North West farming community receive Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund to address Natural Flood Management solutions

12 new farming groups have launched to address landscape-scale natural flood management solutions, through the implementation of a new funding round added to the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund.

Announced in December 2016, the new round of funds, launched by Natural England through the EU Life funded Natural Course programme, resulted in 12 new farmer groups, 5 of which were based in the North West river basin, making successful applications. The groups are working in the Derwent (Cocker and Glenderamackin), Lune, Ribble, and Irwell.

Now with 3 years of funding, each group will be led by a facilitator and will work collectively to understand evidence around water quality and flooding. Each group will investigate sympathetic farming practice over their adjacent holdings within their catchments, to slow the flow of water, potentially improving resilience against flooding.

The groups are located mainly in the upper catchments where land use is rural. Working at landscape-scale, the farming and landowning community hope to contribute to catchment flooding responses and make meaningful improvements to water quality over large areas, in diverse river catchments, throughout the North West.

Over the duration of the agreements, it is anticipated that the land management practices that the groups collectively adopt, will contribute sustainable, long-term benefits to their farm businesses, to local and downstream communities.

Examples of sensitive management include soil management for infiltration, improving riparian habitats to reduce erosion, restoring upland peat habitats for carbon storage, rainfall retention, drinking water clarity, urban tree planting initiatives and making good use of hedgerow restoration opportunities.

In the Irwell, the group will be working in the upper catchment, over an area of over 4,000 ha and with a group membership of 17. The group have never worked collaboratively in this way before and will initially consider the knowledge and skills the landowners will need to integrate water quality and natural flood management techniques into their business practices. The group will also be working closely with partners including The National Trust, MOD and United Utilities, who all own significant land holdings in the catchment.

Paula Pearson, Catchment Co-ordinator at Groundwork MSSTT, said: “We’re delighted to have been successful in receiving the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund on behalf of the Irwell Catchment Partnership. We will be using the grant to bring together landholders to explore Natural Flood Management and hope to collectively identify a suite of solutions which will have a measurable effect in reducing the rate of water run-off into the Irwell during high rainfall.

“We hope this will strengthen the need to develop sustainable mechanisms and support for land managers in delivering this vital service to communities who are at risk of flooding.”