Devon charity’s vision for ‘wilder farm’ named as one of 12 new high-impact projects to help tackle UK’s climate crisis

A Devon farm has been unveiled as part of an ambitious national nature recovery project which aims to develop natural solutions to storing carbon and combating climate change.

The local part of the project is being led by the charity Devon Wildlife Trust and focusses upon the charity’s Woodah Farm – a 57 hectare holding in the Teign Valley.

The farm has been announced today as the location of one of 12 new projects taking place across England. Together they address a range of measures which include restoring grasslands, peatlands, saltmarsh, kelp forests, wetlands and woods.

The projects, which will help the UK achieve its ambition of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, are able to go ahead thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Players have raised almost £2 million for The Wildlife Trusts to support actions that tackle the climate and nature crises.

Devon Wildlife Trust will use support from the People’s Postcode Lottery to make big changes in a project it is calling ‘Wilder Woodah’. These will see a return of wildlife in greater numbers and diversity, while the farm will also become a ‘demonstration site’ used by the Trust to show visitors how practical ‘nature-based’ solutions can be developed at a local level.

Woodah view from top pastures

Since the Trust took on ownership of Woodah Farm, near Doddiscombleigh, in 2009 the Trust has restored several areas for nature, alongside managing the site as a working farm. The charity’s approach will build on these foundations and see a step change for wildlife and carbon sequestration. The Wilder Woodah project will see large areas of the farm returned to ‘natural processes’ to allow its soils to recover. This will mean greatly reducing levels of grazing animals, while also planting 8,000 trees, with many more encouraged to grow through natural regeneration, and erecting temporary ‘exclosures’ to protect the growing saplings from the attentions of local deer.

Peter Burgess, Devon Wildlife Trust Director of Nature Recovery, outlined the charity’s vision for the farm:

“Devon Wildlife Trust will invigorate natural processes to build carbon rich, healthy soils. A dynamic and diverse mixture of woodlands, scrub, meadows and wetlands will naturally regenerate and flourish across the farm. Rare species will bounce back and more common species, which are the engine room of nature’s recovery, will be seen in far greater abundance. Woodah Farm will be a test bed to reveal techniques to tackle both the climate and biodiversity crisis in Devon’s farmland.”

Grizzled Skipper Butterfly

Chris Root

The work at Woodah Farm has already begun. Deer exclosures have been installed to protect existing and newly planted woodland. Meanwhile, volunteers led by staff from Devon Biodiversity Records Centre are spending the summer conducting a series of wildlife surveys which will allow them to track the impact for nature of changes to the farm’s management. Some of the positive shifts the Trust expects include increasing numbers of rare insects including brown hairstreak and grizzled skipper butterflies, plus more visits by endangered greater horseshoe bats.  

Experts from the University of Exeter will also help reveal other major changes that will occur on the farm. As the numbers of cattle grazing the farm’s fields is reduced, the researchers’ job will be to look at alterations in vegetation cover and type, in soil structure and carbon, in earthworm numbers and in levels of key nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:

“We’re delighted funding raised by our players is helping The Wildlife Trusts restore habitats across the country that play a key role in accumulating and storing carbon. By helping nature thrive, these ambitious projects offer solutions to the challenges we face from climate change so these landscapes and the wildlife there can be enjoyed by future generations.

“Players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting these projects as part of our Postcode Climate Challenge initiative, which is providing 12 charities with an additional £24 million in funding for initiatives tackling climate change this year.”

Editor's notes

The 12 projects being funded by the players of the Peoples’ Postcode Lottery are:

  1. Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust – creating habitat features to help temperature-sensitive butterflies
  2. Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and North Wales Wildlife Trusts – restoring fragmented wetlands, paving the way to bring back beavers
  3. Cumbria Wildlife Trust – peatland repair and sphagnum moss farming
  4. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust – woodland creation and restoration in the Derwent Valley
  5. Devon Wildlife Trust – creating a nature-based solutions demonstration site at its Woodah Farm
  6. Essex Wildlife Trust – expanding saltmarsh restoration
  7. Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust – seagrass restoration in the Solent
  8. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust – creating a nature recovery network
  9. Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust – natural flood management across a river catchment
  10. Somerset Wildlife Trust – survey work to enable lowland peatland restoration
  11. Sussex Wildlife Trust – working with local communities to rewild a kelp forest
  12. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust – the restoration of the Great North Bog