LAUNCH OF THE HILLS TO LEVELS PROJECT

LAUNCH OF THE HILLS TO LEVELS PROJECT

£750,000 CASH BOOST FOR FARMERS AND WILDLIFE IN SOMERSET

Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, President of The Royal Bath & West of England Society, will today formally launch an exciting £750,000 project, funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, to help farmers in Somerset to farm in a way that reduces flood risk while enhancing wildlife and producing high quality food. The launch takes place at the Royal Bath and West Show.

The project, called “Hills to Levels” is a partnership between Somerset Wildlife Trust, RSPB, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West (FWAG SW) and The Royal Bath & West of England Society.

The project will work in four key areas:

It will advise landowners in the upper catchments of the Rivers Parrett, Tone, Brue and Axe on ways in which they can ‘slow the flow’ of run-off to help reduce flood peaks, improve water quality, decrease soil erosion and increase wildlife. This includes funding a whole range of measures from woodland planting to constructing small dams, silt traps and leaky ponds.

It will work with farmers on The Levels and Moors to advise on flood resilient farming techniques. For instance the project will carry out research such as trialling new grass seed mixes which are productive, but resistant to flooding.

It will explore the establishment of a Community Land Trust to own, lease or otherwise rent land at high risk of flooding, and to support the management of similar land by others, so that these areas can bring a wide range of benefits to the local communities, businesses and the environment of the Levels and Moors for years to come. Such acquisitions, particularly those areas which are most vulnerable to adverse impacts from flooding, could thereby release capital for farms to re-shape their businesses. Acquisition could be by purchase, lease or gift.

And finally it will work with local communities to produce a collective vision for the Levels and Moors that represents the views of everyone living and working in this unique and much loved landscape.

Edwin White, of The Royal Bath and West of England Society said; “The Levels and Moors are a special place, and all of us who are passionate about its future want to see it farmed productively and safe from the worst excesses of flooding while maintaining its internationally important wildlife. We firmly believe this is possible, and through the kindness of players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, we know we can make huge strides towards securing a bright future for this unique landscape, its people and wildlife.”

Tony Richardson, RSPB Regional Director for South West England said; “It’s great to see farmers and wildlife organisations coming together in this project. The Levels and Moors are of huge national and international importance for its wintering and breeding birds, its rich flora, and it’s animal life. But this landscape depends on farmers, and its crucial we all work together to make the right choices to both protect and enhance the area, while ensuring farming remains viable.”

Ben Thorne of FWAG SW said; “This Project gives us the opportunity to join up how we manage water across the whole of Somerset’s catchments. We can now work with farmers in the hilly areas to help benefit the farmers in the flooded areas by slowing down the flow, a key part of the Somerset Flood Action Plan.”

Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery said; “We’re delighted that through funding from players of People’s Postcode that this project has been developed and is bringing the farming community and wildlife organisations together. It’s of vital importance that this partnership exists to protect the Somerset wildlife and environment.”

More information on the project is available at: www.hillstolevels.org

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