Our nature reserves
Health & Safety Committee Rep
Membership team volunteer
Why not give some time to help out with conservation work on the Culm Measures?
DWT has many Culm grassland sites that it looks after and our nature reserves team are always looking for more volunteers.
For more details visit our Volunteer Opportunities webpage
What is Culm grassland?
Culm grasslands are the wet tussocky grassland found on the poorly drained, clay soils of the Culm. Elsewhere in the country, similar habitats are referred to as Rhos Pasture, and there are other strongholds in SW Wales and the west coasts of Scotland and Ireland where the climatic and soil conditions are similar.
They are an internationally important habitat, and home to some of the nation’s most threatened wildlife, such as the marsh fritillary butterfly and the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth.
Like all grasslands, they need to be managed to keep them clear of scrub and woodland. Here in the Culm, a history of light summer grazing by cattle and burning has maintained the open conditions required for the rare wildflowers, insects and birds which make them such spectacular habitats.
Find out more about Culm grassland and its associated species here.
Some of the very best examples of Culm grassland are now owned and managed as DWT Nature Reserves, and are well worth a visit. On the A361 between Tiverton and Barnstaple lies the Rackenford and Knowstone Moor reserve, and over in the west is the spectacular Dunsdon National Nature Reserve which is also under the careful management of DWT.
The Hydrology of Culm
In addition to its wildlife value, Culm grassland also serves a number of other very important functions in the landscape. One of these is the storage of water, and its gradual release back into the headwater streams over a longer period of time. A landscape rich in Culm has healthier, cleaner rivers, with less frequent floods and more constant flows during droughts. In a similar way, the water running off a Culm-rich landscape is generally cleaner, with fewer pollutants like phosphates and pesticides that come from more intensively farmed land.
DWT is working with the University of Exeter and the Environment Agency on a detailed hydrology and water quality study on these impacts and the results should be available in the spring 2014.
Culm under threat
There have been huge losses of Culm grassland in the last hundred years, with only 10% of the habitats present in 1900 still surviving today. Over half was lost during the late 1980s and early 1990s as farmers were subsidised to plough up grasslands to plant crops. Tree planting and neglect were other key factors. Even today these habitats are still at risk of being drained and improved as it becomes ever more difficult to make traditional farming profitable on these heavy clay soils.
Those areas of Culm that remain are often small and isolated and this is bad news for many species. Isolated populations of butterflies are known to do very badly due to inbreeding - this is one of the greatest threats to marsh fritillary butterflies. Species will be particularly vulnerable to extinction as the climate changes and they need to migrate across the landscape to survive.
What is Devon Wildlife Trust doing to help?
Through the Working Wetlands project, Devon Wildlife Trust is helping to reverse Culm decline by encouraging and supporting landowners to carry out targeted habitat management, creation and restoration projects.
Working closely with our sister project, the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area (NIA), we have built close working relationships with over 400 landowners since 2008. Working with the farming community in this way we can achieve better connected areas of Culm grassland and ensure that the wildlife species associated with Culm can move more freely across the landscape.
How can Working Wetlands help you?
The Working Wetlands Advisory team provides farmers with targeted whole farm, farming and wildlife advice. We are able to provide advice free of charge to farmers and landowners in our priority areas and can advise on a wide range of farming and wildlife management practices as well as water management issues. Working Wetlands aims to support land owners through:
• Whole farm advice – covering wildlife and water management, and integrating them into the management of the whole farm
• Advice on Agri-environment schemes and other grants that are available – we sometimes have a budget for small capital projects ourselves.
• Specialist advice on restoration and re-creation of grassland habitats
• Practical support with our machinery ring that contains various items of farm machinery
• Grazing Links initiative helps with finding graziers and support with grazing issues
Click here (come soon) to see an information sheet that provides more detailed information on the areas where we work and the staff involved.
Working Wetlands Practical Advice Pack
The aim of this pack is to support farmers and landowners in the Culm NCA who manage wildlife rich habitats. You can download our excellent collection of practical advice notes, which draw on the experience of the local farming community and combines the knowledge and skills of the Working Wetlands team, DWT and our partners.
- Practical Advice Pack cover pdf
- Advice note 1 - Culm grasslands pdf
- Advice note 2 - Managing Culm grasslands pdf
- Advice note 3 - Scrub management pdf
- Advice note 4 - Managing rushes pdf
- Advice note 5 - Hedge management pdf
- Advice note 6 - Swaling pdf
- Advice note 7 - Water and soil management pdf
- Advice note 8 - Wet grassland restoration pdf
- Advice note 9 - Small Grant Award pdf
- Advice note 10 - Where to find out more info pdf
Since 1994, the Devon Wildlife Trust has produced Culm Connections, in order to help provide information to owners of land in the Culm about the landscape. It is full of interesting and practical information. The most recent edition is here, together with some of the more recent back editions.
• CC35 – Winter/Spring 2014 (current edition)
- CC27 Autumn 2008 pdf
- CC28 June 2009 pdf
- CC29 November 2009 pdf
- CC30 April 2010 pdf
- CC31 November 2010 pdf
- CC32 June 2011 pdf
- CC33 December 2011 pdf
- CC34 Aug 2012 pdf
Watch the film
View the 10 minute project video which gives more information about Working Wetlands and its partners.
This project has been supported by the following organisations, along with the Garfield Weston Foundation: