What is the Blueprint for the Culm?

Creating a 25-year vision for the River Culm and its catchment

The Blueprint for the Culm is a 25-year management plan that aims to guide and inform all investment decisions in the River Culm Catchment.

This page describes how we developed the Blueprint. The full Blueprint Action Plan can now be found on our dedicated website with interactive maps.

The Blueprint was developed through a collaborative process involving residents, community organisations, businesses and statutory authorities so that it could be informed by those affected by its activities and outcomes, and secure their support.

We began in June 2020 by gathering evidence, discussing ideas and consulting organisations and individuals across the catchment, to build up a picture of how the River Culm is performing, consult on our vision and develop our Action Plan. We initially established several Working Groups and organised a series of Catchment Adaptation Workshops to explore the different themes of the project. You can read a summary of the results on our Discover the Culm page. Throughout, we have taken an inclusive approach to involve local people in the process.

Next, we developed a vision statement that captures the future we want to create. This is:

“The River Culm will be celebrated as a lifeline that connects people with each other and with nature. Land across the catchment will be managed to protect and enhance the River, whilst sustaining people’s livelihoods. Throughout the seasons and as the climate changes, the River Culm will have space to flow naturally and safely. The water will run clear, wildlife will flourish, and people will easily access and enjoy all of these benefits”

Last year we developed the key actions needed to realise this vision. We shared these at our Forum on 17 November 2021 – you can watch the recording here and you can read more about the Action Plan themes and priority actions here.

Next we developed “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) targets that we are using to drive and monitor these actions, working with agencies and funders to see how these align with their own priorities. We shared these at our Forum in November 2022.

The image below (produced by local artist Richard Carman) shows how the landscape could change to realise this vision. Drag the bar across from right to left to travel from the present day to 2050.

Present day2050

These images were developed from a previous set which we have preserved below – if you visit the Thinglink versions you can explore the features in more detail. (NB: we’ll be publishing a Thinglink version of the “slider” image above before long!)

The first is of the Upper Culm in 2050 in summer (Thinglink version):

The second is of the Culm Floodplain in 2050 in winter (Thinglink version):

Key features of these landscapes to note are:

  • more trees in the landscape
  • a patchwork of smaller fields and thicker hedgerows
  • more land making space for nature
  • more local food growing with care for nature
  • more ponds and wetlands
  • crystal-clear waters
  • more access to and along the river
  • outdoor activities and learning
  • homes built away from the floodplain
  • homes built using local, sustainable materials
  • space allowed for flooding to happen safely
  • beavers helping slow the flow
  • more energy generated locally
  • green transport solutions

Watch a recording of our June Forum event, where we launched the Vision:

Responses to date on the Vision

These statements describe some of the feedback coming in as our consultation proceeds.

  • The vision needs to explicitly include the fact that people earn their living from the land – especially through farming.
  • Residents and communities may need support to adapt to more space being needed for nature. Similar to farmers, and especially in critical locations.
  • Smaller fields will be a big challenge to achieve lower down the catchment and aren’t the only solution to a more wildlife-rich landscape but key part of it.
  • Concern that the images don’t reflect the large amount of development planned in the catchment.  To be credible the vision needs to acknowledge it, to be realistic.
  • Like to see some more emphasis on disabled access

  • Link to Exe Estuary

  • Include other possible architectural responses – eg houses on stilts!
  • Scale of flood relief offered by nature-based solutions needs to be seen in context with planned development.

  • New development is a challenge but also brings funding opportunities

  • Concern about the benefits or challenges of beavers in the landscape

  • Important to bring farmers into it as they own and anglers need to know more about it.

  • Could add something about mitigating flood risk/drought risk
  • Suggest adding an objective to protect and improve summer low flows. Many actions proposed are holding back rainfall in soil and landscape which will make low flows more resilient with lower summer rainfall. Also, farmers may need to store the winter rainfall in the landscape so that they can abstract it in the summer instead of relying on the river flow. So, this protects the summer low flows too. Maybe the potential use of the water stored in the landscape during the summer for abstraction could be mentioned on the images?

  • I would like to see something about routes for people, for walking and cycling. This would help with adaptation to climate change – and mitigation too, albeit in a very small way.

  • I realise vision statements by their nature are “woolly” but it doesn’t seem to actually say anything with any clarity. For example there is no mention of flood risk unless this is wrapped up in “space to flow…safely” . What do you actually mean by “protecting and enhancing”? If the vision is better defined then people might have a clearer idea of what needs to be done to get there.

  • I am an ecologist and a fly fisher and having spent much time observing beavers in Canada and Poland I am assured that beaver reintroduction is imperative

  • Too many strategies are too vague in their recommendations to be useful. I hope that the vision has a list of prioritised projects of various sizes and types that can be progressed by the relevant organisations / community groups who can use the data and evidence from the Connecting the Culm project to assist with gaining grants and other funding to progress different aspects. It would be such a shame for all this work to just sit on a shelf due to a lack of clarity on the way forwards. The approach used by the Somerset Rivers Authority to split a high level action plan into “workstreams” delivered by a variety of methods ( eg direct implementation by delivery partners, grants to individual landowners etc) and funding streams might be worth considering.

  • My children would like places to play closer to the river

  • It’d be great if southwest water would let the angling groups contribute to decision making

  • I am not sure I know what the shared vision is from what has been presented

  • At the moment it comes across as a bit woolly and vague – its easy to support

  • They are very pretty pictures but I don’t get the link between what they show, how this differs from what there is now and how this links to the vision

  • That is how we want it to be. That is how it was when I was child. I never expected it to be any different. I remember as a child picking primroses by the river. Farming was so different when I was young.

Here’s a short video about the Blueprint and how we see it developing.

We have launched an interactive “visualisation” of the issues affecting the Culm which you can view here:

As you browse through you’ll see a number of statements reflecting our research into the state of the Culm. You can comment on these by visiting our survey.

comment on issues on the culm

This video is a recording of the first half hour of our Forum Launch event on 18 November 2020.

The Blueprint is based on the latest science

We are undertaking detailed scientific research into the health and function of the river.

We have developed a comprehensive “Environmental Evidence Review” for the Culm and this can be downloaded from our Library by clicking the button below. It brings together all the available data for the Culm from a wide range of sources including land use and landscape, water quality, wildlife habitats, soils, flood and drought risk and heritage assets. This information underpins the Blueprint and will help us make the right decisions as we go along.

We’ve also commissioned an advanced flood and drought computer model of the River Culm catchment, which allows us to forecast what the impacts of climate change will be. We can run different scenarios and see how land use changes – like more tree and hedge-planting for example – could make the river more resilient.

Discover the science

An extract from the Environmental Evidence Review, showing water quality data from all the main watercourses in the catchment.

Building a case for investment

Investing in nature generate multiple benefits for many people

Profound changes continue to occur in the policy and funding landscape in which environmental groups operate in the UK. There is now an ever greater need for us to develop a compelling business case for investment in the local environment and we must actively seek opportunities to present this case to the right audiences, in the right places and using the right language required to be successful…

    As we begin to build the evidence base for the Blueprint, please complete our survey and tell us about your experience of the Culm .

    Complete the Survey

    What does climate resilience mean, how do we know if we have it and what can we do to make people and nature more resilient?

    Watch our webinar on water resilience

    Find out how the Blueprint for the Culm will be created and how you can get involved in helping to shape the future of your place.

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    Find out about all the latest activities that have been happening for the Blueprint

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