“If the earth is a mother then rivers are her veins.” – Amit Kalantri

Flowing through the boundaries of Dorset, Somerset and Devon, The River Axe is of national significance, recognised in its designation as both a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The designation cites the Axe supporting an exceptionally diverse range of aquatic and marginal plant species, as well as several threatened animal species including salmon, bullhead, otter and medicinal leech. It is a river environment modified by centuries of human activity, yet still retaining many of its natural geomorphological and important ecological features. The catchment encompasses approximately 307km 2 with the combined length of the Axe and its tributaries totalling some 59 km, in addition to more minor and feeder streams.

The River Axe catchment has shown to be in an unfavourable condition, as first identified in the 1980s, with a steady decline in the river’s water quality. This is due to a combination of surrounding soil degradation and resultant silt accumulation within the channel, nutrient enrichment, particularly phosphate, and overabundance of algae and resulting overall poor biodiversity. It has been given a status of “failing good ecological status” under legislation known as the Water Framework Directive.

The annual average phosphorus concentration in the River Axe SAC needs to be reduced by at least 50% to achieve the SAC standard of 0.05 mg/l.

The river habitat should be supporting the plethora of plant, fish and invertebrate communities and species it was named after; with the UK rivers the Exe, Axe and Usk all deriving their name from the British Celtic word, “abounding in fish”. Every action within our project has the ultimate aim of improving the downstream River Axe SAC.

We will :

  • Develop and deliver a startling and ambitious river restoration programme
  • Work with farmers within the upper catchment to simultaneously improve the resilience of both businesses and the natural environment