Devon farm selected as test bed for new measures to tackle climate crisis

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A farm in Devon will be one of twelve trial sites in the UK being used to test new methods to tackle the climate crisis.

The farm at Doddiscombsleigh in the Teign Valley has been selected to take part in the scheme by the Wildlife Trusts, with the project being given financial support from the People's Postcode Lottery.

Woodah Farm will develop natural solutions to storing carbon and combatting climate change.

This means rewilding fields and the boundaries between them, which is good for biodiversity, especially for insect life and for birds.

The 57 hectare site has been owned by the Devon Wildlife Trust since 2009 and during that time, parts of it have already been restored as a reserve for nature, while keeping other areas going as a working farm.

But the trust will build on this work by allowing large areas of the farm to return to 'natural processes' to allow the soils to recover. This will mean greatly reducing levels of grazing animals while also planting 8,000 trees.

Its hoped the 12 test sites will help the UK achieve its ambition of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Credit: ITV News

Many more will also be encouraged to grow through natural regeneration and by erecting temporary 'exclosures' to protect the growing saplings from being damaged by local deer.

Some of these fences have already been installed to protect existing and newly planted woodland.

This summer, volunteers led by staff from Devon Biodiversity Records Centre are conducting a series of wildlife surveys which will allow them to track the impact for nature of changes to the farm’s management.

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.

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.  

Peter Burgess, Devon Wildlife Trust's director of nature recovery, said: "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.”

As the numbers of cattle grazing the farm’s fields is reduced, they will 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.

Its hoped the 12 test sites will help the UK achieve its ambition of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The other locations are spread throughout the country, including at a Somerset Wildlife Trust site, where survey work will enable lowland peatland restoration.