Facilitation Fund farmers’ groups

Part of project: Land management

Eden Rivers Trust currently facilitates two Facilitation Fund Farmers’ Groups:

  • The River Petteril, which has been running since the fund started in 2015
  • Rivers Lowther and Leith (2016 onwards)

Our role is to help groups of farmers and other land managers work together to:

  • improve the natural environment at a landscape rather than single-farm scale, and
  • achieve greater improvements than individual farms could on their own.

The groups are member-led, with Eden Rivers Trust acting as a facilitator to co-ordinate the two groups.
We bring farmers together to share best practice, explore ways of working together, and access expert advice. For example, we help them decide which Countryside Stewardship (CS) priorities they wish to focus on, such as water (surface and groundwater), biodiversity and landscape.

We organise meetings and events and provide training on relevant skills and knowledge to deliver CS priorities. Topics covered so far include: forage maize and soil management, soils and rotational grazing, nutrient management planning and clinics to help farmers through the Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier, Water Capital Grant and Hedgerow and Boundary Grant application process.

We visit other businesses in the area to learn how they operate, and work in partnership with other organisations in the area to promote joint events that are of interest to the wider farming community.

We are also the link with the stakeholders operating in our catchment. Members are invited to attend meetings with representatives from key organisations – such as Environment Agency, United Utilities, Natural England, Network Rail, The Lake District National Park Authority and District and County Councils. This provides the opportunity for all to have an open exchange of views about issues such as flooding and investment into the catchments.

About the two catchments

The two catchments face different pressures, so each group has its own focus:

The River Petteril is predominantly dairy, mixed beef/sheep and arable, with maize also being grown to support dairy herds.

Water quality is the main focus for the Facilitation Fund farmers’ group, with the river coming under pressure from diffuse pollution and the presence of both the M6 motorway and the West Coast Mainline railway, which run close to the Petteril for much of its length.

The Rivers Lowther and Leith straddle both fells and valleys. Farming includes both upland hill farms and lowland mixed farms and dairy. Reduction of flooding is the main focus of this farmers’ group.

A rich variety of habitat is found here such as upland heath, species rich hay meadows, ancient and native woodland, wood pasture and parkland with veteran trees as well as riparian habitat. These habitats support key species including the endangered White-clawed crayfish as well as breeding waders and woodland birds.

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