The Nant Alan Brook and its catchment, has like large areas of upland wales undergone a shift from small scale mixed farming to larger livestock farms of sheep and suckler cattle. This has led to a large simplification of farmland caused by a loss of hedgerows and woodland. This simplification has led to reductions in biodiversity, watercourse quality and exacerbated high and low flows in downstream watercourses.
The Severn Uplands CABA partnership started the Holding the Waters Back project in the upper River Severn Catchment in 2014. The aim of the project was to reduce overland flows and allow it to soak more rapidly into the soil, by providing direct support for restoring hedgerows, restricting livestock from woodlands to encourage understorey re-growth and creating woodland alongside watercourse.
The project was based on the “Pont Bren Project” which has shown that increasing tree cover in a small catchment can reduce peak flows of small catchments by up to 40%. The woodland also has the benefit of capturing fertilisers, pesticides and sediments leading to an improvement of water quality. While the success of the Pont Bren Project was largely built upon the fact it was farmer led, Holding the Waters Back is a project led by the Severn Rivers Trust and therefore needed to initiate landowner participation.
Instigating Landowner Engagement?
The project worked on seven guiding principles to get maximum engagement with landowners.
- An advisor who understands the farm business and will therefore make practical suggestions.
- Word of mouth to help build trust in both the project and the advisor.
- The Agricultural Advisor visiting the farms in poor weather to identify priority activities
- The farms were not tied up to a long term scheme, only separate contracts for delivering small activities. (Section of new hedgerow etc.)
- The Agricultural Advisor undertook as much of the paper work as possible on behalf of the farms
- Farmers understood the aims of the project of trapping overland flows but activities also provided solutions that were beneficial to the farm. i.e. shelter, fencing off steep gullies etc.
- Severn Rivers Trust staff providing a practical hand to complete the activities above and beyond the individual contract.