Working in Partnership

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Upstream Thinking could not do what it does without the help from its partners. The Upstream Thinking Partners all cover different areas of the South West and each are vital for the implementation of the Upstream Thinking Program. Below are Upstream Thinking partners, click on the tabs below for more information on the work that each partner does towards Upstream Thinking.

Who else is supporting Upstream Thinking?

It is supported by the Dartmoor National Park Authority, National Farmers Union, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group.

The Exmoor Mires Partnership is supported by local landowners, the Environment Agency, Natural England, English Heritage and the Exmoor National Park Authority. It also has help from local volunteers.

Since 2018 SWW and its Upstream Thinking Peatland team has been working with the wider South West Peatland Partnerships that include Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor to deliver £2m of Defra sponsored peatland restoration on these moors.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is the delivery partner for Upstream Thinking in the catchments of Drift Reservoir, the River Cober and College & Argal Reservoirs.  These catchments collect drinking water for the towns and surrounding areas of Penzance, Newlyn, Helston, Falmouth and Penryn.   The geography and climate of West Cornwall lends itself to pasture farming for beef and dairy herds, as well as areas of daffodil and vegetable cropping.


Since 2015 CWT has positively engaged with over 120 farmers across these catchments, finding solutions to benefit water quality, wildlife and farm business.  Farmers are part-funding yard upgrades, like constructing roofs to stop manure washing into rivers.  They are also managing their land in a way which is more sympathetic to the rivers and wildlife, such as leaving uncultivated strips which encourage wildflowers and pollinating insects.

As well as offering free advice on infrastructure and land management, CWT is proud of its committed teams of volunteers, who go out to each catchment every week to improve the environment with hands-on work like scything, hedging and clearing invasive species.

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Devon Wildlife Trust

Devon Wildlife Trust Farm Advisors have worked with over 300 landowners across the Tamar, Exe, Dart, Yeo, Otter and Fernworthy catchments as part of Upstream Thinking since the project began in 2015.


Water quality issues associated with agriculture can arise through a wide variety of issues. These include limitations in yard infrastructure and wider farming practices which may contribute to issues such as soil compaction and runoff.  In contrast to intensively managed agricultural land, strategically placed and well managed species-rich grassland, wetlands and woodland can help to buffer water courses from diffuse pollutants, whilst helping tackle the UK wide problem of declining populations for many of our native species.


The geography of the different catchments typically dictates the type of agriculture found there. Consequently, characteristic water quality issues often recur frequently within a given catchment depending on the predominant farm type. Large dairy farms which often have issues associated with yards and tracks can often be found in more open landscapes with large fields such as parts of the Tamar and Yeo. In the Otter and Exe catchments arable farming is more typical, whilst elsewhere mixed farms, sheep farms and smallholdings are more common such as the Dart. Devon Wildlife Trust advisors are also supporting landowners of non-agricultural land such as conifer planation on peatlands in the Fernworthy catchment.


Devon Wildlife Trust advisors are supporting farmers through general farm practice advice and support with agri-stewardship applications which have generated over £1million worth of grants. Other assistance includes use of the Working Wetlands machinery ring; providing equipment such as soil aerators to help alleviate compaction which is a common problem on many farms. Compaction can impact on productivity through restricted root growth and Nitrogen availability as well as increasing runoff. All equipment is provided to landowners free of charge. We also offer expert advice on habitat restoration and creation and can undertake associated conservation management such as the spreading of green hay, seed harvesting and scrub control.

Exmoor National Park Authority

The Headwaters of the Exe catchment programme forms part of ‘Upstream Thinking’ and is a partnership between South West Water and Exmoor National Park Authority, working closely with the Exmoor Hill Farming Network and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest. The project operates in the upper reaches of the River Exe catchment, mostly within Exmoor National Park, as shown in the map below.

The Headwaters of the Exe team are working with land managers in the catchment to improve water quality by carrying out a programme of events, advisory visits and capital grants. Farmers and managers of woodlands and game shoots in high priority areas of the catchment are eligible for advisory visits and capital grants.

The project also works to improve water quality in a variety of other ways, including carrying out repairs to rights of way to reduce the levels of sediment washing into rivers, and supporting existing partnership projects for the control of invasive species, such as the Exmoor Knotweed Control Project.

Water quality is carefully monitored at strategic locations around the catchment, through work undertaken by the University of Exeter, South West Water and volunteers from the Riverfly partnership.

For further information about the project or to get in touch with the project team please visit our website:


The Headwaters of the Exe team are:

Heather Harley - Programme Manager, Exmoor National Park Authority

Katherine Williams - Exmoor Hill Farming Network

Adam Lockyear - Farm Adviser, FWAG SW

Rebecca Mills - Farm Adviser, FWAG SW

James Mason - Woodland Adviser, Exmoor National Park Authority

Dan Barnett - Rights of Way Manager Exmoor National Park Authority

Exmoor Mires

The Exmoor Mires Partnership is an award winning partnership created to restore Peat upon Exmoor.

Generations of peat-cutting and the creation of drainage ditches has caused the mires to dry out, which reduces the water-holding capacity of the moors.

The focus of the Exmoor Mires Partnership is to block drainage ditches using sustainable methods, local materials and local contractors in order to 're-wet' the bog, enabling it to retain water and carbon. This is done by creating dams formed of Peat or wooden planks, topped with Peat. This then holds back the water that would flow along the ditches creating pools of water that slowly drain into the Peat in the area around the ditch.

There are many benefits for the Peat restoration such as:

Reducing Carbon in the atmosphere: Dried out Peat causes oxidation of exposed peat bogs which releases large quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. Re-wetted “healthy” Peat is a carbon sink so absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it.

Increasing biodiversity: The ditch blocking creates pools of water and re-wets the area around it allowing plants such as Sphagnum Moss to emerge. This in turn leads to animals calling the area their home, these range from reptiles like frogs and lizards, nesting upland wading birds and even small mammals like Otters.

Reducing flood risk: The blocking of the ditches reduces surface run off and so it takes longer for the rain water to flow through the moors before arriving at our villages and cities downstream. This allows the build up of water to be slowly released over time reducing the risk of flooding.

Reducing the cost of water: The healthy Peat acts as a natural filtration system reducing the sediment and dissolved organic carbon in the water making it easier to clean at water treatment works which in turn leads to cheaper water costs.

The Exmoor Mires Partnership is supported by local landowners, the Environment Agency, Natural England, English Heritage and the Exmoor National Park Authority. It also has help from local volunteers.


Westcountry Rivers Trust

Through Upstream Thinking 2, Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT) has engaged more than 500 farms, encouraging and supporting the uptake of water-sensitive land management practices as a direct result. Add to this the previous round from 2010-2015 which saw WRT visiting 300 farms, it represents a significant proportion of the targeted farmed catchments.

In the current 5-year project period of Upstream Thinking, WRT has worked with landowners across five strategically important drinking water supply river catchments in the Westcountry: the Fowey, Tamar, Exe, Dart and Otter. This has enabled the trust to continue delivering positive change on the ground, build relationships through a consistent and confidential presence, and listen, as well as advise, on water friendly practices. By working with farmers, we gain an understanding of their plans as well as current operations so that the best options are considered for economic as well as environmental reasons. We understand that farming is a business and requires sound advice, solid evidence, and a qualified, knowledgeable team.

Each farm receives a detailed and individually tailored farm plan, which outlines opportunities and may take a fresh look at the protection of land and water; soil, nutrient and pesticide management. We provide capital grants to support the delivery of a broad range of interventions, from watercourse fencing to manure stores. These greatly reduce the risk of pollutants entering our rivers by directly intercepting the pathways of nutrients or sediment. Grants are offered at 50% of cost, which means the funding from South West Water will be worth at least double this once the farmers own investment has been considered.

WRT also offers soil testing and advice for good soil husbandry, has successfully facilitated the removal of over 4.8 tonnes of chemicals through a Pesticide Amnesty and continues to implement catchment-scale monitoring, mapping, and modelling.

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