United Kingdom: England: The Wetlands Restoration Project at The Woodland Education Centre (Offwell, Honiton, Devon)


The Wetlands Restoration Project (UK) was started in order to restore water to an area that once was home to two Victorian boating lakes that had mostly filled with silt over the years. Instead of merely dredging up the silt, this project deliberately created four distinct types of habitat: lake, pond, marsh, and wetland. Devices to control the level of water were installed. Silt was removed. Non-native rhododendron was removed from the water areas. Native plants were planted in the hopes of attracting animal life. This restoration has been a success, leading to the colonization of many appropriate plants and animals. This site also functions as part of the Woodland Education Centre, provided educational and scientific opportunities.

Quick Facts

Project Location:
Woodland Education Centre, 50.8687641, -1.0055494000000635

Geographic Region:

Country or Territory:
United Kingdom


Freshwater Ponds & Lakes

Area being restored:
<50 acres

Project Lead:
The Wetlands Restoration Project (UK)

Organization Type:
Governmental Body


Project Stage:
Planning / Design

Start Date:

End Date:

Primary Causes of Degradation

Urbanization, Transportation & Industry

Degradation Description

The original vegetation and hydrology of this site was disturbed by the creation of two Victorian boating lakes. Over time, these lakes filled with silt, reducing the water area in the lakes to approximately one third of its original size. This filling in of the water areas created conditions that allowed the non-native rhododendron to completely take over the project area, creating poor habitat for native plants and animals. Native species were nearly absent from the project area pre-restoration.

Reference Ecosystem Description

This area sustained numerous plant and wildlife species.

Project Goals

The Wetlands Restoration project wanted to provide a more natural ecosystem to provide habitat for native plants and animals. Additionally this project will provide more natural history and educational opportunities for local students and scientists. By creating four distinct areas (lake, marsh, pond, wetland), the project managers have created a mosaic of different habitat and vegetation types and thus increased the biodiversity onsite.


The project does not have a monitoring plan.


These wetlands were restored at The Woodland Education Centre, A Forestry Commission site.
The wetlands on this site were created and are managed by the Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust

Description of Project Activities:
- The Southern Lake dam, which ad been breached by storm water, was repaired - A sluice was installed and structures put into place to control erosion - A spillway was constructed to control future damage from storm water - 17 workers cleared the enormous amounts of rhododendron onsite, while leaving native plants - Silt at the Southern Lake was removed to a depth of 300 mm to 2 m - Marsh area was planted with native plants - In marsh and wetland areas, contours were made to ensure that transitions between dray land to open water would be maintained - Botanical surveys were completed in 1991 for all four areas - Surveys were conducted in the wetland area in 2000 to determine the level of biodiversity on site - Removal of excess silt and rhododendron will continue as needed to maintain the site

Ecological Outcomes Achieved

Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
- Control over water levels has been established - Appropriate plants (about 100 species) have colonized the lake, marsh, pond, and wetland areas bringing with them native animal species. - These areas provide educational opportunities for the Woodland Education Centre.

Factors limiting recovery of the ecosystem:
This site will require maintenance in order to remain successful. Excess silt must be removed to ensure that the rhododendron (which still occurs on the drier areas of the site) does not recolonize the restored area.

Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved

Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
This site is now home to many types of plants and animals. Opportunities for natural education and wildlife viewing have been created.

Key Lessons Learned

This site is considered a success. Where a monoculture of sterile rhododendron once occurred, a series of more natural freshwater habitats now exist. This provided habitat to fish, invertebrates (including dragonflies), amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

This project was carefully planned to make sure that the restoration of one area did not affect the success of another area within the Wetlands Restoration Project. Most of the work was done during the winter to minimize impacts on plants and animals.

Long-Term Management

The cause of degradation has been addressed by the creation of water-level control structures and the removal of silt and rhododendron. This site is being actively managed to prevent buildup of sediment in the ponds and encroachment by invasive species.

Sources and Amounts of Funding

– The Woodland Education Centre
Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust
– South West Water
– Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions
– Forestry Commission
– Heritage Lottery Fund
– Pennon Group through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme

Other Resources


The Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust
Offwell, Honiton, Devon EX14 9SW. UK.
Tel No.+44(0) 1404 831373
Fax No. +44(0) 1404 831881
Registered Charity No.1000198
Director: SJ Lawson

Education & Ecology: Dr Barbara Corker

Primary Contact

Organizational Contact