Headwaters of the Exe Project

The Headwaters of the Exe project is working with farmers and land managers to ensure good water quality in the upper catchment of the River Exe. It forms part of South West Water’s Upstream Thinking programme, with funding from South West Water and the Exmoor National Park Authority.

A short film about Upstream Thinking can be seen here.

The Headwaters of the Exe project was formally launched by Stanley Johnson at Hawkridge Village Hall in January 2016. The project covers an area of 27,559 hectares and includes the upper Exe, the Rivers Barle, Quarme, Pulham, Haddeo and smaller tributaries, as well as Wimbleball Reservoir.

The programme will deliver a range of work, including:

  • Advice to farmers, foresters and game shoot managers;
  • A capital grant fund;
  • Training events, site visits and demonstrations to promote good practice;
  • Rights of way maintenance to reduce erosion and run-off in high risk areas;
  • Monitoring to identify any localised water quality issues relating to sewerage; and
  • Control of invasive species.

Click here to download a leaflet about the project

The programme of support for farmers will consist of advice, training and events.  Specialist advisers from FWAG SW are available to carry out free farm advisory visits to 50 farms in high priority parts of the catchment and and provide confidential reports. Farmers wishing to take up the advice will also be eligible for a capital grant of up to £2,500 to carry out work on the farm to help protect water quality. For further advice please contact Adam Lockyear, FWAG SW, on 01823 660684 or

There is a programme of support for woodland owners and managers, including events, advice and capital grants. Woodland creation will be encouraged in appropriate parts of the catchment. ENPA’s specialist woodland officers can provide free advice – please contact James Mason, ENPA’s Woodland Development Officer, on 01398 322275 or

Game Shoots
The catchment is a premier game shoot location, which is vitally important to the local economy. The project is able to offer capital grants and advice to shoot owners and managers for improvements to water management. 

The widespread network of public rights of way, permitted paths and open access land are an important asset for Exmoor.  However surveys have shown that silt and mud can rapidly enter rivers and streams from these tracks and paths.  A programme of work is being carried out by Exmoor National Park Authority focusing on those paths which have the highest risk of erosion and run-off affecting watercourses.

Localised monitoring is being carried out to collect data relating to sewerage, particularly around discharge points for the smaller sewage treatment works. This monitoring is being undertaken by volunteers through the Riverfly Partnership / River Exe and Tributaries Association and will provide an evidence base for action under any future funding programmes. 

The catchment includes the River Barle Site of Special Scientific Interest, parts of which are assessed as being in “unfavourable condition”, partly because of the presence of non-native invasive species including Japanese knotweed, Montbretia, Himalayan balsam and signal crayfish.

The programme is supporting the control of non-native invasive species in the Exe catchment through existing partnership projects.

Further information
If you would like to know more about the project please contact:

Bea Davis, Programme Manager (Headwaters of the Exe), on 01398 322278, 07970 099136 or
Katherine Williams, Exmoor Hill Farming Network Officer, on 01643 841455, 07970 795808 or