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Landscape recovery

Whilst we’ve all been in various agri-environment schemes for decades, there is always more we can do on our farms. With input from various experts, we’ve all been developing ideas of where we can create new or enhanced habitats on our farms whilst building economic and environmental farm business resilience, alongside producing high quality beef and lamb.

To make these ideas a reality we submitted an ambitious, but achievable, proposal  to Defra’s Landscape Recovery Fund and are delighted that our application has now been  approved. 

Our proposed area

By teaming up with the Duchy of Cornwall and a number of other supportive partners we have developed a proposal that covers almost 90 sq miles and around 25% of Dartmoor National Park. 

The area includes much of the high moor, and 12,368ha of the Dartmoor Special Area of Conservation, 12,370 ha of SSSI and 202 Scheduled Ancient Monuments covering 612 ha.

This includes around 40 farms, with their intakes / inbye land and seven commons. We will also be liaising closely with the Wilder East Dartmoor Landscape Recovery area, to share knowledge and look to expand our area to span across the gap in the Widecombe valley to meet their boundary.

We will also be working closely with a Walkham Valley Landscape recovery project led by Dartmoor National Park Authority (approved at the same time) to maximise the benefits of both projects.

In our first year, we also envisage expanding to include some additional farms and commons and early in the New Year will be confirming the criteria and process for how people can join us. 

Dartmoor Landscape Recovery areas.png

What is Landscape Recovery?


Landscape Recovery is the name given to the most ambitious part of the Government’s ELMS (Environmental Land Management Schemes). Unlike the other parts of ELMS, that operate with separate agreements and plans for each farm, Landscape Recovery works by bringing together groups of farmers, landowners, land managers and to deliver landscape scale enhancement.

We will have a 2 year Development Stage (starting early 2024) to agree a shared ambition for the land we want to take forward to the next stage and plan how this can be achieved. If Defra approves these proposals, then the project will receive long-term (20+ years) funding to implement – but will also need to secure some private finance.

What are we proposing to do?


Our overall aim is to “deliver Nature enhancement at a landscape scale, underpinned by the restoration of dynamic natural processes”  as outlined in the 2020 Dartmoor National Park ambition and linking with the work the Duchy is doing on natural capital and net zero.


Dartmoor is a pastoral landscape and grazing animals have a key role, (providing they are the right species, number and grazing at the right time) in managing some habitats as well as producing food. 

On the home farms and inbye land, we will be building on the work undertaken on most of this area over the past few years by the Duchy of Cornwall’s Natural Capital team and the Hill Farm Project with the individual farmers to develop ideas to improve the habitats on each farm.  As shown in the table, we’ve identified substantial potential changes. 

The Development stage will enable us to firm up these proposals and as part of this process we will be including consultation and getting input from the public, neighbours and other interested parties to ensure we’ve considered all the issues and opportunities. These will also be integrated with the work the Curlew Recovery project that the Duchy of Cornwall is leading on.

Alongside this, we’ll be developing plans to improve existing public rights of way and access routes, and how we can build in roles for volunteers, apprenticeships and trainees into the Delivery Stage.


On Commons the process is more complex, so we propose to build on the findings of the Fursdon Review and the Foundation of Common Land’s ‘Common Cause’ Project, expanding on the learning from Dartmoor and across the country. With their input, and using an independent facilitator we plan to work with graziers, landowners, public bodies, NGO’s, the general public and other stakeholders with the aim of developing a set of agreed guiding principles and a Vision for the future for each Common. This stage of extensive dialogue and facilitation between the many interested stakeholders aims to overcome an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality, will aim to jointly produce a widely supported Vision and Delivery Plan that balances the possibly conflicting priorities of ecology, heritage, food production, water supply, Natural Flood Management, carbon sequestration, recreation and military use.


A key part of communicating the resulting Vision will be through visualisation, with artist’s illustrations created of how we want the area to look like in 20, 50, 100 years’ time.


Following on from the Vision, we will then update the management plans for each common. These will:


  • align with the plans for the home farms, to ensure that conservation grazing animals have somewhere to go year-round.

  • ensure that no one piece of land (i.e., neighbouring common or home farm) is treated detrimentally at the expense of another piece under good management to ensure we are taking a system wide approach.

  • recognise the historic and cultural landscape, being sensitive to landscape character

  • calculate the true cost of providing conservation grazing (getting right animals in right place at right time)

  • Include wildfire planning


In parallel, we will also be looking at the economics of Dartmoor farming, as underlying all our proposals is the need for our farming businesses to be economically sustainable. As the adage goes, you can’t go green, if you’re in the red. Over the past decade, on average, livestock farms in Less Favoured Area’s like Dartmoor lost over £10,000 each year on their agricultural enterprises. It is only through income from BPS, agri-environment and diversification they offset these losses and make a modest profit. 


The Less is More and Farming at the Sweet Spot reports indicate that changing practices in upland areas so they are less intensive and more focused on nature restoration can increase profitability.


This and other evidence suggest that farmers would be financially better off, moving to a system that minimises bought in feed and fertiliser, has more cattle and less sheep, and the majority of youngstock sold each autumn rather than over-wintered. However, before farmers commit to this major change, more evidence is needed.

To provide this we propose to work with the Countryside Fund to offer farm business analysis and consider an approach to stocking that delivers the right economic and environmental outcomes; both on home farms and commons. This will re-visit the use of the stratified livestock system to increase the number of cows available to summer graze whilst reducing wintering pressure and on-farm costs. 


Alongside this are a number of other workstreams, including;

  • Support for threatened species (e.g. Curlew, Marsh Fritillary)

  • Expansion of native woodland (inc. hedges and wood pasture)

  • Access Improvement Plans

  • Plans for reaching net-zero

  • Improving water quality

  • Climate resilience

  • Tackling invasive species

  • Developing marketing of Dartmoor meat

  • Improving animal, health and welfare 

  • Providing volunteer opportunities

  • Developing traineeship and apprenticeship programmes

  • Building on the Duchy’s recently launched mental health strategy

More details of these will be shared on our website and our e-newsletter (sign-up below).

Developed in partnership with the
With support from:

Dartmoor National Park Authority

Devon Wildlife Trust / East Dartmoor Landscape Recovery Area 

Defence Infrastructure Organisation

Forestry Commission

Moor Meadows

Moor Trees

South West Water

Westcountry Rivers Trust

University of Plymouth

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