The North East Cotswold Farmer Cluster (NECFC) is to pilot a government-backed ‘Landscape Recovery’ scheme.
The nationwide scheme aims to restore England’s streams and rivers, protect threatened native species, improve natural habitats and adapt to climate change.
The NECFC, which comprises 71 farms in the Evenlode Valley, has been awarded £500,000 of government funding to design and deliver a pilot scheme as part of Defra's new Environmental Land Management.
In total the NECFC covers more than 23,000 hectares of the River Evenlode catchment area, encompassing many small farms as well as larger landholdings, including our World Heritage Site. Working together their aim is to design, create and restore 3,271 hectares of interconnected habitat along the valley.
“With a changing agriculture policy and climate, landscape recovery is a great opportunity to explore new options across the farmed environment, with the hope of bringing benefits to the wider landscape, community and our family farming business” said Matt Izod Co-Founder/Director of the NECFC CIC, who farms 230 hectares of mostly arable with his father near Lyneham, Oxfordshire.
The ambitious plan will include the partial rewilding of 1,000 hectares of floodplain, the creation and restoration of 150 hectares of lakes, ponds and wetland habitats as well as 800 hectares of woodland habitat management, planting and natural regeneration.
“We’re delighted to be one of many farmers and landowners across the Cotswolds working together to deliver a landscape scale plan that will significantly improve the natural habitats where we grow our food, encourage biodiversity and help address the climate emergency,” said our Estate Director, Roy Cox.
Following two years of project development, the implementation period will run for a minimum of 20 years.
“This long term, large scale, land use change is unique,” said Tim Field, Co-Founder and Facilitator of the NECFC CIC, who led the project bid to Defra.
“However, our farmers have not lost sight of the need to produce food, and much of this habitat creation and ecological recovery will be intertwined to build a more resilient farming system.
“The Evenlode Valley includes the pressures of highly productive agriculture and the built environment, alongside the World Heritage Site at Blenheim and many statutory designated sites for species and habitats.
“This project will demonstrate how the landscape restoration of nature can go hand-in-hand with a real-world scenario.
“Many of our group have already been creating wildlife habitats or integrating wildlife-friendly practices into their land management for decades.
“However, the mobilisation of so many farms into this ambitious, contiguous project will be more impactful than the sum of individual projects in isolation,” he added.
The scheme is one of the largest among 22 being supported by government funding across England.