A public consultation is under way over proposals for a huge new regional park spanning the Clyst Valley in East Devon.
The green space will take in Clyst St George, Broadclyst, Poltimore, Killerton, Ashcylst Forest, Cranbrook, Whimple and Bishops Court.
Many areas mooted for the Clyst Valley Regional Park are not currently accessible to residents and visitors.
A masterplan for the project proposes to restore nature and historic buildings, create trails, and tackle climate change and flooding.
East Devon District Council (EDDC) launched a consultation and survey on the scheme on Monday (November 9). It runs until Thursday, January 7, 2021.
EDDC leader Councillor Paul Arnott said: “This exciting project is central to East Devon’s commitment to conserving beautiful areas not protected by formal status as well as encouraging the return of the bio-diversity the world is in desperate need of in the 2020s.
“I would encourage everyone to take part in this consultation.”
Some of the ideas mooted in the masterplan include:
- A Clyst Valley Trail linking the Exe Estuary Trail to the Exe Valley Way;
- An extension to Cranbrook Country Park;
- A land-based learning centre and café at Broadclyst Community Farm;
- A new cycle trail linking Cranbrook to Exeter along a quiet route;
- Renaturalising the River Clyst between Clyst Honiton and Cranbrook;
- A major increase in trees through both planting and natural regeneration;
- A new visitor hub at Ashclyst Farm and cycle/pedestrian links into the forest from Cranbrook, Broadclyst and Killerton.
East Devon portfolio holder for coast, country and environment Cllr Geoff Jung added: “Although the concept of the Clyst Valley Regional Park was agreed through the East Devon Local Plan in 2016, this consultation proposes many exciting and creative additions to help provide easier access for people to enjoy this wonderful countryside area on Exeter’s doorstep.
“It will also improve and enhance the biodiversity and habitat, to protect this special area for the long-term.
“Therefore, it is vital that you tell us how you would like to see this valuable ‘green space blueprint’ develop and grow.
“I would like all residents and businesses to help us define the priorities of the park, as it takes shape over the coming years.”
The masterplan says: “The Clyst Valley Regional Park is crucial for the health and wellbeing of a growing population, and to restore the natural capital on which we all depend.
“The purpose of this masterplan has been to set out a long-term, broad guide to how the regional park could develop.
“It is a first draft and is not perfect.
“A five-year action plan for delivery will then follow and progress will be monitored and reported annually to EDDC.”
East Devon residents can take part in an online survey here.
Any enquiries about the masterplan can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clyst Valley Regional Park major projects
The National Trust provides access to 272 hectares of the forest along a choice of colour-coded trails ranging from 2.4 km to 11.3 km, and including a 3.5 km butterfly trail suitable for wheelchairs and buggies.
The forest is an important site for pearl-bordered and small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies, 12 species of bats, dormice, and breeding birds. It is probably of national importance.
The National Trust plans to make the forest a more attractive and enjoyable destination for walking, cycling and horse-riding.
The intention is to create a visitor hub at Ashclyst Farm and an outdoor field studies centre at Caddihoe, the latter in collaboration with the Scout Association.
A hugely important piece of the jigsaw. Ownership is split across three private land holdings, but all have a desire to protect and enhance the natural and built heritage.
Over the next five years, parkland tree planting should continue alongside protection and maintenance of the existing old trees, one of which, an English oak, is estimated to be 700 years old.
A new permissive path and picnic area in Alder Croft woodland could create a circular trail from Sowton Village without needing to use Bishops Court Lane, which is a ‘rat-run’ during rush hour.
A strategy needs to be defined, and funding secured, to restore, and if possible, provide public access to the tithe barn and stables.
Clyst Valley Trail
The Clyst Valley Trail will be a commuting and recreational trail for walkers, cyclists, mobility scooters and, where feasible, horse riders.
It will link the Exe Estuary trail with the historic Killerton House and park via an existing multi-use trail from Broadclyst.
There is future potential to reach Ashclyst Forest and the Exe Valley Way.
It will provide a direct, safe, green route to employment centres at Science Park, Sky Park, and close access to Exeter Business Park and Sowton Industrial Estate.
On the way, it passes through historic parkland at Poltimore, forming the backbone of the new Clyst Valley Regional Park.
It provides a green buffer between the housing at Mosshayne and the Lidl warehouse as, without this, the landscape of the park would be severed at this point.
The site is the only remaining recreational green space of useable size for the community of Clyst Honiton.
Planning obligations secured the enhancement of wetland habitats within this project area, including reed bed and additional wet woodland.
There is potential to site a bird hide overlooking this small reserve and a remote camera in the ‘bat house’, designed solely for the protection of a population of bats, could be an excellent educational resource.
This is a very significant area of freshwater grazing marsh and fen.
It is at risk from sea level rise and the river banks downstream of Winslade Barton will not be defendable in the long-term.
Sea level rise will lead to the loss of internationally-important mud and sand flats on the Exe Estuary, and this loss will have to be compensated by inter-tidal habitat creation elsewhere.
The route of the proposed Clyst Valley Trail from Darts Farm follows the ridge to the east of the river.
This will be a multi-use trail, but a return footpath following the toe of the ridge back to Darts Farm offers great opportunities for screened wildlife viewing of the river and marsh, while also providing a beautiful circular walk for all abilities.
Mosshayne Farm is situated just north of Blackhorse/Clyst Honiton and, together with the Hayes Farm site, is an important piece of green infrastructure between the new Lidl distribution centre to the east and land allocated for housing to the west.
The owner is keen to explore options for willow biomass or habitat creation (meanders, ponds, fen, wet woodland, marshy grassland) in conjunction with 1.7km of river restoration and enhanced public access.
The brook is an important wildlife corridor flowing out of Pinhoe and into the River Clyst and is being delivered in connection with Linden Homes.
The seven-hectare Minerva Country Park has now been delivered by Barratt David Wilson Homes and, subject to contract, will be managed by the EDDC Countryside team.
A further three hectares immediately adjacent to it has been secured as public green space.
Poltimore House and park
Poltimore House Trust and its dedicated volunteers continue to make excellent progress towards the conservation of the house and gardens.
Paths in the arboretum have been improved and there are plans for a disability ‘sensory garden’ route.
Full restoration of the house is acknowledged as a multi-million pound project.
A planning obligation has secured the restoration of 34 hectares of this parkland in connection with housing at Old Park Farm, which includes the restoration of the old carriageway and establishment of a public bridleway along it, extensive tree planting and linear permissive public access for 30 years.
A further 13 hectares of this land is part of the 1840s parkland extension.
The land should be protected via extension of the regional park policy boundary, with new public access and replacement tree planting delivered as part of a holistic restoration scheme.
Winslade Park is a late 18th century mansion built for an East India merchant.
The sale particulars of 1905 noted the ‘pleasure grounds of great natural beauty’.
They slope away from the mansion in a southerly direction and contain a large number of specimen trees.
The terrace walk (early 19th century) along Grindle Brook, an ornamental lake formed by the widening of the stream, and parts of the kitchen garden survive.
It is hoped that a mixed-use redevelopment of the site could secure the historic park and garden for public access along with the restoration of the sweeping carriageway, possibly as part of the Clyst Valley Trail.
Aylesbeare Stream and Holbrook
The Aylesbeare Stream and Holbrook are important biodiversity corridors connecting extensive habitat on the heathlands at Aylesbeare with extensive habitat in the Lower Clyst valley.
They also connect with hotspots of biodiversity at Rockbeare (park land), Beautiport Farm (broadleaved woodland and grasslands), and Farringdon (park land and ancient woodland).
The Grindle Brook is characterised by smaller floodplain meadows and patches of riverine woodland.
There are also some traditional orchards. It is an important biodiversity corridor.
A public footpath passes through the site, too.
No other land is in an agreement and in many places intensive arable cultivation takes place right up to the river.
The reversion of arable to pasture and new woodland via natural regeneration would considerably enhance biodiversity, landscape, water quality and provide greater natural flood storage.
Land is safeguarded as SANGs [Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces]and is contiguous with the existing Cranbrook County Park and also with the proposed green space at Rockbeare Court.
The potential therefore exists to create a large, linked publicly-accessible green space with natural habitats, and enhanced landscape, as a buffer to Rockbeare village.
Cranbrook to Exeter
As Cranbrook expands eastwards and new housing comes forward at Tithebarn and Mosshayne, this will provide an alternative off-road commuting and recreational route .
The route begins at Station Road and proceeds around the back of the Amazon/Lidl warehouses.
A new bridge crossing of the River Clyst estimated at £1million is required.