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Brit Catchment Recovery Project

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SUCCESS.  

 

On Nov 29th 2023 we were told by Defra that we had been 'shortlisted' to receive a grant, one of 34 projects around England. 

 

This is amazing news and means that as long as we fulfil their administrative criteria, we will receive a two-year grant and start work in April 2024.

We have 53 farmers and landowners signed up and over 3,700ha of land in a core area for change - see below for more details and/or contact us at brit@westdorsetwilding.org

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Map showing extent of land holdings of farmers and landowners who have expressed an interest in being involved with the Brit Catchment Recovery Project.  This is about 8,000 hectares and represents their whole landholdings in the catchment, more than the amount that they are considering putting into the project, which, at just under 4,000 hectares, is still a huge area.

Brit Catchment Recovery Project
 

Transformative change for nature in the Brit catchment

A Landscape Recovery proposal

Project development

Over the summer and into September, a small, but perfectly formed, part-time team of five worked very hard on a shoestring budget to pull together a funding bid for the The Brit Catchment Recovery project. 

As you can see above, we have been successful with the funding bid, but what is this project? I hear you ask...  and what kind of funding bid needs that much work?

Well, West Dorset Wilding has a vision of a wider Brit catchment teeming with wildlife in the grasslands, woodlands and wetlands, with thriving and sustainable local food production, increased public connection with and benefit from nature, and more opportunities for sustainable jobs, education and tourism.

But as with much of the rest of the UK, species and habitats in the catchment have been negatively impacted by agricultural intensification and social development over the last 70+ years.  This has led to habitat fragmentation, biodiversity loss, increased pollution and significantly greater hydrological risks.

To address this issue, West Dorset Wilding has facilitated a partnership of 53 farmers and landowner with a combined area of over 8,000 acres within the wider Brit.  All of these people are interested in landscape-scale ecosystem restoration, alongside delivering positive local, social and economic impacts.  The love their land and it is important forth to help biodiversity return. To make the scale of change we need to make to allow nature to bounce back and thrive in this amazing part of Dorset, the work has to be led by those who own and manage the land. It was heartening to see such interest from so many.

To achieve the improvements for nature, farmers and landowners are looking to make land-use changes, such as creating wood pasture, species-rich grassland, wetlands or riverside (riparian) woodlands.  If these areas are all connected as we are planning to do, either directly or through the rivers, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts and we can start to see improvements on a whole catchment-scale.

These land-use changes will be supported by a range of other activities, including reintroduction of species such as water voles, changes to rivers to create more wetland, deer management, a ‘Flying Pig’ club, education, community engagement and volunteering. You can see the vision in the diagram below and find out more at this webpage as it develops.

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Project vision

Landscape recovery

So how to fund all of this? In 2022 the Government launched the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) to replace the old EU-led agricultural subsidy scheme.  Part of ELMS is a programme called Landscape Recovery, which aims to do what it says on the tin - support land managers to make changes to help recover nature collectively over a whole landscape.

In 2023, the second round of Landscape Recovery funding was announced, so we thought we would give it a go.  We had to pull together interested farmers and landowners into one vision and one project, map the land they might make changes on and then write a long and complicated proposal and budget. 

The good thing about this process is that now we have been succesful, and subject to various formalities, Defra will be giving us funding for a two-year development stage to enable us to fine tune all the details and confirm all of the interest from the farmers and landowners who has said it might be for them.  No-one has had to commit more than an expression of interest at this stage and the project can still grow further.

If it all goes to plan, the farmers will get payments based on the nature that is coming back to their land as a result of the changes they have made for 20+ years, and we would all benefit from an improved nature in our catchment.  The government call it 'public money for public goods' because we all benefit from a thriving nature.

Landscape Recovery is very competitive, so we had about a 1 in 3 chance of getting the funding, but we had an amazing team to pull it together and the hard work has paid off.

There is a lot more to this, so if you want to know more, or missed out in the summer and want to get involved, please get in touch.

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