Farmers and land owners in two areas of the Ribble catchment are working together to improve the natural environment across their local landscapes. By working together, greater environmental benefits can be achieved than would be possible if each individual worked alone in isolation.
The farmers and land owners are members of ‘Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Groups’ – an initiative created and funded by Natural England. One group, the River Loud Facilitation Group, formed in 2015 and has 28 member farms, covering approximately 4,000 hectares. The group principally aims to improve water quality by reducing the amount of diffuse pollution (i.e. pollution that is discharged from a range of sources) entering the River Loud, through altering farming practices and improving farm infrastructure. The group also aims to improve habitat connectivity and the biodiversity value of the area, increase carbon storage, contribute to Natural Flood Management within the area, and enhance the character of the local landscape.
The second group, the Ribblesdale Farmers Facilitation Group, formed in early 2017 and has 25 member farms, covering approximately 2,600 hectares. Each member has land on the floodplain around the River Ribble at Long Preston Deeps, much of which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its unusual river morphology and its importance as a habitat for breeding wading birds and a range of plants. While the overall aims of the Ribblesdale Farmers group are the same as the River Loud Facilitation Group’s, their principle aim is to improve the Natural Flood Management capabilities of their land.
Ribble Rivers Trust, along with partner organisations, helps to develop cooperation within each of the two Facilitation Groups, helps group members understand how to put together an application for a Countryside Stewardship agreement, and provides relevant training to upskill group members. Training events and workshops, delivered by local experts, have so far covered:
- Walks around group members’ farms to look at features that improve the land for wading birds, pollinators and Natural Flood Management
- Water-friendly farming practices
- How to better manage soils
- Efficient nutrient management
- The benefits of hedgerows
- Advice on Countryside Stewardship applications and agreements
- Funding opportunities available to the farmers and land owners
The Trust also attends agricultural shows in the Groups’ local areas, such as Chipping Agricultural Show and Hodder Valley Show, to engage with and offer advice to farmers and land owners who are not currently part of the Facilitation Groups. As the majority of land in the Ribble catchment is agricultural land, the more farmers the Trust can help to do their bit for the environment, the greater the positive benefit for the health of the River Ribble, its tributaries and the surrounding land.