Torridge River Restoration Project

Torridge River Restoration Project

Halsdon nature reserve. Photo, Kevin New

Restoring the ecological health of the River Torridge

The Torridge River Restoration Project (TRRP) was an ambitious project aiming to restore the water quality and ecological health of two key areas of the catchment, through a targeted programme of integrated farm advice, capital works, community action and training. This project was part of the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area programme.

The River Torridge viewed through trees at Volehouse Moor nature reserve

The River Torridge at Volehouse Moor nature reserve

The project aimed to:

  • Provide focused advice and support to landowners and farmers
  • Provide training and advice for land managers
  • Directly influence and improve the watercourses in the Torridge by implementing on farm capital works schemes
  • Restore and create freshwater habitats, and improve biodiversity and structural diversity of the river and wider catchment
  • Engage with local communities to tackle non-native invasive species, including Himalayan Balsam management
  • Deliver workshops to share knowledge and skills with stakeholders (e.g. landowners, commoners, land use advisors, and flood risk professionals)

What we achieved

Matt Turley, the Torridge River Restoration Project Team Leader, reflects on the project's achievements here.

An infographic of the achievements of the project
European otter swimming in a river

Photo, Andy Rouse/2020VISION

Why the Torridge?

Despite its undisputed ecological value the Torridge catchment has experienced significant negative land use change in recent years. Over 50% of Culm grassland was lost during the 1985-1995 period alone. Agricultural intensification and the accompanying drainage works have impacted the ability of the land to slow the movement of water through the catchment, in turn reducing its capacity to purify water and act as a buffer during flood events, as well as increasing the soils susceptibility to erosion.

As a result, the river suffers from significant diffuse pollution and habitat degradation from source to sea. The Torridge also suffers from serious impacts from non-native invasive species, most notably from the extensive spread of Himalayan Balsam which compounds the river’s diffuse pollution and habitat problems.

Our target areas

The targeted waterbodies were carefully selected through work with the North Devon Catchment Partnership and partner organisations, using data and experience from current and previous projects with Torridge landowners. They were judged to be the areas where key issues on the river were magnified, and where significant change in land and water management could be achieved.

The lower Torridge area suffers from severe diffuse pollution and lack of good quality water-related habitat. The Freshwater Pearl Mussel Project has highlighted the need for significant action to improve ecological status in the tributaries here, as this directly influences the population of freshwater pearl mussels on the main river section.

The upper Torridge area holds a greater amount of good quality water-related habitat, but also suffers from significant diffuse pollution problems. This area was targeted for in-channel restoration, reintroducing gravels to the Torridge and its tributaries to provide suitable fish spawning habitat and protect the river bed and banks from continued erosion. The area is also likely to be the focus area for future, freshwater pearl mussel reintroductions and the gravels will provide ideal habitat for juveniles.

Restoring the ecological health of the River Torridge

What we offered landowners

Five workshops were offered to landowners and land managers providing advice and training on topics including sustainable water management and diffuse pollution, non-native invasive species and river restoration techniques.

We provided advice and grants for the following activities:

  • Soil aeration;
  • Woody debri dams;
  • Watercourse fencing and alternative livestock drinking sources;
  • Sediment ponds and traps;
  • Protection against riverbank erosion;
  • Livestock and machinery hardcore tracks;
  • Riverside tree coppicing;
  • Gateway relocation;
  • Tree planting;
  • Cross drains;
  • Swales and check dams;

This project is supported by a Water Environment Grant through the Environment Agency

EU & EA logos

The European Agricultural Fund
for Rural Development:
Europe investing in rural areas

Get in touch

Thank you for visiting our Torridge River Restoration Project page. Unfortunately, this project has now come to an end. Throughout 2019 – 2021, we have achieved some fantastic results across the Torridge catchment, to protect and enhance local watercourses.  The project has delivered significant capital works on farms, engaged with a large group of passionate landowners and volunteers, and delivered some fantastic habitat creation works, such as tree planting, meadow creation and wildlife scrapes. Although this project has ended, the good work will be continued on our new project, North Devon Natural Solutions (NDNS). Once the project has started, a webpage and newsletter will be available to provide full details of the project. In the meantime, please direct your enquiry to a member of the NDNS team using the emails below.