Skip to main content

Land Management

Water Resources

Rivers are vital natural resources: they provide drinking water, crucial habitats for many different types of wildlife, and are an important resource for industry and recreation. The Northern Devon NIA covers the river Torridge catchment; the river itself stretches 48 miles across North Devon in a predominantly rural area, characterised by steep wooded valleys and a mixture of pastoral and arable farming. Water quality of the Torridge has suffered over the years as a result of agricultural intensification, such as increased use of fertilizers, and changing farming practices as well as other contributory factors. The NIA partners are working together to address this and help the Torridge meet its Water Framework Directive targets.

The NIA works with farmers and landowners by taking a proactive, whole farm approach to water resource protection. This covers a wide range of areas, for example erecting watercourse fencing to prevent livestock entering a watercourse, identifying fields at risk of soil erosion, and making better use of farm manures rather than artificial fertilisers . The NIA helps farmers apply for funding through schemes such as Catchment Sensitive Farming, which helps farmers and land managers to take voluntary action to reduce diffuse water pollution from agriculture to protect water bodies and the environment. More....


Culm Grassland

There are a variety of different grassland types within the Northern Devon NIA project area, from improved rye-grass pastures to species-rich hay meadows, but perhaps the most characteristic and important in ecological terms is what is known as Culm grassland.

Culm grassland is the name given to damp unimproved grasslands that have developed above a geological formation known as the Culm Measures in north-west Devon and north-east Cornwall. The underlying acidic clay soils and mild wet climate combine to encourage a wealth of different wetland plant communities to become established. These habitats are noted for their biodiversity, and they support several rare plant species such as lesser butterfly orchid, whorled caraway, wavy St John’s-wort and marsh cinquefoil.

The diverse flora supports several scarce insects including the marsh fritillary (one of the most threatened butterflies in Europe), narrow-bordered bee hawkmoth and keeled skimmer dragonfly. A wide range of bird species can be found on the Culm such as barn owl, curlew, snipe, willow tit and grasshopper warbler. Some 92% of Culm grassland has been lost in the past 100 years, with 48% disappearing between 1984 and 1991 alone. The majority of loss has been due to agricultural improvement by drainage, ploughing and fertiliser application; however the greatest threat today is often neglect and abandonment leading to encroachment by scrub and woodland. 

The Northern Devon NIA contains an estimated 35% of the remaining Culm grassland resource in the UK. More....



Devon is one of the least wooded counties in England, but within the Nature Improvement Area there is just over 10000 hectares of woodland (about 12% of the project area). Much of this is in small blocks under 5 hectares. Woodland in the NIA is a mixture of native broadleaf - much of which is found on the steep sides of river valleys, and is undermanaged; and commercially planted woodlands - usually conifers such as sitka spruce grown for timber.

Some of our important woodland species in this area include the hazel dormouse, pearl-bordered fritillary and bats. Much of the woodland within the NIA is dominated by oak with species such and hazel, holly and rowan. Wet woodlands occur on water-logged soils and can be important sites for lower plants as well as species such as otters.

The woodland of the NIA brings many benefits to the local community, including timber, woodfuel, amenity, wildlife, wellbeing and carbon capture. Part of the work of the NIA is to develop a better understanding and articulation of these values among the community. More....


Grants for farmers and land managers

Within the Nature Improvement Area (NIA) we recognise the important role that farmers and landowners play in looking after the wider countryside and some of our most valuable wildlife sites.

There are several sources of funding to support land management activities that deliver environmental, nature and landscape benefits. Grants can also benefit landowners by boosting income to help with managing difficult sites or improving  farm infrastructure.

If you would like to find out more, our NIA advisors can give information about which grant might suit your needs, as well as offering help with the completion of applications. We work closely with a range of organisations, so you can be sure that the advice you receive will be up to date and relevant to your circumstances.

Grants that may be suitable include:

  • Environmental Stewardship – to support environmental land management
  • Catchment Sensitive Farming – to support resource protection
  • Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme – farm infrastructure
  • Woodland Grant Scheme – to support a range of woodland objectives form establishment to management
  • Devon County Council small grant – works linked with the alleviation of flood risk

Please click here for more detailed information on grants and funding, or contact us to speak to one of our advisors.