Success for the South West Moors!

Our ambitious three-year project to restore peatland on the South West’s iconic moors, Bodmin Moor, Exmoor and Dartmoor has been awarded £2million!

A partnership of organisations including The Cornwall AONB Unit, West Country Rivers Trust, Natural England, South West Water,  South West Lakes Trust and the Environment Agency have led on the project and have joined forces with the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities and many others for the benefit of all the South West Moors. The Partnership has successfully apply for funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to restore 1,680 hectares of damaged peatland on Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor.

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Morag Angus from SWW explained:

“The peatlands of south-west England are very important for water quality, carbon storage, biodiversity, cultural history, recreation and farming but they are the most vulnerable in the UK to the impacts of climate change, due to their southerly position. For this reason they need to be prioritised nationally and restored for the benefit of all and future generations.The £2million from Defra presents a real opportunity to make a significant difference and to deliver sustainable management in these upland river catchments.

Colette Beckham, Cornwall AONB Partnership Manager added,

"We are really delighted to be able to make significant strides to restoring valley mire peatlands on Bodmin Moor  through this project and I think the moor has really benefitted here from the joint approach with Dartmoor and Exmoor. It has to be said that this would not be possible without our committed group of supportive landowners - so special thanks must go to them."

The moors of Bodmin, Dartmoor and Exmoor hold significant regional and national deposits of peat in the form of blanket bogs and valley mires. These wetland habitats are complex ecosystems that support diverse and unique ecology of national and international importance.

Over centuries, human interventions have and still are impacting upon the overall quality and distribution of wetland mire habitats and upland moors. The demise of such wetlands across extensive swathes of the moors has resulted in changes in the moorland ecology, including the loss of iconic species such as dunlin, golden plover, and Sphagnum mosses.

The challenge is to prevent further losses and halt the decline, while improving and restoring these degraded habitats.

The project will be delivered by a partnership including government agencies, non-governmental organisations, landowners and farmers. Restoration work will start in August 2018.


Various ditch blocking techniques using sustainable materials (wood, peat, grass and heather) will be adopted on historic peat cuttings, drainage networks and eroding gullies in order to enable re-wetting of extensive areas of damaged peatlands.

Undertaking this peatland restoration will bring about multiple benefits. These include:

  • Increasing the peatlands’ resilience to climate change and increasing carbon storage.
  • Improving the hydrological function of the peatlands by improving the quality and quantity of water leaving the moors.
  • Restoring the ecosystems that support the recovery of the habitats and associated wildlife.
  • Protecting and increasing our knowledge of our historic environment.
  • Maintaining and improving access.
  • Economic benefits to local farmers and businesses.
  • Health and well-being benefits to society both locally and nationally.
  • A greater understanding and experience to the numerous people who work in and visit these iconic landscapes.


Notes to editors


The Three Moors project partners are:

  • Bodmin Moor: Our landowners, South West Water, South West Lakes Trust, Natural England, Environment Agency, RSPB, Cornwall AONB, West Country Rivers Trust, Country Land and Business Association and Cornwall Council 
  • Dartmoor: South West Water, Natural England, Environment Agency, RSPB, Dartmoor National Park Authority, West Country Rivers Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust, Dartmoor Preservation Trust, Dartmoor Society, Duchy of Cornwall, Ministry of Defence, farming representatives, Historic England, University of Exeter, University of Plymouth
  • Exmoor:  South West Water, Natural England, Environment Agency, Historic England, University of Exeter, Exmoor National Park Authority, Exmoor Society, farming representatives.

Farming and Science join forces for AONBees!


Representing the faces of farming across Cornwall, 11 enthusiastic and influential Cornish farmers and advisors gathered to discuss the best ways to work in partnership to benefit bees and business. Together with researchers from the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) based in the Penryn campus of the University of Exeter, we explored the motivations, barriers and support needed for pollinator-friendly farming into the future at our focus group on 5th September 2017.

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BEE-STEWARD is a computer program of virtual bees in digital landscapes developed by researchers at the ESI that can be used to predict the effects of different land management on pollinator survival and pollination rates and is the basis of our Farms for AONBees project. Now, joining forces with farmers and land managers, we are working together to make sure BEE-STEWARD benefits bees and business on the ground. Although BEE-STEWARD focusses on pollinators and more specifically bumblebees and honeybees, management that is good for bees is also good for lots of other farm wildlife.





The Government. The Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme can be a huge motivation for farm management, providing governmental guidance, support and funding for practices that look after the environment. However, management on the ground needs to be justified in terms of establishment and maintenance costs and needs to deliver desired results to make sure farmers get involved. Not all farms are eligible for the CS scheme, but this doesn’t mean they’re not aware of food security or that they don’t want to enhance their farmland for nature. This means that there still needs to be direction from the government on how to manage landscapes sustainably for all farms.

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Healthy farm, healthy business. It’s not all about money as a motivation. It is clear that farmers want a healthy farmed landscape for nature; their farm is their investment in their future and their families’ future. There are opportunities however, for “win wins” for bees and businesses in terms of financial gains from yield increases or CS schemes payments through the application of pollinator-friendly management exploring these “win wins” in partnership could deliver the best benefits for nature and business.

Supermarkets. Supermarkets are a big motivator; getting a contract with a supermarket can be essential for the future of some farm businesses. Some supermarkets will advocate entry into CS schemes for example which could increase the uptake in pollinator-friendly management, but not all farms supply to supermarket; some are too small and instead supply local farm shops and farmers’ markets. Nevertheless, it appears that there is great potential for supermarkets to influence how their suppliers manage their land sustainably.



Time is money. Many farms already have low profit margins, meaning that dedicating time and land specifically for wildlife can be difficult even if farmers know that space for wildlife is important for the health of their farm. Government incentives such as the CS scheme can be very time consuming especially for small farms where the time spent on the application is not necessarily justified by the potential payments. Every farm is different, and every farmer is different; a blanket approach as we have seen in the past is not appropriate in the future, and therefore management recommendations need to be more bespoke to the individual farm. Methods where we can optimise land by targeting the best areas to grow food and enhance nature with opportunities to save time and money are required.

Supermarkets. Where supermarkets buy their produce from inevitably comes down to price, this enables them to contend with their competitors. However, buying on price alone doesn’t take into consideration the way in which the land has been managed and doesn’t add value to produce that comes from farmland managed sustainably. It is the general consensus that not all supermarkets are recognising, rewarding and awarding farmers that are doing their best for nature. It is clear that supermarkets could be a big motivation in the future for pollinator-friendly farming and therefore it is essential that we effectively engage supermarkets in BEE-STEWARD.

The “unknown”. Many farmers do not know what wildlife they already have on their farms and so require base-line surveys so then bespoke management can be recommended and applied. There is some help available for these types of surveys e.g. Farm and Wildlife Advisory Group and the Wildlife Trust, but not all farms have access to these services and surveys are time consuming. If farmers know what wildlife is on their farm, it can help them in their management decision making and this information can be shared with the businesses and supermarkets that they supply. It is therefore important that we consider how best to gather on-farm wildlife information and collaborate with the right partners, sharing data and ideas.


Support needed

Simplify and optimise decision making. It is important to simplify farm management decision making and make sure that any new tools fit with and enhance existing procedures. BEE-STEWARD could be used to compare predictions of different CS scheme options on bee survival and pollination rates and utilise the information that would go into these applications. BEE-STEWARD could be used to identify the best crop (and overwintering crop) type and location, help with rotations and identify the best use of unproductive or “difficult” land e.g. field corners or slopes, all bespoke to the individual farm. There is also a great opportunity for BEE-STEWARD to work with farms on a landscape scale e.g. facilitation areas or farmer clusters to save time and resources and to share best practice through peer-to-peer learning.

Recognise, reward and award. It is clear that the group felt strongly that more support is required from supermarkets to celebrate their farmers who look after nature and share their environmental aims and objectives. Supermarkets have huge influence and can enable farmers to enhance their farmland for wildlife and recognise, reward and award them for their efforts and share this with their customers. Considerable business engagement and campaigning is required, and we have plans to start this in collaboration with the University of Exeter’s Business school, targeting across the “farm-to-fork” supply chain.

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Challenge public perceptions. Farmers need the support of the public that they are producing food for. This means that it is essential that all the public understand how farm businesses work and how food is produced – not just those already watching farming programs and attending Open Farm Sundays. The public need to be willing to buy British produce made in a way that supports the environment and need to be willing to pay for it. Businesses are an immediate route to this public engagement by celebrating their producers and what they do for the environment. Many food and farming organisations do this e.g. the NFUs “Back British Farming”. Therefore, it is important to work in collaboration with Natural England, Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the National Farmers Union on the BEE-STEWARD project so that we can target public events in partnership. Schools and agricultural colleges offer a route to the next generation of farmers and consumers, making sure that they have the knowledge and skills for wildlife-friendly farming in the future.


Taking this forward with BEE-STEWARD

We are planning substantial business engagement to promote BEE-STEWARD and how it can be used to help manage landscapes for bees and business and to celebrate our “Bee-stewards”. There is a great deal of talk about “win wins”, enhancing pollinators whilst increasing profits and there are a few routes to achieve this-

  1. Using BEE-STEWARD recommendations with the aim of increasing yields or year-on-year yield stability, how can we translate more bees into a better business?

  2. Using BEE-STEWARD to make best use of difficult land: What are the easy ways to do so, and can we even save money?

  3. Using BEE-STEWARD as a tool for marketing – celebrating farmers as role models for profitable farms run sustainably and innovatively. This occurs within the farming industry but what about to the wider public?

There are some opportunities highlighted to celebrate pollinator friendly farming-

  1. The next generation of consumers and farmers: Work with schools and agricultural colleges.

  2. Supermarket marketing and public engagement in collaboration with partners such as the NFU, the Wildlife Trusts etc.

  3. Support communities of farmers: Regardless of farm type / size etc, all are running businesses, and need to balance the environment and food production.

We have a great deal of work to do and of course we can’t solve all of the problems with a computer program, but we can work in partnership with scientists, food and farming businesses, supermarkets and the public to make sure we can have a sustainable and profitable farming industry that supports nature and the people that it relies upon.


What’s next?

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We have dates for our next focus group where we will put BEE-STEWARD through its paces, testing it out on real farm maps and management options on 29th and 30th  of November at the ESI on Penryn Campus, 12:00 noon-2:30pm. We also have business engagement events for the winter and spring, dates TBC. For more information on the project and to join one of our focus groups please contact BEE-STEWARD researcher Grace Twiston-Davies on



6000 Flowers Arts Project creates a buzz for bumblebees as Cornwall welcomes the first day of Spring

A new art show launched yesterday at The Environment and Sustainability Institute’s Creative Exchange as Cornwall welcomed the arrival of Spring.

 Artist Josie Purcell alongside some of her work for 6000 Flowers

Artist Josie Purcell alongside some of her work for 6000 Flowers

‘6000 Flowers’ is artist Josie Purcell's response to the 'Farms for AONBees' pollinators’ project currently in progress between Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (CAONB) and The Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI), University of Exeter.

Spring sees bumblebee queens visiting up to 6000 Flowers per day to collect enough nectar and pollen to establish her colony. However at this time of year there can be a shortfall in the availability of high quality flowers across agricultural landscapes.

Josie is a photographer with a passion for alternative and historic photographic processes that have as little impact on the environment as possible. The image making technique she has implemented for this exhibition is the anthotype. This makes the most of nature's bounty through the use of a photosensitive emulsion made from the juice/pulp of plants, flowers and berries. The resulting delicate monochromatic images are produced within several hours or weeks depending on the solution used and the duration/strength of sunlight.

 One of Josie's images

One of Josie's images

The ‘Farms for AONBees' project is seeking to make a significant difference to the quality of our landscapes for conservation and food production. At the core of this project is a computer programme developed in Prof. Juliet Osbornes’ pollinators research group at the ESI that replicates the foraging and colony survival of bees in realistic landscapes. The ESI and the CAONB are currently doing real time testing of the computer programme on agricultural holdings by working with 5 farms across the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Josie's exhibition draws on the science behind this project and its importance in helping us understand more about bees’ health, survival and the pollination they provide.

 Researchers from the ESI with Josie

Researchers from the ESI with Josie

Colette Beckham, CAONB Partnership Manager says, “It’s great to see how science and the arts can come together through a project like Josie’s, to illustrate just how important it is to find solutions to the shortages of forage that can affect Cornish bumblebees whilst they’re on the wing right now”.

Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, the ESI Research Associate on the project says, “I am fascinated by Josie’s environmentally friendly techniques, powered by plants and combining traditional methods with modern technology, the perfect interpretation of our Farms for AONBees project”.

 Josie with Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, ESI Research Associate and project lead for Farms for AONBees

Josie with Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, ESI Research Associate and project lead for Farms for AONBees

The 6000 Flowers exhibition is open to the public and will run in The Creative Exchange from 21st March 2017 to 12th May 2017.


 Farms for AONBees

The Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI)

The Creative Exchange programme

Josie Purcell Artist Statement

As a photographer, my interests lie mainly in alternative and historic practices yet include the digital world we now live in, particularly smartphone photography.

I set up a participatory photography enterprise, ShutterPod, a few years ago to introduce some of the now antiquated photographic process to new audiences. Despite the ease and accessibility of digital photography (since the 90s), which saw more traditional processes diminish, I believed that the tactile nature of these older techniques would eventually gain traction with new audiences and this is currently being borne out in a resurgent interest in them.

Many of the participatory workshops I run use the natural world as a means for creating artwork. Wanting to take this a step further, I began a MA in Photography with Falmouth University in 2016. A number of the older process or products I am interested in can use potentially toxic chemicals and as someone whose current practice is focussing on our human impact on the environment, the MA is providing an opportunity to research which photographic processes will have the least effect. 

Therefore, I am now using both the anthotype and cyanotype processes. The anthotype uses sunlight and the juice of vegetables, flowers or berries to create ethereal images in a variety of single colours, while the chemicals in the cyanotype produce beautiful blue and white shades made by the action of sunlight that can be washed in the ocean. Both are precursors to the official invention of photography as we know it. Their discovery is attributed to scientist, Sir John Herschel. It was botanist Anna Atkins who first used the cyanotype process to create the first photo-book to detail her botany research on British algae.

One of the peculiarities of both processes lies in their predisposition to fading if not cared for appropriately, while the anthotype in particular requires exposure times of hours, days or weeks.

The 6000 Flowers project is an amazing opportunity to showcase how science and art can come together to support our environment for the benefit of bumblebees.

It is through the use of the nature that I aim to reflect the aims of 6000 Flowers and its new software, created by the Environmental Science Institute researchers to monitor and, in turn, support pollinators on farmland within Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

My images include rural landscapes but I have incorporated Victorian botanical drawings to represent (some of) the missing flowers needed to help bumblebees thrive. The flowers are currently not there in reality but it is through work such as this that it is hoped flowers will bloom and bumblebees will flourish.

By using processes with a kinder environmental impact, ones that use nature to create themselves and ones that require time, patience and ongoing care to prevent them fading away, I hope to spark curiosity for 6000 Flowers and conversation about our impact on pollinators and what can be done on an ongoing basis to bring about benefits for all.