Good things come in trees!

Good things come in trees!

A tank, a pump and a pipe make all the difference when growing trees from seed for the Saving Devon’s Treescapes project. Thanks to funding from South West Water, rainwater-harvesting at Meeth Quarry has reduced mains water use and freed up time for Devon Wildlife Trust volunteers!

Devon Wildlife Trust volunteers have been delighted with the success of a rainwater harvesting system installed at the Saving Devon’s Treescapes community tree nursery at Meeth Quarry, following support from a £4,000 grant through South West Water’s Water Saving Community Fund. The grant will also pay for an interpretation panel at the nursery entrance explaining the new system and why it’s vital for everyone to be more efficient with water use at home and work.

The tree nursery is a key part of the DWT-led Saving Devon Treescapes project. The Treescapes team works with communities across the county to plant native broadleaf trees to help reverse severe recent losses to the deadly tree-disease, Ash Dieback, with the majority of this work supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Trees are grown from seed, nurtured to one-year-old saplings – known as ‘whips’ – then given away for individuals, community groups, schools and businesses to plant in gardens, farmland, parks and other green spaces. Volunteers collect seeds from a wide range of trees, sourced all over the county, from DWT nature reserves and other sites, and from both woods and hedges. 

The lake at Meeth Quarry

Photo, Nate Evans 

Meeth Quarry, one of DWT’s largest and most popular nature reserves, plays host to the tree nursery. The reserve is a former ball clay mining site near Hatherleigh that has been re-claimed by nature since the end of production in the early 2000s. With two large lakes and a series of ponds and ditches, this dragonfly haven has plenty of freshwater habitats.

But the only water source that could be used to help grow trees at nursery was the mains tap in the reserve’s office building. Volunteers had to fill a small container on the back of a trailer, then take it up to the tree nursery, empty it into the large water tank there, and repeat the journey until the tank was full. It was hard work and very time-consuming.

Then one day, one of the volunteers mentioned South West Water’s Water-Saving Community Fund to Ian Chadwick, the reserve’s manager. Along with DWT’s fundraising team, they came up with a solution that would reduce mains water use and save volunteer time and effort - if South West Water could support the costs of installation.

The idea was to attach a 10,000-litre tank to the guttering of the Meeth office building to collect rainwater from the roof. By attaching a pump to the tank, the water could be delivered up the incline to the nursery where the tanks could be filled using a hose.

Thanks to funding from South West Water, the tank, pump and pipe were installed in 2021 and DWT staff and volunteers are delighted by its success.

Rosie Cotgreave leads Devon Wildlife Trust’s Saving Devon Treescapes project. Rosie said:

“We’re really grateful to South West Water for this funding, which has allowed us to harvest rainwater. By watering our tree saplings with recycled water collected in the wetter months, we’re able to be more sustainable when the sun comes out.”

Devon Wildlife Trust estimates that the new system will save around 130,000 litres of mains water – equivalent to 1,625 full bathtubs – helping the environment and reducing costs.

Caroline, one of Devon Wildlife Trust’s conservation trainees, was impressed by how quickly a significant volume of rainwater was harvested: “After we’d installed it, we had a night of really heavy rain, and when we came back in the morning, the tank was already a third full!” Ian Chadwick added that he thinks it only takes about four days of rain to completely fill the 10,000-litre tank.

Zofia, one of Devon Wildlife Trust’s conservation trainees, said: “The best thing about this project was having the experience of the installation and doing some plumbing work. I learnt new skills that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to.”

The rainwater-harvesting system has been a huge help in turning the volunteer-collected seeds into the 7,500 broadleaf trees expected to be given away free from the Meeth Quarry tree nursery this year. A second Saving Devon’s Treescapes community tree nursery will open later this year outside Exeter, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign.

If you want to find out more about South West Water community fund you can do so here

If you want to find out more about our Meeth nature reserve you can do so here.