History of the Conservation Trust


Until the early 1980s lowland heathland was generally perceived as ‘wasteland’ of little human or wildlife value. As a result great tracts were destroyed through development, including being planted with conifers, or transformed to arable land through the application of inorganic fertilizers. There has been an estimated 72% decline in lowland heathland area in the UK in the last 200 years with a 30% decline in Pebblebed heaths since 1906. 

The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust was established by Clinton Devon Estates in 2006 in response to increasing national and European recognition that lowland heathlands are a habitat rich in wildlife, are highly threatened, and require professional management to maximise their wildlife value. This recognition was accompanied by legislation to protect heathlands. This included the  Directive on Conservation of Wild Birds (1979) which led to establishment of Special Protected Areas across Europe, the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) which established Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the UK, and the EC Habitats Directive (1992) resulting in a European network of Special Areas of Conservation. For more information on the conservation status of the Pebblebed heaths click here.

Prior to the establishment of the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust the heathlands were managed by Clinton Devon Estates’ staff for conservation and recreation. The formation of the Conservation Trust has ensured that a modern approach is taken, and that the appropriate structures and expertise are in place to maximise the effectiveness of conservation work and public education. It was a clear statement by the Estate of their commitment to looking after the heathlands they owned. 

Overall governance of the Conservation Trust is overseen by a Board of Trustees comprising Lord Clinton, Mr John Varley (Director, Clinton Devon Estates), Mr Andrew Cooper, Mr David Robinson, Mr Andrew Swash, Mr Michael Williams, Mr Peter Gotham and Mr Michael Chamberlayne. The Directors of the associated Land Management Company are the Hon. Charles Fane Trefusis. Mr John Varley, Mr David Cobb and Mr John Wilding.

The charity registration number is 1109514, with the company registration number being: 5413877

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