The Natural Course Grand Finale!

After eight and a half incredible years, Natural Course is reaching its conclusion.

To celebrate the occasion, we invited friends and colleagues to join us at our Grand Finale as we looked back on our highlights, achievements and what we learned along the way over four phases of work consisting of 50 actions, 81 sub actions and 182 deliverables!

The day started with opening words from Damian Crilly (one of the instigators of Natural Course!), Craig Higson (Programme Manager) and Fabio Leone (Head of Sector in the LIFE Programme).

It was then over to the Collaborative Team who presented a selection of projects under the themes of capacity and collaboration, delivery, innovation and green and sustainable finance.

  • Capacity and collaboration

This section looked at how Natural Course has increased capacity both within and between organisations and how this has resulted in being able to attract a wider range of funding sources and the ability to gather robust data.

It showcased United Utilities Strategic Catchment Team and secondments from Natural England and the Rivers Trust and some of the successes from the Cheshire and Fylde Hubs.  It also looked at how our collaboration has improved evidence with Natural Course actions laying the groundwork for the Catchment Systems Thinking Cooperative (CaSTCo) and the growth of Citizen Science projects.

  • Delivery Projects

This section celebrated changing the landscape for water and nature and gave an overview of some of the work around river restoration, barrier removal, diffuse water pollution reduction (urban and rural), natural flood management and other land management changes.  It then showcased a number of projects, including aiming high for the River Irt, water quality improvements at Rostherne Mere, urban diffuse pollution mitigation on Moston Brook, and Dales Brow SuDs.

  • Achieving improvements in ecological status through innovation

This section started with the Ecological Network Tool and how it uses spatial modelling to identify priorities to work together to restore wetland and woodland across the North West River Basin District.  It then looked at the Environment Agency CLIMB (challenging links integrating multiple benefits) programme and the influence of Natural Course in the development of the Greater Manchester Integrated Water Management Plan.  The final part of this section took a look at how Natural Course has developed innovative green finance models in Greater Manchester, including Natural Capital tools, the Greater Manchester Natural Capital Investment Plan and the Greater Manchester Environment Fund.

  • Green and sustainable finance

Finding new approaches to finance our work was the focus of the final session which looked at how Natural Course has developed a variety of opportunities for investment (including the Greater Manchester Ecosystem Services Opportunity Mapping tools, the Bringing the River Irk to Life action plan and the Resilient Glenderamackin project).

It looked at how we have embedded knowledge in catchment partnerships and through organising and attending conferences and events, and then looked at how we have been unlocking barriers to scale up work in this area.

Innovative modelling enabled more delivery, plus monitoring and evaluation help access new funding opportunities and new partnerships.  This was demonstrated by the Wyre Natural Flood Management Investment Readiness project and is being scaled up in Glenderamackin.

The full slide pack from the day can be found on this link (opens in new tab)

In between these sessions was ‘in conversation with the executives’ which was a fantastic opportunity to hear directly from the steering committee on their reflections and expectations from Natural Course, their biggest takeaways/lessons learned and what they would like to see happen next.

The day ended with a presentation from Will Wakefield (Defra) who discussed how Natural Course has been influencing both policy and thinking across Defra, and then gave us an insight of the future water policy framework discussing how to make the ambition a reality six focus areas.

It was great to bring together people who have been part of Natural Course over the years and show how their work has contributed to the wider work programme.

Natural Course is not quite finished yet!

All current projects wrap up on 31st March, and then the reporting period starts –  so look out for a flurry of results and recommendations over the coming months.