By Andy Dyer, Senior Farming and Conservation Officer
As a rivers trust, a key element of our work is concerned with the path water takes before it reaches our rivers. We undertake a wide variety of projects that aim to manage the flow of water so that any water that reaches the river is as clean as it can be to protect water quality and fragile habitats – and that the amount of water doesn’t overwhelm watercourses.
Therefore we are currently focusing our attention on the next round of applications for the various elements of the Countryside Stewardship (CS) Scheme.
We are keen to promote all aspects of CS as we see it as an ideal means whereby farmers and landowners can invest in their businesses, and the benefits realised will also improve the environment. This could include enhanced water quality, improved habitats, and better use of nutrients and water on farm – which should result in a healthier farm and farm yard for both livestock and wildlife.
There are four main elements to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. If you can commit to a five- or ten-year programme, then the Mid and Higher Tier elements of CS offer the ability for farmers and land-owners to take on more obligations and options than are available under the other elements. These elements come (potentially) with the scope to undertake unlimited capital works programmes.
For many businesses however, commitment to this type of long-term programme may not be either practical or desirable. Therefore, the capital grants element of the CS scheme such as the Water Capital Grant (WCG) Scheme and the Hedgerow and Boundary Grant (HBG) Scheme may be more attractive.
Examples of how these grants can be used include: helping to improve clean and dirty water separation in the farm yard (WCG) and re-building walls or re-invigorating hedgerows around the farm (HBG). Both schemes have a grant ceiling of £10,000 per application and the work has to be completed within a two-year period.
If you are considering submitting an application including elements of capital works for water quality under either Mid-Tier CS or a Water Capital Grant then it is important to check if the farm is located in a High Water Quality Priority area such as the River Eden catchment.
Woodland Creation Schemes under CS can be applied for on a monthly basis and offer opportunities for shelter belt or habitat creation around the farm. The new Offers for Wildlife under CS may be more attractive for some businesses as it allows them to manage parcels of land to benefit wildlife through a tailored suite of options with a simplified application process. Please note, capital works are excluded from these elements.
To help farmers navigate and make the most of the Countryside Stewardship scheme, we manage two Facilitation Fund Groups within the Eden catchment – on the River Petteril and the Rivers Lowther and Leith. These groups can obtain help and guidance on CS from ERT’s two Facilitation Fund Officers who in turn work closely with Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming Officers (CSFO) within the Eden Valley, Chris Turner and Susan Kenworthy.
Group members have benefited greatly from local face-to-face meetings with CSFOs, facilitated by the Trust, which have led to successful applications being submitted and agreements offered.
If you would like to discuss any element of the Countryside Stewardship scheme, or how being a member of a Facilitation Fund Group may help increase the success of your application, then please contact either Andy Dyer or Sarah Kidd on 01768 866788.