A new 3-year contract has now been secured from Defra by the Blackdown Hills National Landscape (AONB) to continue and extend the Facilitation network’s activities in the Blackdown Hills. This is seen as an important tool in helping the farming community adjust to Agricultural Transition, with the loss of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and the move to Environmental Land Management (ELM) grant payments.

This is a crucial time for farming, with many farm businesses facing a crossroads where they either choose to embrace environmental actions and the ‘public money for public goods’ which will flow from doing so or choose to intensify their operations and work to the market instead of state support. It is essential that the BHAONB maintains a supportive dialogue with farmers through this period if long term gains for the protected landscape are to remain within reach.

For the Blackdown Hills, local priorities within the National Landscape revolve around the themes of water quality enhancement, flood alleviation, priority habitat conservation and enhancement, and support for regenerative agricultural practices. These themes have been and continue to be promoted through the work of BHAONB-led projects including Connecting the Culm, Triple Axe and FiPL, and CSFF training and experience activity will serve to underline and embed the key messages of these projects.

The Blackdown Hills CSFF programme will aim to deliver an average of one training/experience sharing session per month. So far, we have hosted a drop-in session with farmers to learn how the Sustainable Farming Incentive will work on their farm. Learning how to mange your own hedge fund using available government funding and how to assess hedgerows. Looking at the Beavers at Otterhead lakes, how they have been successfully re-introduced and learning about Beaver ecology and population status, managing beaver activity and funding opportunities, for riparian habitats in the Upper Otter catchment. 

Through the facilitation fund we aim to bring together an opportunity for farmers and land managers in the Blackdowns to have a collective voice – to integrate the local knowledge and culture of the area, within the ambition of environmental protection with the partnership. Farmers, land owners and land managers are at the heart of environmental protection and restoration and must be supported to have strong and thriving businesses that underpin and benefit from environmental quality.