area is 0.51 hectares and is popular with visiting geologists and for school visits. The main aim is to ensure that the quarry faces are not encroached by vegetation such as western gorse and that the site is accessible for study and enjoyment.

Mary Tavy
A small but important ‘earth heritage’ designation of Cholwell Brook totaling 0.57 hectares. This area is in a Favourable condition and, like Burrator Quarries, the main objective is to ensure that the feature is not encroached by vegetation.

1.5 hectares of the land managed by SWLT at Squabmoor Reservoir falls within the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths SSSI. The designation is for Dwarf Shrub Heath and is in an Unfavourable Recovering condition. The bulk of the SSSI (1135 hectares) is managed by Clinton Devon Estates.

In addition to the statutory designations at several of the lakes, many have areas set aside as Special Protection Zones or Nature Reserves. These areas are deemed internally as high quality conservation value and do not have any recreational activities taking place within them with the exception of footpaths for walkers.

The zones vary in size and composition, but the aim is to protect the valuable habitats and species within them.

Site Location Area (hectares) Feature
Argal Southern end 3 Semi-natural and planted broadleaved woodland, including areas of rich bryophyte flora, and wet woodland
Burrator Eastern arm 14.16 Wet woodland
College Whole site Wet woodland, willow carr, inundation vegetation, broadleaved plantation, otter, bats
Colliford Loveney Reserve (Northern half of the eastern arm) 161.88 Original moorland, abandoned semi-improved pasture, marshy inlets with feeder streams lined with willow carr, an island meadow bordered by an excavated moat and a variable shoreline.
Drift Majority of site 59 Species-rich meadows, wet woodland
Fernworthy South eastern arm 8 Purple-moor grass, meadows, woodland plantation, marsh fritillary
Kennick Smithacott (North) 0.81 Marsh, damp woodland, rich marginal vegetation, pied flycatcher, otter
Meldon South western end 5.79 Dry heathland, island acting as wildlife refuge, Porth Eastern end 24.69 Semi-natural broadleaved wooland, willow carr, swamp, otter
Stithians (2) Northern cut off and southern arm 6 Rough pasture, willow carr, bog and wetland, heathland and the littoral zone,
Lower Tamar Whole site 27.92 Wet woodland, otter
Wimbleball Hurscombe Nature Reserve – northern arm 18.62 Purple-moor grass & rush pasture, hedgerows, pearl-bordered fritillary
Wistlandpound North eastern arm 1.62 Broadleaved woodland, marginal vegetation, standing water, scrub, otter, willow tit, lichens & mosses

Each year, the Trust produces a written summary of the management and wildlife sightings within each reserve for South West Water.

There are many different types of woodlands across the UK ranging from commercial coniferous forestry to upland oak woodlands and mixed deciduous to wet woodland. Our woodlands are a vital element of the ecosystem and also provide a much valued amenity for recreation.

The Trust has three split its woodlands into three categories although often one woodland can play a role in all three elements
• Conservation woodland
• Amenity woodland
• Commercial forestry.

Conservation Woodland
This relates to woodland that has been set aside as a quiet area or nature reserve for the benefit of wildlife. Sites where this type of woodland occurs include Burrator, College, Lopwell, Old Mill, Porth, Roadford, Lower Tamar, Trenchford, Tottiford and Wimbleball.
Since 2003 the traditional method of rotational coppicing has been used to manage the hazel woodlands on the north shore of Burrator Reservoir, this has resulted in a diverse and varied structure woodland with abundant ground flora. This technique commenced at Wimbleball in 2008 and will also begin at Trenchford during the 2009 winter.

Types of woodland within this category include:

• Wet Woodland
• Upland Oak Woodland
• Lowland Mixed Deciduous Woodland
• Lowland Beech and Yew

Amenity Woodland
Whilst safeguarding this woodland for the future is essential, it has been recognised that these areas can provide a much valued resource for activities including walking, cycling and education visits. Amenity woodland can be found at Burrator, Crowdy, Fernworthy, Kennick, Lopwell, Roadford, Siblyback, Upper Tamar, Trenchford, Wimbleball and Wistlandpound
Commercial Forestry
When South West Lakes Trust took over the management of the reservoirs for conservation and recreation it inherited many hectares of coniferous commercial forestry. The main sites are Burrator, Roadford, Wimbleball, Venford, Fernworthy, and Wistlandpound (latter two part-leased to the Forestry Commission).

Hedgerows have several important roles. They
• help prevent soil erosion and water run-off
• provide shelter and stock control
• provide an important habitat for wildlife.

Hedgerows which are especially ancient or species-rich are often viewed as the defining character of the English landscape. The Hedgerows Regulations 1997 are designed to protect important hedgerows from damage or destruction. These regulations concern those hedgerows found in the countryside and not those around a domestic property.

Most importantly it must be remembered that with any hedgerow it is:
• good practice to avoid trimming between 1 March – 31 July (bird nesting season)
• best to leave trimming until the end of the winter
• good practice to avoid over management as it can be detrimental to conservation. Taller, bushier hedgerows provide more wildlife potential than smaller, thinner hedges.

Several of the Trust’s sites have important hedgerows including Roadford and Wimbleball. At Roadford Lake over 5500 metres of hedgerow has been restored since 2002 under the Countryside Stewardship agreement.

Grasslands are habitats dominated by grasses and herbaceous plants and where suitable rushes and sedges can also be found.

Within the Trust’s Biodiversity Action Plan there are two grassland habitat types
• Purple Moor Grass and Rush Pasture
• Lowland Meadow

Grasslands are important habitats for wild flowers and fauna. They support diverse communities including birds, insects and mammals.
Around the reservoirs you’ll find amenity (improved) grassland in public areas. But away from the main congregation points the grasslands tend to be unimproved (completely wild), or semi-natural, where the plant communities are natural but their maintenance depends upon grazing or cutting regimes.

Scrub habitat is characterised by hawthorn, gorse and bramble when deemed as ‘continuous or dense’. Woody species make up the habitat when it is scattered scrub.

Scrub is present at many of the lakes and traditionally (nationally) is has been considered to be the transition stage between neglected grassland and woodland.

In many cases it is important to control scrub, particularly where valuable habitats such as lowland meadow occur. However it is also an important habitat as it supports numerous Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species.

The benefits of a scrub habitat include:
• provides shelter
• maintains a warm microclimate
• offers a refuge, nesting sites and songbird posts.

It is important to monitor scrub to ensure that it does not encroach on other habitats and at present monitoring and control is undertaken at Roadford Lake, Siblyback Lake, Argal, Burrator and other lakes.

Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for Roadford Lake a scrub management plan was drawn up based on recommendations provided by Defra. This plan includes all areas where control is required. Areas outside the agreement are also monitored and controlled.
Scrub itself is not a protected habitat but it does support many UK BAP species making it an important habitat to manage.