Following a successful partnership bid to Natural England, a new training and collaboration network has been set up for farmers and other land managers within the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This is known as the Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group.

Beginning work in early 2018, this group project will operate for three years, working with members across the Blackdown Hills. The project aims to bring landowners together to share knowledge, learn from each other’s experiences and work collaboratively with a ‘landscape scale’ approach; all with the long-term objective of improving their practices to look after the natural environment and resources on their holdings.

Events

We are planning a series of training events, workshops and demonstrations, bringing in external specialists to deliver some of the training days. These training sessions will be based on subjects proposed by group members, pursuing topics that they feel would been beneficial to learn so they can put new skills to use on their land.

Subjects so far include woodland and hedgerow management, wildflower seed harvesting, flood alleviation, soil management, scrub control, veterinary advice for grazing animals on rough land; along with a variety of water-related topics, for example, maintaining and enhancing water quality and habitat ecology in and around water courses. Many other topics are also under consideration.

All scheduled events are exclusively for members of the Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group, in some cases if all places are not filled, spare places may be made available to others outside of the group.

Membership

At present, there are 54 members of the Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group. New members are welcome as the project progresses and events begin to get underway.

Members will be able to access support in choosing appropriate countryside stewardship options, based on land type, local priorities and environmental issues and with the farmer’s and landowner’s interests and priorities considered.

Funding

Funding for the activities of the Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group has been provided through Defra’s Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund. This is a national funding programme supporting people and organisations that bring farmers, foresters, and other land managers together to improve the local natural environment at a landscape scale. The Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group is now one of 98 such locally-led Facilitation Fund groups across England.

Partners

The project is being led by Butterfly Conservation and supported by Blackdown Hills AONB, Blackdown Hills Rough Grazing Association, and Blackdown Hills Woodland Association. Other partners include Devon Wildlife Trust, Somerset Wildlife Trust, the Defra family, Ecologic, FWAG South West, and the local catchment partnerships (East Devon and South and West Somerset).

The project’s aims

The Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group hopes its innovative approach to landscape-scale land management and collaborative working style will inspire others to become involved or form related projects of their own. The group supports all members and farmers to become ambassadors of the farming community, who will articulate the value of sustainable approaches and good agricultural practices to support the natural environment to their peers.

The Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group aims to support farmers and landowner members to work collaboratively and to equip them with the with the necessary skills and experience in order conserve and enhance the important heritage features on their farms and help them tackle farming related challenges in an uncertain future.

The partnership of farmers and landowners, partner organisations and other stakeholders will build a sense of trust, resilience, and support across a connected landscape. In addition to supporting individual farmers and land owners, the group will benefit the environment on a wider scale by forming a coherent ecological network by conserving and enhancing natural habitats, with focus on water quality, natural flood management solutions, woodlands, soil management, species-rich hedgerows and grasslands dispersal of pollinating insects and many more ecosystem service benefits.

Get in touch

The Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group is being facilitated by Gavin Saunders and run collaboratively with other partners to support all group members. For more information regarding membership of the group, training and events being offered and planned, please contact Gavin Saunders: gavinsaunders@btinternet.com

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