Case Study: South Hooe Restoring and Enhancing Watery Landscapes
Title: South Hooe Restoring and Enhancing Watery Landscapes
Category: Landscapes for Nature
AONB: Tamar Vally AONB
The Tamar Valley received its AONB designation in 1995, due to the recognition that it is a rare valley and water landscape of high visual quality with artistic and public appeal, which also serves as a unique wildlife resource with a remarkable heritage.
South Hooe encompasses all of these qualities and thus is a very special part of the Tamar Valley. It’s a small peninsula in Devon, within a bend of the River Tamar, adjacent to and including part of the Tamar Tavy Estuaries SSSI and a host of other designations.
Thanks to the vision and support of the landowner, a large collaborative effort supported by the Tamar Valley AONB, the Environment Agency and Natural England aims to restore the natural landscape of an area of approximately 100 acres, in such a way as to encourage wildlife (particularly species associated with the notification of the SSSI). The landowners’ long-term intention is that the site will be gifted to Devon Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve.
As part of this, the Tamar Valley AONB is currently working on Phase I of the South Hooe Restoring and Enhancing Watery Landscapes project (SHREWL), funded through the National Grid’s Landscape Enhancement Initiative, a scheme set up to reduce the landscape and visual impact of the National Grid’s existing electricity infrastructure and to enhance the quality of the affected designated landscapes.
South Hooe lies within the visual impact zone of the National Grid’s High Voltage infrastructure as it crosses the Tamar into Cornwall. These pylons are some of the tallest pylon structures in the country and, in juxtaposition to the wide breadth of the river, they have been identified as having the worst visual impact on any AONB landscape in the country.
What was done
The SHREWL project Phase I has been designed to mitigate the impact of these pylons at South Hooe by a series of works which serve to screen views of the infrastructure while also strengthening the landscape features through;
- the re-introduction of historical field boundaries identified from a study of the 1880-1890 ordnance survey map
- the creation of new mixed deciduous woodland and hedgerows, including hedgerow trees that are appropriate for the landscape and resilient
- the sensitive management of existing hedgerows over the next 3 years, to enable existing woody species to develop canopy cover and naturally develop a crown
- the promotion of existing hedgerow plants and the planting of additional hedgerow trees to establish new standards in the landscape and further strengthen the landscape through improved resilience to Ash Dieback
- repairing existing stone-faced Devon hedge banks
- fencing to protect new field boundaries and allow access via a new planned permissible walk route.
- Woodland creation - 1.43ha (1100 trees) planted in a park woodland style in 2020/2021
- Hedgerow creation - 720m (3325 trees and shrubs) planted in 2020/2021, including a green lane
- Tree and shrub species, supplied through the Woodland Trust MOREhedges and MOREwoods scheme, included a mixture of Oak (common), Crab apple, Rowan, Wild cherry, Dog rose, Elder, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, Spindle, Blackthorn and Field Maple.
- Hedgerow regeneration - sensitive management of 840m of hedgerows in November 2020. Where suitable trees were not already present, new trees were planted
- 8 new Oak standards were planted in hedgebanks in February 2021
- Restoration of 11.75m of hedgebank and stonewall in November 2020
- New access route - old fencing was removed and disposed of and 1963m of new fencing and gateways installed
- New vistas and viewpoints - first of three 150m stretches coppiced November 2020
83 volunteer days spend on the project to date with instruction given in traditional and practical management techniques enabling them to manage land in other places for the benefit of wider landscapes.
- This work could not be possible without the support of the landowner who has a long term vision for the site, has fully engaged in the SHREWL project from its inception and has remained proactive throughout its delivery.
- The involvement of an experienced local volunteer work force, including the Tamar Community Trust and the Tavistock Taskforce, has been essential to the cost-effective delivery of the work on the ground. We are very fortunate that work was able to continue in between lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic and are very grateful for the dedication of all the volunteers who continued to help us deliver the project during challenging times.
- Linking the project to the Woodland Trusts MOREWoods and MOREHedges schemes was an additional valuable contribution to the project and we are again fortunate that delivery of plants was able to continue despite the restrictions resulting from the pandemic.
- A collaborative approach has been key to the delivery SHREWL and will remain so as we work to help fulfill the wider ambitions for the South Hooe landscape.
Additional planned works for South Hooe include;
- recreating c19 hectares of intertidal habitat through a breach in the existing flood-bank, (to be carried out by the Environment Agency in 2021, subject to planning permission)
- creating freshwater wetland within a re-aligned flood-bank and installing bird hides
- establishing 30 acres of species-rich grassland. Following a feasibility study funded by countryside stewardship, an initial 10 acres of wildflower grassland was established from an arable site, using green hay from a farm near Lostwithiel (contact established via AONB officer) and supplemented with harvested wild meadow seed. The remaining 20 acres of grassland has been managed to remove nutrients for 2 years and has this year been accepted into the Plantlife Meadow restoration project via the More Meadows group and work will begin this summer.
- Providing tussocky grassland for barn owls (2020) using countryside stewardship mid tier scheme from Jan 2021
- An ongoing programme of oversowing pasture with legumes and herbs one field per year beginning August 2020
- Establishing a new I ha walnut, cobnut, sweet chestnut, almond orchard (planted Feb 2021) as part of wooded corridor around the peninsula
- Establishing woodland within a 3 ha area of agriculturally improved grassland through a combination of small patches of tree planting and natural regeneration.
- Further parkland planting of fruit trees in pasture
- Providing nest sites for birds historically associated with farm buildings
“One of the best aspects of working in an AONB is the opportunity we have to experience wonderful landscapes such as South Hooe. It really is a gem in the heart of the Tamar Valley AONB. We are grateful to the National Grid and all the project partners and contractors for their support of this work including the Tamar Community Trust and Tavistock Taskforce and their volunteers whose involvement has been absolutely essential. Personally, it’s been a great pleasure and a privilege to be able to support the landowner at South Hooe, helping them realize their long term vision for this wonderful place".
- Project Manager
“The AONB project officers have worked very hard to obtain grant help and co-ordinate all the contractors and volunteers involved. We have particularly enjoyed meeting and working with the conservation volunteers. The LEI grant application process was not quite as straightforward as we had hoped, but it was worth it in the end.”
- South Hooe landowner
“I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon of hedge planting at South Hooe in December. It really lifted my spirits to be able to get active and enjoy the outdoors with a friendly group of people, especially during a difficult year. South Hooe is such a beautiful place with wide views across the Tamar River - it was satisfying to be part of the effort to improve the habitats there. I look forward to revisiting again to see how everything has established.”
- Tamar Community Trust volunteer
Key search words:
Tamar Valley, South Hooe, Water, River, Landscape, woodland creation, hedgerow creation, restoration, intertidal habitat, freshwater wetland, species-rich grassland