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Fellfoot Forward Wild connections

Wild Connections

The Fellfoot Forward Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS) aims to create a landscape that is richer in wildlife by working with farmers and landowners to implement the Lawtonian principles of habitat creation and management: ‘More, bigger, better, more joined up’. This will be achieved through a broad partnership, utilising a variety of funding and advisory mechanisms, and with a whole landscape approach, in which habitats are enhanced and created on the most meaningful of scales.

Woodland, hedgerows, open grown trees and wetlands are all essential components of our Fellfoot Forward landscape which together help provide a biodiverse, resilient, productive and healthy ecosystem. For these features to provide maximum benefit to both wildlife and people, they must form part of a connected  network of habitats that allows dispersal and movement of species for breeding and feeding, and in response to climate change.

During the development stage consultation, farm visits and workshops engaged farmers and landowners across the project area and we heard about the many  pressures and uncertainties facing farm businesses today, and understand that farmers in the area care deeply about their role as custodians of the landscape.  Our broad partnership, encompassing agents across the environmental and land management sectors, understands the barriers to achieving a landscape that is better for wildlife, and together we have identified how a Fellfoot Forward LPS will be best delivered for  biodiversity. Several farmers and landowners have  been identified who are already keen to improve and enhance the opportunities for wildlife on their land. Woodland creation schemes have been identified,  hedgerows mapped for restoration, and potential spaces for new wetland have been located. Partners in the RSPB will provide officer time to advise farmers on  optimal wading bird habitat.

Farm Futures will help Fellfoot Forward scheme staff and partners to identify many more opportunities for habitat creation and improvement. Space for nature will be created by working with farmers and landowners to develop new native woodland, plant in-field trees, create new wetland features, and to increase the area and number of wild field margins. Replacement infield trees will be planted to anticipate the loss of ash and other veteran trees, securing the  future of parkland habitat.

Existing habitats will be enhanced by working with farmers and landowners to implement woodland management plans, and to improve habitat for breeding  waders, for example through rush management. Partners at the Woodland Trust and Natural England will monitor and enhance existing young woodland,  ensuring that schemes planted in the last ten years are in good health.

Better connected habitats will be created by planting new hedgerows and trees, and increasing the area and number of wild field margins used by small mammals,  birds and pollinating insects. Some of these activities will be deliverable through existing Countryside Stewardship incentives. However, many  landowners will not be able to access this funding due to the scale of their projects, restrictions on amendments to current schemes and uncertainty over the future availability of  environmental support.

The Fellfoot Forward Environment Grant has been developed as a source of funding for landowners to implement conservation schemes. In this way, the Fellfoot Forward LPS will increase resilience in the natural environment despite a context of uncertainty and a lack of other funding incentives. Meanwhile, North Pennines AONB staff will continue to work in partnership with government agencies to ensure that available Stewardship funds deliver the maximum conservation impact and follow Lawtonian principles.

Much of our landscape comprises farmland, but a patchwork of villages, village greens and connecting lanes offer yet more opportunities to make space for nature. During consultation we registered interest from local communities and wildlife groups to work on small projects to increase biodiversity on village greens, on road verges, schools and in private gardens. Work of this kind will be supported through the Scheme staff working with communities and groups, supporting applications to the Community Grants, and providing training through Citizen Science.

Training in valuable conservation skills will be offered through Farm Futures and Citizen Science, which will be put into practice through the habitat restoration opportunities identified in this project. These projects will engage farmers, landowners and local volunteers in learning vital habitat restoration and creation techniques, such as hedgerow and woodland creation. We will utilise Citizen Science, Community Grants and Arts Connections to involve the  community in learning about, protecting, and celebrating the biodiversity and habitats of the Fellfoot Forward landscape. We will support local community groups, such as Kirkoswald Environment Group, in practical projects such as promoting wildlife-friendly gardening and enhancing village green management.

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