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Making a real difference to our local environments

111,515hectares
of land managed
3,907hectares
of restored peatland
220,187trees
planted since 2019

Upstream Thinking

Farmyard manure, artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides used on the land can end up in rivers, wreaking havoc on habitats and the quality of the water. Bad raw-water quality means more intensive and expensive treatment is required to get it to drinking-water standards. 

Our multi-award-winning catchment-management scheme, Upstream Thinking, applies natural solutions to reduce this agricultural impact on biodiversity and water quality. It does so whilst supporting farmers and the rural economy, by providing long-term resilience to climate change.

Some of the activities include:

  • Installing waterside fencing
  • Building ponds
  • Improving farm tracks
  • Increasing slurry storage
  • Planting trees and buffer strips to catch and filter water
Picture of the River Stour in Bournemouth
The benefits
1/3

Cleaner water, lower costs

Thanks to Upstream Thinking work, by the time water reaches streams, rivers, and reservoirs, it is much cleaner. This allows the treatment process to be faster, cheaper, more efficient, and better for the wider environment because it uses less energy and carbon.

A fox and badger standing beside each other in a forest
The benefits
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Better homes for wildlife

Improved soil quality in farmed fields, more trees planted in the right places, pastures rich in plant species and cleaner water in our streams, rivers and reservoirs, means a better home for wildlife. Many species have returned to the waterways that we’ve helped clean up.

Picture of three pigs
The benefits
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More confidence for farmers

Farmers have a huge role to play in keeping rivers and reservoirs clean and healthy, and it’s only with their support that we’ve been able to enjoy the benefits this programme has achieved so far. 

Farmers who have engaged with Upstream Thinking have seen many benefits, including more nutrients left in the soil due to less run-off, healthier pastures to graze their animals in, and sponsored upgrades to their farms like fencing and silage storage.

Did you know?

open quote  In terms of bacteria, one cow has the pollution potential of 50 people. There are roughly 850,000 cows in Devon and Cornwall. close quote
open quote  Just a few drops of pesticide can be detected 30km away in the river. close quote
open quote  A square meter of 40cm-deep peat holds 20kg of carbon? close quote

Doing our bit for climate change

Picture of peatlands

Peatland restoration

Covering only 3% of the world’s land area, peatlands store more than twice the carbon found in all the world’s forests. Rewetting peatlands brings back their ability to store carbon, as well as supporting diverse plants, insects and wildlife.

South West Peatland Partnership
Picture of newly planted trees

Planting trees

Tree-planting helps offset our carbon emissions, and plays another important role in water quality. Tree roots trap the soil and stop it flowing into rivers, reducing the pollutants entering the water that way.

How we're off-setting our carbon emissions

Recovering nature for wildlife

We have committed to improving biodiversity across our sites through improvements in ground management. Where we’ve been building, developing or engineering, we leave these sites with a biodiversity net gain.

Recovering nature for wildlife image

Working together to achieve long-lasting change

None of this would be possible without the help and dedication of our partners. Their support and determination in starting and continuing this work with us has seen a significant improvement on river-health across the South West.

The willingness of local landowners, farmers and volunteers to do the right thing for the land and water has made all this possible.

Dartmoor National Park Devon Wildlife Trust West Country Rivers Trust Natural England
FWAG National Trust SW Lakes Trust Cornwall Wildlife Trust
NFU English Heritage Environment Agency Exmoor National Park