A group of twenty farmers in west Hampshire are working together to improve the natural environment across 4550 hectares of farmland in the Wallop Brook river catchment area.
The Wallop Brook farmers are one of 37 groups to receive funding from DEFRA in the latest round of Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund awards, announced today.
This funding will allow the farmers to work with an experienced conservation expert and farm advisor from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, in order to find the best ways to deliver environmental improvements on their land. The farmers believe that by coming together to manage the whole catchment from top to bottom, they can look after their natural assets and help make their farms more sustainable.
As well as producing food, the Wallop Brook farmers are managing a range of important natural, historical and cultural assets including the brook itself, floodplain meadows and pastures, ancient woodlands, flower rich grasslands, cornfield flowers, footpaths and bridleways and ancient hedgerows.
Their collective efforts will provide improved habitats for wildlife on a landscape scale to better aid conservation of important species, including water vole and brown trout, the rare corn bunting, grey partridge, brown hare, bats, rare butterflies and moths.
Alison Cross, of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, who will act as farm advisor to the Wallop Brook group, said: “I’m delighted to be working with this group of committed and passionate farmers. I believe that together we can achieve significant results for wildlife and the wider environment.
“In this first year we will be taking a close look at soil health and how it can be improved. Getting the soil right is fundamental to the health of our crops, rivers and wildlife. We will also be starting a programme of detailed wildlife surveys to help us ensure that we are targeting our work in the right way.”
Speaking about the latest Facilitation Fund awards, Farming Minister George Eustice said:
“This fund is contributing to an important step change in nature conservation by encouraging and supporting people who bring farmers, foresters and other land managers together to improve the local natural environment at a landscape scale.
“It is particularly encouraging to see how many high quality applications we received, which we hope to replicate across the Countryside Stewardship scheme due to simpler wildlife offers being introduced this year.”