Gloucestershire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) are delighted to announce that we have been awarded funding from Natural England to support our new farmer group, the ‘Severn Vale Guardians’. Working with key partners the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), the aim of the Severn Vale Guardians is to form a collaborative group of farmers and land managers to achieve landscape scale improvements in the local natural environment. Sustainable land management is integral to the production of food and to underpin the recovery of wildlife and biodiversity, and through the Severn Vale Guardians we will explore innovation around sustainable soils, the movement of water through catchments, habitat management and resource protection. The project will run activities over the next three years including: site visits, practical demonstrations, workshops, trials and monitoring programmes, all guided by the input of farmer members.

There is an open invitation for all farmers in the Severn Vale to join the Group and share support and learning either in a formal or informal capacity with other farmers and land managers. Farmers signed up to the Facilitation Fund will receive support to assess their land for soil and water management, biodiversity value and business needs and provide a forum for farmers to share their knowledge and expertise. The project will provide better coordinated information about environmental and water quality initiatives including BPS Greening, Cross Compliance, Natural Flood Management, Countryside Stewardship and other grant funding.  Membership to the group is free and will aid farmers with their eligibility to Countryside Stewardship. For those already in Higher Level Stewardship we can undertake a full review to ensure that options are delivering the best they can for you and the environment, including working with Natural England to gain additional capital funding for works on the farm.  

Within the special landscape of the Seven Vale there are numerous designations; the lower end of the Vale is dominated by the tidal Severn Estuary much of which is recognised as internationally important wetlands and higher up the Vale is home to the SSSI sites of Walmore Common and Ashleworth Ham, to name a few. Species of note are breeding populations of Eurasian curlew, common crane and European eel.

The globally threatened Eurasian curlew are very site faithful, therefore identifying all sites where the curlew is attempting to breed and supporting the provision of high quality foraging and refuge habitat around their favourite fields is a priority. We will also trial the use of electric fencing around nests to help protect them from predators. The project will help to support the management of both wintering wader sites on the Estuary and breeding wader sites further up the Vale around Ashleworth Ham and Coombe Hill. The Vale is also a stronghold for European eels which enter the estuary in spring months and live in the ditches and waterbodies until they reach maturity and migrate back to sea. Working with landowners and other partners we will look to improve their presence and survival in streams, ponds and ditch networks.

The group will also look at where in the catchments there may be opportunities to reduce surface run off and manage the movement of water with the aim to improve water quality, lessen tide locking and reduce the impact of storm surges.

If you would like to be involved, or to be added to the mailing list; please contact Sarah Wells using the Gloucestershire FWAG office number 01666 503668 or email [email protected]

Arlingham, looking up the Severn Estuary