In February, another very full meeting heard Sam Bridgewater speak about the management of the environment under the care of Clinton Devon Estates. He highlighted several threats posed by, for example, run off of soil from planted fields; Japanese knotweed; ash die back; and public enemy number one, the grey squirrel. The Estate has stopped planting broad-leaved trees because the young saplings are destroyed by the little grey pest!
Sam’s remit, however, is to find ways to reverse threats to species diversity and he gave reason to be optimistic. Evidence suggests that the beaver trial in the River Otter catchment is producing benefits that outweigh any negative impacts. Plans to open up the lower River Otter flood plain are also progressing. Over the centuries, the river’s banks have been managed for many varied reasons (including building a railway track), so that the river is effectively cut off from its flood plain. Any water escaping over the banks in time of flood cannot flow back, damaging natural defences. The plan is to reopen the estuary and create an extended habitat for wildlife.
Sam concluded by asking what the role for a private estate was in the 21st century. He believes that Clinton Devon Estates has the scale and commitment to manage its properties so as to allow wildlife to not just survive but to positively thrive. A welcome thought with which to leave us.