More than 3,500 hedge plants and trees have been planted in a bid to reduce flooding and improve water quality in the Otter Valley.

Staff and volunteers from The Donkey Sanctuary planted a mixture of native species, including silver birch, field maple, hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel, to help restore and create new hedgerows at its Woods Farm site, near Sidmouth.

Funded by South West Water’s Upstream Thinking project, and working in partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust, the scheme will reduce sediment and water run off at the site, which will in turn improve water quality and help reduce the risk of flooding across the catchment of the nearby River Otter.

Ruth Angell, ecology and conservation manager at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: "The Upstream Thinking project has been a great opportunity for us to improve the landscape at this farm for donkeys and wildlife, as well as the environmental benefits of reduced flood risk and improved water quality.

"We are also hugely grateful to our wonderful conservation volunteers who help us year-round with these sorts of projects."

Woods Farm, which is home to 400 donkeys, is a haven to a host of native wildlife species. The latest planting effort adds to 500 hedge plants which were put in last year.

Sidmouth Herald: One of The Donkey Sanctuary's Conservation team getting involvedOne of The Donkey Sanctuary's Conservation team getting involved (Image: The Donkey Sanctuary)

It is hoped the wildlife-friendly hedges will provide a home to rare, threatened farmland birds such as linnet and yellowhammer, as well as providing a habitat for the rare brown hairstreak butterfly.

One of the UK’s rarest birds, the cirl bunting, has also been heard at the site, giving hope that the improved environment will help them thrive.

And the donkeys will benefit too, as the hedges will give them more to browse on, as well as providing them with shade and shelter from the elements.

David Rolls, working wetlands advisory officer at Devon Wildlife Trust, said: "This planting scheme is another very positive intervention from the team at The Donkey Sanctuary, and will bring considerable wins for wildlife, water, soils and of course the resident donkeys.

"It is particularly pleasing how these interventions will link up with positive changes neighbouring landowners are also carrying out in partnership with the Upstream Thinking Project and will bring considerable added value in terms of wildlife in the local area.

"It’s all very positive."

Sidmouth Herald: Donkeys at Woods Farm will benefitDonkeys at Woods Farm will benefit (Image: The Donkey Sanctuary)