North Devon Catchment Partnership

North Devon | South West

Contact Information

Catchment Host

Devon Wildlife Trust


Emma Richardson


01392 279244



Devon Wildlife Trust
Cricklepit Mill, Commercial Rd, Exeter EX2 4AB

Catchment Website

Catchment Management Plan for North Devon Catchment


The North Devon Catchment Partnership co-ordinates and promotes action for healthy rivers and streams across the whole of North Devon. It covers the River Taw and Torridge catchments, Hartland, Clovelly and Exmoor streams.

NDCP is hosted by Devon Wildlife Trust and supported by the North Devon Biosphere. NDCP has adopted the Wetlands and Waterbodies Action Plan from the North Devon Biosphere Reserve Nature Recovery Plan 2021-25.


By 2030, nature in our wetlands and waterbodies is recovering. Re-naturalised floodplain and other riparian land provides a mosaic of habitats for wildlife and creates opportunities for dynamic rivers and streams. Wide corridors of scrub, floodplain meadow and woodland alongside watercourses act as buffer strips from pollution and connect previously fragmented habitats. Habitat restoration (including on the degraded blanket bogs of Exmoor and Dartmoor) and creation have increased landscape connectivity and natural river flows.

 Water quality has improved with fewer sources of diffuse and point pollution. Barriers to fish movement and migration have been removed, large woody debris and clean spawning gravels are widespread: salmon are recovering.

 Reintroductions have enabled beavers to colonise all catchments creating nature-rich and climate resilient habitats, populations of re-introduced water voles are expanding and healthy populations of iconic otters are maintained in all catchments. Expanding networks of Culm grassland support thriving (meta) populations of marsh fritillary butterflies and narrow-bordered bee hawk-moths.

 The drumming of snipe and cries of breeding lapwing and curlew are heard once more, and willow tits sing in wet woodlands. Non-native invasive species now have minimal impact.

Altogether, catchments support abundant and increasing wildlife ranging from aquatic plants and invertebrates to eels and freshwater pearl mussels.


Water Vole Re-introduction

In the past, it is believed that healthy populations of water voles existed on Braunton Marsh and elsewhere along the Taw Torridge estuarine grazing marsh.  A number of factors contributed to their decline and extinction, not least the growing numbers of North American Mink since the 1960s.  A Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) was completed by the Internal Drainage Board (IDB) in 2021.  The IDB obtained funding from Natural England to review and update its Water Level Management Plan.  One issue that has been addressed is the annual ditch maintenance programme, which has been adjusted to reduce the impact of ditch scrape-outs on marsh vegetation and invertebrate populations.

The Biosphere contacted conservation expert Derek Gow to advise on habitat quality and suitability, prior to any re-establishment of water voles on Braunton Marsh.  The first step has been to set up mink traps to assess the population level of this voracious predator, and by the end of 2022 no mink had been caught.  Provided a stock of suitable water voles can be sourced, re-introduction could commence on Swanpool Marsh in 2023.  This project has also obtained funding from Natural England.

Northern Devon Natural Solutions

Northern Devon Natural Solutions (NDNS) is a Devon Wildlife Trust project running from 2021 until 2027. The project is working across northern Devon’s rural communities to engage with landowners and managers as well as volunteers, community groups and schools to improve water quality, increase biodiversity, sequester carbon and mitigate flood risk. To achieve its goals, NDNS is focusing on 36 waterbodies across the Taw and Torridge river catchments. NDNS is working alongside partner organisations such as the Environment Agency, North Devon Biosphere Reserve, North Devon AONB, Catchment Sensitive Farming and Westcountry Rivers Trust, to deliver positive outcomes for nature within the targeted water bodies.

NDNS employs an innovative whole-farm approach, building on Devon Wildlife Trust’s experience, expertise and working relationships with land managers in northern Devon. The project’s advisers visit farms to produce Whole Farm Natural Solutions Plans (WFPs) outlining potential opportunities for increasing biodiversity, improving water quality and mitigating flood risk. NDNS has delivered advice and interventions that have enhanced 15km of river/riverside land including watercourse fencing, riverside tree planting, 30m bankside protection & restoration, 116 leaky dams and sediment ponds as well as 412 farm advisory visits.

Devon Woods

Devon Woods is a North Devon UNESCO Biosphere project running from 2021 until 2027. The project area covers 49 water body catchments in North Devon. The primary objective of the project is to improve water quality by achieving and contributing towards elemental improvement where the main pressure is eutrophication from land use. Thirty waterbodies will be targeted throughout the project. Deliverables include:

  • Achieve elemental improvement in 5 waterbodies
  • Contribute towards elemental improvement in 15 waterbodies
  • Enhance 16 kilometres of river through riparian and cross slope woodland planting

The project works alongside several partners, including the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Devon Wildlife Trust, Natural England, the Woodland Trust, National Trust and Westcountry Rivers Trust to design and create woodland and install natural flood management features which focus on keeping soil and water on the land. Woodland provides valuable habitat and when planted strategically can also be used to create a network of wildlife corridors for biodiversity to thrive. The project is also thinking ahead with a long-term vision for providing Devon with a source of local and sustainable timber and planning and creating woodland that can be managed for coppice related products.

Devon Woods has provided advice and delivered interventions throughout Devon focussing on woodland, wetland, and hedgerow creation. Woodlands are designed for a range of landowners across several sectors including dairy, arable, educational, equine and ecotourism. The project has, and is, working on woodland creation schemes ranging from 0.5 hectare to 60 hectares focussing on habitat creation, recreational access, timber production and silvopasture, and is also in the preliminary stages of drafting up designs for river restoration and stage zero restoration at a couple of sites.

Focussed landowner advice:

  • 28,399 trees distributed into 16 catchments
  • 24 hectares of woodland created
  • 2 kilometres of hedges planted
  • 25 kilometres of hedges gapped up and restored
  • 67 farm visits conducted

Taw Torridge monitoring

The North Devon Biosphere Foundation and Westcountry Rivers Trust have been working to build the smart Biosphere by adding sensors to the network of live telemetered river data to complement the Environment Agency’s statutory work. This has included deploying two high spec Aqua Troll 600 sondes (Temperature, dissolved solids and water level) at the base of the Taw and Torridge catchments and another two Aqua Troll 200 sondes (Temperature, dissolved solids, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, pH and water level) at the base of the Mole and Upper Torridge. These will help assess the impact of catchment measures as well as trigger future citizen science measurements.

The Citizen Science Investigation programme run by the Westcountry Rivers Trust part funded through North Devon Natural Solutions.

project, has grown significantly over the last two years going from 33 volunteers across the Biosphere taking 390 samples in 2021 to 48 volunteers taking 607 samples in 2022. The Trust analyses this data into community score cards, which have gone from 9 in 2021 to 21 in 2022. Westcountry Rivers Trust are still looking for further volunteers across the catchments.


The aim of the North Devon Biosphere Catchment Group is to bring together a wide range of stakeholders to secure better outcomes for the environment throughout the North Devon group of river catchments. It is a Working Group operating under the auspices of the North Devon UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Partnership.

The partnership has identified three themes:

Protection: We believe that the community of north Devon should work together to protect the people and wildlife that depend on our rivers from the influences of climate change, both floods and droughts. Where possible, a whole catchment, multiple benefit approach should be taken to mitigate impacts.

Management and restoration: We believe that the community should work together to achieve a minimum of Good Ecological Status (as defined by the Water Framework Directive) across the entire catchment. The river and its tributaries should be managed from source to sea to maximise the benefits that it brings to our economy, communities and wildlife. Where the river has been degraded as a result of pollution or unsustainable land management, we will work to restore the river and encourage more sensitive land management practices.

Enjoyment and value: Our quality of life depends upon our surroundings, and our river systems are a crucial part of this. We will encourage all sectors of the community to value our river systems in north Devon.

Below is a list of current partners. We extend an open invitation to organisations, community groups, and individuals who are in North Devon and share our commitment to the health of our river catchments. To join contact us by email.

Devon Wildlife Trust

Environment Agency

National Trust

Natural England

North Devon Biosphere

North Devon National Landscape

River Taw Fisheries Association

South West Water

Westcountry Rivers Trust

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