The Clyst Canopy

Help us to treble tree cover in the Clyst Valley to combat the climate and nature crisis

East Devon District Council is working with City Science and Savills UK on this goal. We’re grateful for a grant from the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund. This is a partnership project with the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, National Farmers Union, National Trust, and the University of Exeter.

We’ve been published in the bulletin of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management

Read the article (PDF)


We know you are deeply connected to your land. Land is a precious resource. Food should be produced on the best land. But trees on marginal land could provide a better income for you, and better outcomes for the planet and society. We’re interested in all type of tree cover, from little copses in awkward field corners to large new plantations of conifer and broadleaves.

You need confidence that your long-term income will be sustained. Government grants are available, such as the England Woodland Creation Offer. But why not boost your income by selling woodland carbon? There is high demand.

Local businesses

Fund a tangible climate and nature solution on your doorstep as part of your net zero action plan. Get your employees involved in planting and nurturing trees. Tell your clients and prospective employees how you’re supporting local action.

The Woodland Carbon Code is the voluntary standard for UK woodland creation projects. Independent validation and verification provides assurance and clarity about the carbon savings where there is a permanent land-use change to woodland. A Woodland Carbon Unit is a tonne of CO2 which has been sequestered in a WCC-verified woodland.

Talk to us

Contact Project Manager Simon Bates for more information and access to professional advice. Email or call 07875 280540.

Crannybrook before tree planting
A field along the Crannybrook in 2011
Crannybrook after tree planting
The same field today after the landowner planted a mix of broadleaved trees

Why is East Devon District Council pursuing this goal?

We are in a climate emergency. Our council is aiming to be carbon net zero by 2040. We’re reducing our carbon emissions. For example, our Blackdown House office in Honiton has saved 41 tonnes of CO2 so far. We’re planting more trees on our green spaces, but we don’t own much land. So we’re looking to help others to do more.

The Clyst Valley Regional Park is a major new green and blue space. In this area, we want to improve public health and wellbeing by providing access to high quality green spaces. We want to lock up carbon in new and restored habitat and improve water quality in rivers. Tree can provide all of these benefits. We want to encourage greater use of timber for construction and manufacturing – for example, did you know that wood pulp is used to make TV and computer screens?

Aerial photo of the Clyst Valley
Aerial photo showing Cranbrook (top), Ashclyst Forest (top right), the Whimple orchards (bottom right) and Percy Wakley Wood (left). © Still Imaging

Why trees are important

Why do we need 30% tree cover?

The tree canopy cover in the Clyst Valley is 9.3%. Broadclyst parish, which includes Ashclyst Forest, has 14.3%, the amount measured in a recent study of Cranbrook. Some parts of the Blackdown Hills are at 25%. We are proposing an ambitious but achievable target of 30% canopy cover by 2050 in the catchment of the River Clyst, an area of 155 square kilometres.

This is because:

  • trees are good for our mental health, and the population is growing in and around Exeter
  • our government has committed to avoiding the worst effects of climate change, and trees are good at sucking up carbon
  • native broadleaved trees and shrubs are excellent for wildlife – veteran oaks in particular
  • trees can reduce flooding, pollution of water and air, and soil erosion
  • new markets to pay for biodiversity and carbon are emerging, making it more viable to create woodland
  • we know we can do it – tree cover in Devon has doubled in the last century


Clyst means ‘clear water’ in old English, but the River Clyst often runs red with soil from the catchment. The whole catchment is a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone because the permeable soils do not protect the underlying aquifer from nitrate pollution. Woodland creation along watercourses and in floodplains prevents suspended sediment from reaching and causing pollution of the water. Woodland buffer strips need to be at least 12m wide. Once settled, the soil associated fungi and bacteria help to safely lock up nitrates and phosphate, agricultural chemicals, and hydrocarbons from urban runoff, thereby stopping them entering the watercourse.


Our populations of insects have plummeted. They need food (nectar), which flowering shrubs like ivy, hawthorn, blackthorn, elder and roses provide. They all flower at different times, providing pollinators with year-round food. We need more hedges to be cut on a three-year rotation, and more native scrub to put the buzz back in our landscape.

Shelter, shade and food

Shelter belts, hedges and trees give protection to livestock from wind and sun, and can reduce erosion on vulnerable soils. Cattle seek out native shrubs and plants if they are available. They do this for minerals and to reduce gut parasites. Chickens evolved in a forest landscape and thrive in silvo-pastoral systems.

What types of tree cover?

We’re interested in all types – little copses in awkward field corners, agroforestry, hedgerows, field trees, orchards, parklands and urban trees. We’re keen to encourage natural regeneration of nature-rich woodland, wood-pasture and scrub where there are seed sources nearby.

↑ Talk to us about doing your part for the Clyst Canopy