The Wimbleball Project.

Exmoor is well known for its wild moors and stunning coastal cliffs. In the south east corner sits the Wimbleball Catchment, a lesser known area, with a more gentle nature. This area was chosen as the focus for a pilot project looking at the range of public benefits, or ‘ecosystem services’ provided within the catchment. Taking an ecosystems approach provides a framework for looking at the different services provided, such as food production, clean water, carbon storage and cultural services such as appreciating the landscape, wildlife or historic environment. 


The Wimbleball catchment faces a number of pressures. It is an area of relatively intense agriculture which distinguishes it from other areas of the National Park. The biodiversity, landscape and historic environment are also less well recorded than other areas of Exmoor.  At the heart of the catchment is the Wimbleball Lake, an increasingly important water supply for many parts of Devon and Somerset. The lake is an important focus for tourism and recreation, with an activity centre providing a range of sports including sailing, canoeing and high ropes. Haddon hill, to the south of the lake, is also a popular place for walking and cycling, and is an important wildlife habitat. 

More on Ecosystem Services

Project Aims

The project is investigating the range of ecosystem services provided in the catchment, helping to provide a better understanding of the natural and cultural assets, and how to optimise the public benefits that are provided by them. An initial 6 month pilot project was funded by Natural England and Exmoor National Park. 

The pilot enabled us to:

  • Map the different ‘ecosystem services’ provided by the catchment, including food production, fuel, water resources, recreation, carbon storage, biodiversity, landscape character and cultural heritage]
  • Using the maps and information gathered to identify potential conflicts between delivery of the different services, and how these might be addressed
  • Engage with the local community and visitors to understand what they value about the catchment
  • Work with local farmers to identify how an ‘ecosystem services approach’ can help to influence land management and deliver better environmental outcomes

Project findings and reports

The overall project reports are available to download

- Project summary

- Full project report (coming soon)

- Methodology

A lot of research and baseline information was collected for the project, which has improved our knowledge and understanding of the catchment. Further information can be found in the following reports:

- Woodland carbon audit 

- Landscape perceptions 

Next Steps

We now have a good evidence base on the delivery of ecosystem services in the catchment and a greater understanding of the different services and their significance. There are still gaps that would benefit from further investigation.

The outcomes from the project will be used to feed into the next funding round for South West Water and the review of agri-environment schemes on Exmoor. Locally, it will be used to help target funding including the Exmoor Landscape Conservation Grant Scheme, and inform advice for farmers and woodland managers.

It is hoped that this approach can now be expanded to a larger area, taking in the upper Exe and river Barle. This will identify areas of high opportunity or risk for delivery of ecosystem services. It will then be possible to agree with partners, farmers/land managers and stakeholders the priorities for optimising ecosystem services; and to develop a delivery framework, integrating existing advice and funding streams.

If you are interested in getting involved with the next phase of the project, please contact the project manager Clare Reid at, or Sarah Bryan, Head of Conservation and Access at