About us

The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust was established by Clinton Devon Estates in 2006. Its creation was 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.

The Conservation Trust has management responsibility for the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths and the Otter Estuary.

Our Charitable Objectives

To promote, for the benefit of the public, the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and
natural environment of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths and the Otter Estuary.

Our Vision for the Pebblebed Heaths and the Otter Estuary

Places whose special qualities and rich history are understood by all; whose ecosystems are resilient, and where wildlife can flourish and adapt in the face of a changing climate; places where society’s ever-changing needs for recreation, health and learning can be fulfilled; places where we can all have confidence in its stewardship for future generations.

Our team

Dr. Sam Bridgewater

Environment Strategy & Evidence

Kim Strawbridge

Reserves Manager

Paul Swain

Operations Manager

Ed Lagdon

Ranger

Kate Ponting

Community Engagement and Countryside Learning’

Rick Lockwood

Otter Estuary Ranger

Conservation Trust

The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust is an environmental charity, first established by Clinton Devon
Estates in 2006 to protect the heath’s unique ecosystem. It forms part of a conservation group, which includes
a Land Management Company.

Governance of the Conservation Trust is overseen by a Board of Trustees, comprising of Lord Clinton, John
Varley, Andrew Cooper, David Robinson, Michael Williams, Peter Gotham, Noel Manns, Peter Nixon and Charlotte Walliker.

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 and the company registration number is 5413877.

Aims of the Trust

Our primary aim is to steward the Pebblebed Heaths for the benefit of its wildlife and to promote public enjoyment, appreciation and understanding of this unique habitat.

Our Objectives

  • Management of the heath is based on recognised best practice and sound scientific knowledge
  • Our staff are trained to the highest level and are respected as leaders in conservation
  • All habitats and species under the care of the Trust are in a favourable conservation status, with a strong biological monitoring programme to support decision making
  • A strong sense of environmental stewardship exists within our local communities, who fully support and are engaged with the activities of the Trust
  • Sufficient financial resilience and fundraising capability exists within the Trust to ensure the sustainability of management

Funding & conservation partners

The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust is an independent charity funded by voluntary donations and environmental stewardship grants. Thank you to all those who kindly support the care of the Pebblebed Heaths and the Otter Estuary, and our education and outreach work, by giving their time or financial contributions. These donations are vital for allowing us to continue this work. The Conservation Trust works closely with a broad variety of conservation partners to help achieve its aims. These include: Natural England; the Environment Agency; the Royal Marines; the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; Devon and Somerset Fire Service; the RSPB; and the Devon Wildlife Trust. Teignbridge, East Devon District and Exeter City Councils have established the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Partnership (SEDHRP), to help protect internationally important conservation sites, including the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths. The SEDHRP offsets the effects of new development and population growth on these conservation sites, this is guided by the South-east Devon European Site Mitigation Strategy, which can be found here.

Volunteers & friends

The Conservation Trust’s most important partner is the public. Thousands of people visit
the Pebblebed Heaths and the Otter Estuary on a daily basis and their support is vital in protecting and
managing this environment.

A team of volunteers assist the Conservation Trust annually, undertaking wildlife surveys and supporting
important conservation work, such as scrub clearance and path repair.

 

Conservation Trust

How to Volunteer

There are a number of volunteering opportunities with the Conservation Trust. Work parties meet every other Wednesday between 09:30 and 15:30, although our volunteers are welcome to join us for as long as they would like.

All tools are provided and no experience is necessary – enthusiasm and a packed lunch are all that is required! All of our volunteers are different, which is why the Conservation Trust aims to provide opportunities that suit a broad range of skills and are conscious of the time people can afford to offer.

Whether your interests lie in environmental education, record keeping, mapping, biodiversity monitoring or essential practical work, we would love to hear from you and welcome you to a passionate team dedicated to the protection of this wonderful part of the world.

For more information on the volunteering opportunities the Conservation Trust offers, please contact Kate Ponting, Countryside Learning Officer.

 

Become a Friend of the Common

Our Friends of the Common group has over 800 members, all of whom ensure that the Conservation Trust continues to develop with public support.

Membership is free, with members regularly updated of the work of the Conservation Trust and given the opportunity to influence the future direction of the Trust and its activities. You will be directly contacted about new initiatives, as well as enjoy wildlife and training events that are only available to Friends of the Common.

For more information about becoming a Friend of the Common, please contact Kate Ponting, Countryside Learning Officer.

 

Support us

There are many ways to support our work and help safeguard the future of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths and the Otter Estuary. By signing up for our Friends of the Commons enewsletter you can stay up to date with the latest news, you could join in our events, or you could lend a hand as a volunteer. You can also support us financially by purchasing Pebblebed Beef or by making a donation by clicking the button below.

Dr. Sam Bridgewater

Head of Wildlife and Conservation

Sam Bridgewater joined Clinton Devon Estates in November 2012. His role is to ensure that the support of wildlife and ecosystem services is embedded within the decision making of the Estate.

He previously spent 15 years as an academic researcher at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Natural History Museum, London.

“I am delighted to be part of Clinton Devon Estates and to help lead the Conservation Trust. The Pebblebed Heaths represent the largest expanse of lowland heathland in Devon and sit at the top of the hierarchy of European conservation sites. The challenge we have is how to reconcile the needs of wildlife with public recreation and access and how to fund these activities in the long-term. What excites me about the work is securing a sustainable model of conservation management, one that is based on sound science and which enjoys full public support.”

Kim Strawbridge

Reserves Manager

Kim joined the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust in 2017 from a senior role with the Eastern Moors Partnership, a collaboration between the RSPB and the National Trust within the Peak District National Park. Kim leads the reserve team on the Pebblebed Heaths and the Otter Estuary nature reserve.

“I’m originally from this part of the world so I’m very pleased to be returning to my roots to work with a highly professional team to manage this extraordinarily beautiful and ecologically important site that is so loved and enjoyed by a wide range of people.”

Paul Swain

Operations Manager

Paul comes from a farming background and has been working with the Trust to conserve the Pebblebed Heaths since 2000, putting his longstanding machinery and animal husbandry skills to good use. Paul leads the practical day-to-day management of the heaths.

“What interests me most about the job is trying to recreate the management practices of the Commoners of the past using modern techniques. Keeping the heaths in good health is a challenge, but it is worthwhile when you see the results. An important part of the work is communicating what we do to the general public, and ensuring that we balance the needs of wildlife with those of society.”

Ed Lagdon

Ranger

Ed studied Countryside Management at Aberystwyth University and has specialised in heathland management since 2004. After a period as a contractor he joined the Trust’s team full time in 2011.

In addition to undertaking practical management and education work he specialises in wildlife surveys, including nightjars and Dartford warblers.

“I have always had a keen interest in wildlife and love working outside. Working on the heaths within the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is hugely rewarding because you can see the positive impact our small team has on the environment.”

Kate Ponting

Community Engagement and Countryside Learning’

Kate joined Clinton Devon Estates in 2014 after 14 years as a teacher. Her role is to broaden understanding of how and why the countryside is managed and to ensure that the views of local communities are reflected in the Estate’s strategy and approach to business.

For the Conservation Trust Kate leads on events, volunteering and education, linking with local communities, schools, colleges and universities and promoting lifelong learning.

“I love talking to people of all ages about how the countryside works, in providing food, homes, energy and employment as well as space for nature and recreation.”

Rick Lockwood

Rick Lockwood

Otter Estuary Ranger

Having previously worked in several nature conservation roles, Rick joined the Forestry and Reserves team in 2023.

In his role as Otter Ranger, he is responsible for the practical day-to-day management of the nature reserve, supporting the community engagement, education and more generally, helping people appreciate the wildlife of this special place.

In his spare time, Rick enjoys running, cycling and watching birds.