Cornwall Wildlife Trust is working with Little Viscar Farm, near Helston, as part of the Upstream Thinking project, a South West Water (SWW) initiative to improve water quality in the River Cober catchment. Unwanted soil, silt, pesticides, fertilisers and animal waste in rivers increase water treatment costs. Working with landowners, the Upstream Thinking project aims to keep these materials from entering rivers in the first place by making changes to how agricultural land is managed.
This tree planting scheme is just one of many projects where farmers are making land management changes, including planting a wider variety of deep-rooted grasses and herbs. Deeper rooting plants and trees make the soil spongy, holding onto water for longer and then releasing it slowly. More areas like this can catch pollution before it gets to the river, as well as ‘slowing the flow’ during heavy rain which helps to reduce the risk of flooding in Helston.
Sue Hocking, Ecologist for Cornwall Wildlife Trust says,
“The woodland planting at Little Viscar is one of a range of measures we are putting in place to intercept agricultural runoff and enhance the wildlife value of the farm. Once established, the trees will slow and filter runoff from fields and a track. This will have the double benefit of improving water quality in the River Cober and helping to reduce the effects of flooding downstream.”
It’s not just water quality that will benefit, with the new habitat improving the condition of the river for wildlife and helping to protect Loe Pool Site of Special Scientific Interest at the seaward end. Sue designed the planting scheme and explains that “the trees, which include oak, holly, hawthorn, cherry and alder are being planted in an area with relatively little woodland.