A 50-plus year vision for improving nature in West Dorset is behind a successful funding bid by local charity West Dorset Wilding.
The Brit Catchment Recovery Project has been chosen as one of only 34 projects in England to be shortlisted for major support under the government’s Landscape Recovery funding scheme Round 2.
The project, which involves an amazing 53 farmers and landowners from within the wider Brit catchment area, has identified more than 8,000 acres of land which will be improved for nature over 20 or more years. This amounts to a staggering 38% of the rural land in the catchment, and there is scope for bringing yet more farmers and landowners, and their expertise and land into the project.
Over the lifetime of the scheme, the outcomes for nature will include more wetland, species-rich grassland, wood pasture, native woodland and vitally important but often undervalued scrub. This will create space for nature to return, including an increase in the diversity and abundance of birds, insects, mammals, fish, native wildflowers and trees. The project will also work with local organic and regenerative farmers, will look to improve water quality in the area’s four rivers, and will seek to increase the amount of carbon stored above ground and in the soil.
In addition to the work with farmers and landowners, the project will also explore deer management, look into the reintroduction of species such as water voles, and consider the use of ‘flying pigs’—hardy pigs like Tamworths that are loaned for short periods—to help smallholders to bring back more wildlife to their land.
Crucially the project will also look to help people from within the catchment area to reconnect with nature, through education and community animation. The project aims to benefit everyone as well as nature and our climate.
Tim Harris, a farmer within the catchment says: “As a farmer in the Brit catchment area I am delighted that the Landscape Recovery Project application has been successful. This is a golden opportunity for farmers and landowners to cooperate in farming and managing the landscape in an environmentally friendly way. Such large-scale projects are vitally important to both local areas and the country as a whole.”
Lauren Goringe, who also farms within the catchment says: “As farmers, we really appreciate the beautiful countryside and wildlife that surrounds us and are keen to preserve and enhance this in the future. We are hopeful that this project will provide local farmers with the support to engage in bespoke activity to boost biodiversity, in a way that complements sustainable food production.”
Luke Montagu, Chair of Trustees, West Dorset Wilding and landowner says: “This is a great day for nature in West Dorset. 53 farmers and landowners came together with an ambitious 20-year plan to restore biodiversity across the whole Brit catchment. Subject to some formalities, Defra has now agreed to fund this plan and we have an extraordinary opportunity to work together to create a thriving local ecosystem by rebuilding lost wildlife habitats.”
Dr Sam Rose, Executive Director for the charity adds: “This is an innovative and exciting approach to farmer-led ecosystem restoration, and our overall objective is that at last 50% of the rural parts of our catchment are under better management for nature by 2050. I can’t wait to get started!”
West Dorset Wilding now has to undertake a period of preparation with the government advisors, Natural England, so that work can start in earnest by April 2024.
Find out more about the project at westdorsetwilding.org/brit and by emailing email@example.com