Cleaner water for Cornwall

Drift Reservoir by Jan Dinsdale

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is making links with hundreds of farmers across Cornwall through the Upstream Thinking project.

Together we're making Cornwall's water cleaner

  • Cleaning up rivers and streams which provide drinking water for the people of West Cornwall

  • By spending over £1,000,000 on local farms until 2020

  • Making better spaces for wildlife

Helping farmers to keep rivers clean

South West Water funds Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Upstream Thinking programme to work with farmers in Cornwall. Local farmers and the Trust's farm advisers work together to find ways of reducing river pollution. Less farmyard manure, slurry and soil entering rivers means cleaner river water, which saves costs involved in water treatment.



Upstream Thinking can part-fund projects on farms to help reduce pesticides and sediments reaching our rivers. Fencing along a watercourse to stop cows accessing the stream, or repairing guttering on farm buildings will all help to keep rivers clean.

Working to make better places for wildlife

Barn Owl

Lots of the ways to reduce water pollution will also be good for wildlife; in fact wildlife habitats can be a good buffer to slow down and purify water when it runs off the land.

The team’s ecologists find ways to maintain, extend and create new habitats on farms which will provide shelter for insects, small mammals and birds, which in turn provide food for predators like barn owls.

The ‘Wild’ Upstream Thinking volunteer groups help to manage wildlife habitats on farms by getting involved in practical conservation tasks, such as gorse clearance, boardwalk construction and Cornish hedging.


And bringing benefits to people

The best solutions for water and wildlife are often helpful for farm businesses, as they involve keeping soil and fertilisers in fields where they are most valuable.

Cleaner water reaching the water treatment works means treating water is less expensive, which could mean lower bills for South West Water’s customers.

Healthier rivers and restored river banks provide better places for recreation such as walking and bathing. Cleaner water reaching the coast has knock-on benefits for beaches and bathing water which all help to support Cornwall’s tourist industry.


What does Upstream Thinking offer?

Free services for farmers in the Upstream Catchments around Penzance, Helston and Falmouth:

Upstream Thinking catchments map


  • Visits from BASIS FACTS qualified farm advisers
  • Soil testing and help with nutrient management planning
  • Support with applications to Countryside Stewardship
  • Funding towards capital projects to improve water quality e.g. guttering, track work, alternative cattle drinking
  • Ecological surveys and advice on wildlife habitats
  • Practical tasks from a volunteer group, e.g. hedging and scrub clearance

For communities:

  • Community events focusing on water quality and wildlife improvements

Get in touch

If you would like to know more about the Upstream Thinking programme, please email

Get involved

The ‘Wild’ Upstream Thinking volunteer groups carry out hands-on conservation and land management tasks every Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to find out more, please contact David May on For wider volunteering opportunities with Cornwall Wildlife Trust, visit the volunteering page.


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cattle_anthelmintic_spreadsheet.pdf20.54 KB
horses_anthelmintic_spreadsheet.pdf24.62 KB
sheep_anthelmintic_spreadsheet.pdf26.71 KB