Plymouth volunteers are proud to protect the city’s rivers

PUBLISHED: 15:42 07 October 2020

A view of Ernesettle Creek. Photo: David Curry

A view of Ernesettle Creek. Photo: David Curry


Green charity recruits team of River Keepers to help protect vital waterways

Richard Lillicrap and Richard Mottram clearing debris from the pond. Photo: Ray MortonRichard Lillicrap and Richard Mottram clearing debris from the pond. Photo: Ray Morton

If you go down to the woods and streams in north-west Plymouth in the next few years, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. Because that’s where environmental charity Westcountry Rivers Trust has created the community project, Plymouth River Keepers.

Initially, people in Ernesettle, Tamerton Foliot, Southway, Whitleigh, Widewell, Honicknowle, Derriford West and Crownhill, and Manadon and Widey can get involved to keep the streams at the bottom of their gardens and ends of their roads flourishing – for wildlife, for people, and for always.

Everyone who lives or works in the area is invited to work together to implement their ideas to restore and improve three local streams.

Jenny explains: “This project is about the people as much as looking after nature; we know that being near water lowers stress and improves moods.

An example of debris in one of the streams back in 2017. Photo: Westcountry Rivers TrustAn example of debris in one of the streams back in 2017. Photo: Westcountry Rivers Trust

“If, together, we create a legacy of loveliness in these outdoor spaces then people can continue to enjoy and care for them.”

Through PRK, people can take positive action to help prevent problems in several ways, such as becoming a citizen scientist. This is a great way to learn about life in and near the water and provide data to monitor the health of the streams.

READ MORE: How you can help save Devon’s butterflies

Looking at the boats in Ernesettle Creek. Photo: David CurryLooking at the boats in Ernesettle Creek. Photo: David Curry

Residents and community groups are also invited to take part in a survey that includes wildlife sightings, while events such as litter picks and the removal of invasive non-native plant species will take place as large social gatherings become safer to hold.

WRT, which has been restoring and protecting the region’s rivers for more than 25 years, will also improve habitats through work such as coppicing trees, strengthening riverbanks and removing barriers to fish passage.

Jenny adds: “We held our first virtual ‘river dip’ in September to share news about the project.

“It was wonderful to be joined online by so many interested people and the recording can be seen via our PRK web page; we aim to hold more of these sessions in future.”

South Devon’s Bioregional Learning Centre has been working in partnership with WRT on the project as part of its initial community engagement. It created a Story of Place, discovering local stories from those who live and work in the area. Isabel Carlisle, one of the co-directors of the BLC, says: “Our Story of Place highlights what is special about this part of Plymouth.”

Their research can be viewed as part of the ‘river dip’ online event recording.

PRK aims include preventing pollution incidents (including plastics), improving water quality, embedding water environment caretakers in communities, and building a love for water where it flows close to home.

Visit here to find out more, watch the recording, complete surveys and share your stories


Ray Morton, Chair of the Friends of Ernesettle and Budshead Wood group, has lived in the area since 1983 and has been instrumental in caring for his local waterways.

He and his friend Richard Lillicrap “know every nook and cranny” and together with other members of the community, their connection to place and their local knowledge is valued in efforts to improve and protect the streams.

Local businesses are also starting to take a more active role in caring for green spaces - a natural pond created by Plymouth City Motopark has become home to a variety of wildlife.

Ray is optimistic about what collaboration can achieve: “When people come to visit, they love to go to the headland path and the wood. Ernesettle is particularly beautiful because of the views and its uniqueness as a wildlife habitat.

“But there’s beauty in every stream, and lots to be learnt. We are digging up the history of this place as we go.

“People are appreciating nature more, and there’s an opportunity for Plymouth River Keepers to boost awareness and create more ways for people to work together to look after our water.”

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