Food and Farming blog: Our ducks are in a row – now they’re getting a pond

Food and Farming blog: Our ducks are in a row – now they’re getting a pond

Harriet Bell

Harriet Bell is Community Resilience (Food & Farming) Manager, helping Dartington to explore new ways to feed ourselves sustainably.

Previously, she worked at West Town Farm, an organic mixed farm enterprise on the outskirts of Exeter, and 10:10, an organisation that encourages schools and businesses to cut carbon emissions. More blogs from Harriet

Find out more about our Queen’s Marsh restoration project here ⇒

We’ve been keeping people up to date with our developing plans for Queen’s Marsh for what feels (to me anyway) like eons while we’ve established what we should do, how we should do it and what we can actually afford to do.

Until recently, we had hoped to raise sufficient funds to deliver the entire planned project this year, but alas that is not to be – but that just means opting for Plan B, which is delivering the work in stages.

Proposed Plan View for Queen's Marsh development
Proposed Plan View for Queen’s Marsh development – click for enlarged view

So this year we shall commence with all things that involve using a digger, in order to create the fundamental structure for reinstating the entire 7 hectares of Queen’s Marsh field as a wetland and also to reduce some of the potential future flood risk (the risk that relates to the structure of the brook and the field, not the risk that relates to climate change).

We’ll be digging out two ponds, seven scrapes and regrading the bank of the Bidwell brook, repairing the impact that historic dredging has had in building up the bank and making it easier for water to flood into the full length of the field rather than rush downstream or towards the houses on the other side. As well as increasing the functional capacity of the field to hold water the ponds will provide year-round habitat – and regrading the Bidwell’s bank to a more natural state will also make it much more useable by wildlife as well.

Having tendered for the work, we’ve now commissioned a local company called Landmarc to deliver this stage of the project. They come very highly recommended and we’re looking forward to working on this with them.

The work should begin in June and could feasibly complete within a month but it will be up to the weather as to whether it does or not. Landmarc will only be able to work in the field when conditions are dry enough so if it’s a wet June then work will have to be postponed in response to conditions in the field. We’re not on a strict deadline so we have until the end of September to complete this phase and hopefully the summer won’t be so bad as to prevent that (touch wood).

Map showing location of Queen's Marsh
Where is Queen’s Marsh?

Landmarc will primarily be excavating soil from the field to create the ponds etc. and this soil will then be re-homed in one of the old quarry sites, slightly further up the cycle path from Queen’s Marsh. This will mean heavy machinery crossing the cycle path on occasion but there will be health and safety measures in place to protect both people and wildlife during this process and further signage will go up closer to the time.

We’ll keep you up to date with how work progresses through this website, our e-newsletterFacebook and Twitter accounts but if you have any questions or you’d like to make a donation to help the project along please feel free to email me at


Find out more about our Queen’s Marsh restoration project here ⇒

Posted on

May 11, 2017


  1. Harriet

    Just to give everyone a quick update. Works are expected to start on the 3rd of July for five to six weeks.

  2. Jane Gifford

    My father CF Nielsen was the first farm manager at the Old Parsonage Farm in the 1920’s. Leonard Elmhirst, head hunted him from Denmark to develop the farm in the efficient Scandinavian farming way.
    Leonard wanted local cattle so South Devons were chosen, and my father continued with South Devons when he moved to his own farm at Aish near Stoke Gabriel.

    My father decided to drain the Queens Marsh so it could be used for grazing. He designed how the field drains should run and drain into the River Dart.

    • Harriet

      Hi Jane,

      Great to hear from you. We were aware that your father was the instigator of the drainage system, we found the designs and some correspondence from him when we did our archive search as part of the feasibility study for this project, have you seen them?

      They can be found here

      Do you have any other recollections about his time at Old Parsonage? We’d love to hear them.


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