Cumbrian river conservation charity taking data to a whole new (landscape) level

We are one of only two rivers trusts in England that have been confirmed as part of Defra’s Environment Land Management (ELM) scheme Landscape Recovery test and trial programme.

ERT is leading a project with SOYL over the next two years that will focus on Landscape Recovery – scheme three of the forthcoming Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme. We will look at how data, technology and physical farm walkovers can be used to build up a picture of the natural capital assets which currently exist, identify opportunities to create new assets and enhance existing ones, not just on a single farm, but also at a landscape-scale too.

For us, being part of Defra’s ELM test and trial programme underlines the vital role rivers trusts can play in helping to shape schemes such as this to work in a real-life environment. Being involved is a natural progression of the work and relationships they have built up with farmers and landowners since the trust started – using their expertise and track record in working with farmers to design and implement a wide range of nature-based features and water management solutions that work both for the environment and the farm business.

Andy Dyer, Senior Farming and Conservation Manager explains more:

As the local champion of Eden’s rivers, we’ve been working with farmers and landowners for twenty-five years to help them find solutions and funding to effectively manage water from farmyard to river to help protect our river environment.

Over the last two years, through our water-friendly farming initiative, we’ve taken a more data-driven approach to identifying solutions by undertaking drone surveys and modelling using in-house expertise, backed up with a physical walkover of the farm. This has presented new opportunities for the creation of natural capital features that may not have been identified otherwise and helped to unlock additional funding for the farmers involved.”

We’re excited to have this opportunity to build on this work by testing new ways of gathering data digitally and working with farmers to scope the environmental and financial opportunities for farms in our catchment to enhance and protect Eden’s rivers.

In the first year, we aim to recruit 50 farmers/landowners in the Petteril, Lowther and Leith sub-catchments. We will undertake a physical farm walkover to map natural capital assets on each farm then SOYL and ourselves will help the participating farmers/landowners use computer apps and their mobile phones to build on this initial data.

In the second year, this information will then be valued by an external evaluator to help the farmers/landowners understand how much these features are worth to them as natural capital assets.

Our farming team will also work with the farmers/landowners during year two of the trial to put together the individual land management plans (LMP), which Defra is suggesting will be required for scheme three and scheme two of ELM. We will also create a landscape-level LMP.

This information will help us and the farmers /landowners to create a suite of potential projects at a landscape scale that will be attractive to third party investors.

Andy adds:

This is an ideal opportunity for farmers to get involved and influence how the Environmental Land Management scheme will work in the future. It will help us to better understand how we can attract additional investment from other sources, such as private companies. We can then work with farmers to invest this money in further natural capital improvements and potentially increase the farm’s financial and environmental sustainability.

Applications to join the trial are now open. If you are a landowner/farmer in the Petteril, Leith or Lowther catchments and would like to take part, please contact Andy Dyer on 01768 866788 or email


Photo: courtesy of Rob Grange Photography


Eden Rivers Kingfisher Icon
Eden Rivers Kingfisher Icon