Facilitation Fund farmers’ groups

Part of project: Land management

Eden Rivers Trust currently manages a Facilitation Fund Farmers’ Group; the Fellside Group which was established in June 2022 and is going from strength to strength!

Our role is to help groups of farmers and land managers work together to improve the natural environment at a landscape scale, to achieve greater improvements than individual farms could on their own. The group is member-led, with Eden Rivers Trust acting as a facilitator to co-ordinate the group. We bring farmers together to share best practice, explore ways of working together, and access expert advice.

We organise meetings and provide training on relevant skills and knowledge to deliver Countryside Stewardship priorities, such as improved water quality. Topics covered so far include soil carbon and soil health, agroforestry, Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier options, hedge laying and maintenance, soil aeration and regenerative agriculture, wildflowers and upland birds.

Our AGM in May 2023 explored soil aeration techniques and featured a demonstration using the panbuster and aerator, available from Eden Rivers Trust free of charge to farmers and landowners within the Eden catchment. Frontier Agriculture also presented to the group on Regenerative Agriculture and highlighted the importance of soil health for increased productivity and resilience of a farming system to climate change and rising costs.

As a group we visit member’s farms to learn how they operate and what works for them. We also work in partnership with other organisations (e.g., The Farmer Network and farming cluster groups) in the area to promote joint events and keep our members well informed on opportunities available.

About the catchment

The Fellside Facilitation Group covers the Western fell-edge of the North Pennines AONB, from Talkin Tarn up to Ousby. The area is predominantly mixed beef and sheep with the occasional dairy herd.

The main focus of the group is to improve the water quality of the tributaries of the River Eden, through reducing the agricultural diffuse pollution of nutrients and sediment. This can be done through fencing off water courses, increasing agroforestry and improving soil health and management of resources and nutrients on the farm.

The North Pennines AONB is home to a number of priority habitats and species. Blanket bog is an important priority habitat, vital for storing water and slowing its flow into our communities and for sequestering carbon, and nearly a third of England’s blanket bog is based within the North Pennines. The area also provides an integral stronghold for multiple priority species, including Curlew and Black Grouse.

We’ve been doing this for a long time!

Until 2022, we facilitated two other Facilitation Fund Farmers’ Groups:

  • The River Petteril, (2015-2022)
  • Rivers Lowther and Leith (2016-2022)
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