Restoring natural processes at Watercress Farm


We acquired Watercress Farm in 2019 intending to restore the degraded arable land through natural processes. We chose the site for several reasons. Firstly, it was representative of the size and ecological status of a fairly ‘typical’ agricultural land holding in the UK. Secondly, the site provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the potential benefits of transitioning a conventional agricultural holding into something nature-positive to combat the dual climate and biodiversity crises.


The first step was to begin healing; healing the soil, the water, the biodiversity and what better way to do this than handing it back to nature. Rewilding is a conservation approach focused on restoring natural ecosystems by reintroducing native plants and animals to their habitats, allowing nature to reclaim areas previously altered by human activity. This process aims to enhance biodiversity, restore ecological balance, and promote resilience against environmental changes. Restoring diverse plant communities enhances soil stability, reduces erosion, and promotes nutrient cycling, fostering healthier soil conditions. An important part of the rewilding process is the appropriate use of free-roaming animals to enable the land to regenerate naturally. We introduced small numbers of free-roaming Devon Red cattle and Dartmoor Ponies for their grazing suitability alongside two Tamworth Pigs for their amazing ability to break up the grass roots and open up the soil to allow flowering plants to establish.

Wildlife in rewilding project


The next phase of natural process restoration was river restoration and wetland creation which started in June 2023. This project represented a significant milestone in our overall restoration efforts. The project reconnected the Land Yeo to its former floodplain, restoring critical hydrological processes and creating a new, more sinuous river channel, ponds and seasonally wet scrapes. It is designed to filter and slow rainwater runoff helping to reduce downstream flooding and limit pollutants and excess nutrients entering the river. And, so another part of our wider vision to transform an environmentally degraded landscape into a biodiverse wetland, supporting abundant wildlife. The project will create a dynamic biodiverse habitat for wildlife and will provide opportunities for the local community to visit, learn from and connect with the natural world.

Wetland creation


Equally important are the reconnection projects within the site, including nature-based education and community and corporate volunteering. Since 2021, Watercress Farm has become the backdrop for our nature-based education and volunteering programmes with more than 4000 people, from school children to families to local charities, accessing and connecting with nature free of charge. Watercress Farm also benefits from public footpaths allowing the local community and our engaged wildlife volunteers to visit and experience it for themselves. Over the last two years, our community of volunteers has grown to over 200 people who dedicate their time to visit, monitor and survey the site. To learn more about ecological surveying at Watercress Farm, read our latest blog.


Looking to the future, we will soon be hosting guided tours, both visiting and residential, around the wetland to educate communities and local businesses on their mission and the societal, environmental, and ecological benefits projects like this can bring on a national scale.

The hope for the future is that with nature in the driving seat, Watercress Farm will deliver some of the ecological complexity that is often missing from our overly homogenised landscape in the UK.

Cow in rewilding project