Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area - Linking life in the Torridge

Landscape in the NIA

Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) work towards an ambitious, shared vision for landscape-scale management of the local environment.

NIA work

The Northern Devon NIA is one of 12 nationally important landscape scale wildlife schemes across England, identified by Defra in 2012. Devon Wildlife Trust leads the NIA partnership programme within the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with 13 organisations actively involved together with local farmers, landowners and communities.

Cow in grassland

The NIA aims to restore and re-create a wildlife-rich landscape across the internationally important river Torridge catchment, and to develop stronger links between environment, economy and local communities. This is a very rural area with small mixed farms, intensive dairy units, conifer plantations and tiny settlements.

The Torridge catchment holds 35% of the UK’s remaining Culm grassland, 120 scheduled plants and animals, and important populations of two of Europe’s ten most threatened species – the marsh fritillary butterfly and the freshwater pearl mussel. Our aim is to bring together grassland, woodland, hedgerow, river and other land management into a more integrated and connected approach to the landscape.

What’s happened so far?

The Northern Devon NIA achieved real positive change in its first three years. This included over 1500ha of wildlife habitat restored, 81ha of new habitat created, 96km of riverside land influenced, 276 farmers advised, 52 school habitat visits, over 150 community events held, and 15 parish wildlife projects started. 

Read more about the NIA’s achievements and learning in our first three years here

Listen to local farmers talk about how farming and wildlife can work well together, to the benefit of both, in our short film: 


In 2015 our initial Defra funding finished. The NIA partnership developed a business plan for phase 2 of the NIA programme, with ambitions for further environmental improvements and strengthening connections to the economy and local community. We have been busy developing new projects and fundraising to realise the NIA’s ambitions up to 2020 and beyond. It will take many years to achieve a sustainable, vibrant and healthy living landscape.

The Culm: a landscape that works is our most recent summary of all of the work that has been undertaken in recent years.

A summary of the research written by DWT; The Ecosystem Services provided by Culm grasslands

Current NIA projects

You can find out more about the following projects on their own dedicated pages:

Restoring Freshwater Mussels on the Torridge

Torridge Headwaters Facilitation Fund

Culm Grassland Flood Mitigation Project

Freshwater pearl mussel Culm grassland Hay spreading

Plymouth University studentships: every year we host up to three student placements as part of Plymouth University’s B.Sc. Conservation Biology course. This work is funded by the Holly Hill Trust.

North Devon Catchment Partnership: the NIA works closely with the North Devon Catchment Partnership to develop and implement projects towards a healthier river and our EU Water Framework Directive commitments.

It’s all down to teamwork

The NIA couldn’t make any difference on the ground without the efforts of all our partners, local farmers, landowners and Torridge residents. A huge thank you to everyone involved.
Our partners include:

Beaford Arts logo Devon Biodiversity Record Centre logo Devon County Council logo Environment Agency logo
Forestry Commission logo Met Office logo Natural England logo North Devon Biosphere logo
Torridge District Council logo University of Exeter

West Country Rivers Trust logo

Get in touch

Lisa Schneidau, NIA Manager
01409 221823