Sidmouth donkeys to benefit from tree planting as part of flood prevention project

Staff at an animal charity in Sidmouth have planted more the 500 young hedge trees as part of a wider project to reduce flooding across East Devon.

The Donkey Sanctuary has been restoring and extending hedgerows at the charity’s Woods Farm site, near Sidmouth, as part of the Upstream Thinking Project, funded by South West Water.

The native trees, including beech, rowan, hawthorn, blackthorn and spindle, aim to boost the environment for the donkeys, wildlife, birds and butterflies, improve water quality and help with flood prevention.

The trees were given for free by the Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT), a partner in the Upstream Thinking Project.

Ruth Angell, ecology and conservation manager at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “We are very grateful to the Upstream Thinking project for helping us make these improvements. “Hedges are a really important component of the landscape – visually, culturally and ecologically.

“We also think they are very important for our donkeys, as they give them shade and shelter.”

David Rolls, Working Wetlands advisory officer/DWT, said: “We are delighted to be able to team up with the Donkey Sanctuary in this way on this important project.

“The provision of free trees is just one of the ways we are working with a range of landowners in the Otter catchment who are undertaking some really significant work in the local area. It’s all very positive”.

The Donkey Sanctuary said the trees will reduce sediment and water run-off at the site, and have a knock-on effect, helping to reduce the risk of flooding across the catchment of the nearby River Otter. 

The animal charity said rare butterflies and birds could benefit from the hedge restoration work, as part of a wider scheme to improve water quality and reduce flooding across parts of East Devon.

The Upstream Thinking Project, funded by South West Water, aims to improve water quality by providing grants and advice on a number of measures for land owners and managers located within river catchments. 

The project’s partnership with the Woodland Trust allows the provision of free native trees. 

The animal charity said rare butterflies and birds could benefit from the hedge restoration work, as part of a wider scheme to improve water quality and reduce flooding across parts of East Devon.

The wildlife-friendly hedges will enrich the environment of the resident donkeys and provide a home to rare threatened farmland birds such as linnet and yellowhammer.

It is also hoped that it will provide habitat for the rare brown hairstreak butterfly, said a spokesman for The Donkey Sanctuary.

He said: “Hedges can play an important role in improving water quality and reducing flooding risk because their presence can reduce the speed and amount of water running off the land following heavy rain as well as reducing sediment run-off.

“Hedgerows are important for wildlife as they provide connectivity across the landscape, allowing animals to disperse and travel between areas of suitable habitat.

“A wide range of farmland and woodland birds depend on hedges for food and safe places to nest and take shelter.

“They are also used by many species of bat for commuting and foraging, including the brown long-eared bat of which there is a maternity colony roosting in the farmhouse.”

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