A very brief introduction to Countryside Stewardship schemes and why we support them ...
Looking at Countryside Stewardship schemes and why they're good for the river, wildlife and for farm businesses
2020 saw the launch of Eden Rivers Trust’s (ERT) three-year Water-friendly Farming programme to improve the health of watercourses in the Petteril and help farm businesses make better use of their resources.
Over the last year, Andy Dyer, Senior Farming and Conservation Officer here at the Trust has worked closely with farmers, landowners and land managers within the River Petteril Facilitation Fund group, a farm cluster group we set up a few years ago.
He has visited individual farms in the area to identify the areas and features that contribute towards that farm’s natural capital and discuss ways that farmers can put them to good use to improve water quality and habitat in the becks and rivers across/close to the farm and make better use of resources within the farm business.
This has all been delivered through one-to-one advice and support, focusing on water quality, nutrient management, air quality, soil management, natural flood management and habitat creation. Andy also identified how farmers could access funding; either through Countryside Stewardship (CS) schemes and/or private funders.
Andy explains more about why ERT’s involvement has been key:
This one-to-one approach is a critical part of the project. As the local rivers trust dedicated to improving and protecting Eden’s rivers, we appreciate the key role that farmers already play in looking after the environment.
We hope that farmers will value having a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ completing a full walkover over their land. We can also assess any gaps in farm paperwork and understanding of Regulations and Schemes which could be addressed via additional support and guidance, potentially through the Facilitation Fund Group, which is already well-established in the Petteril catchment.
By building closer working relationships with farmers and landowners, we can work together to build both a sustainable, resilient farm business and environment.
Highlights of the first year of the project
In its first year, we were able to identify a massive £700,000 of support for farmers taking part in the programme through capital grants and annual payments for options spread over the next five years under Countryside Stewardship schemes.
The benefits were realised by identifying water quality improvement opportunities on the farm such as hedgerow management and planting, rainwater harvesting, roofing over yards, concrete renewal, buffer strips, low fertiliser pasture management, fencing of watercourses, livestock tracks and yard drainage improvements.
Every £1 that Eden Rivers Trust has invested in this programme in terms of staff time and overheads has unlocked £33 for work in the catchment that will benefit the river. That’s a fantastic return on investment.
The project has demonstrated the importance of identifying potential opportunities and interventions using a mix of technology and site visits.
Using satellite and aerial imagery in conjunction with GIS (Geographic Information System) data can provide initial ideas as to where interventions can be placed for maximum benefit. However, nothing beats physically walking over the land to check whether those ideas will work in practice and to appreciate how the site fits into the wider environment. Using drones gives a bird’s eye perspective and underpins the knowledge gained from the ground walkover survey.
By looking at both the farm and the wider environment outside its boundaries, discussions can take place to determine how a collaborative approach to delivering key environmental benefits both locally and on a landscape scale can be achieved and what financial or other assistance or incentivisation is required to achieve that outcome.
Part of the programme includes identifying and assessing how these ‘natural capital’ assets can be utilised to generate income for the farm business in the future. With the release of the Agricultural Transition Plan (2021-24) at the end of 2020 and some clarity on the proposed structure of Environmental Land Management schemes post 2024, this service will be of increasing value to farmers and third-party investors in the years to come.
We hope that the information gained from this project will lead to enhanced collaborative working between neighbouring farmers (within a farm cluster group) to help drive local or landscape-scale nature recovery.
For more information about Eden Rivers Trust’s Water-friendly Farming Delivery programme, please contact Andy Dyer at firstname.lastname@example.org