Farming in the Churnet Valley remains important in terms of land use and land management, producing the landscape in which other economic activity in the countryside takes place and which attracts visitors and new residents. It is important to maintain the special features of the CVLLP area, for they are a selling point for the area and an income generator. The importance of the environmental economy will be a key message to land managers.
We wish to safeguard a viable future for land based and land dependent industries in the CVLLP area. We need to ensure the continuation of sustainable land management, forestry and farming, tourism, recreation and heritage, in order that land managers are able to maintain a viable economy to help protect, enhance, restore and connect the habitats of the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership area and the species that depend on them. Habitats of the area are dependent on livestock and grazing, which is still the predominant agricultural operation, for which boundary management is critical.
The traditional boundaries are being replaced by modern fencing. This project will have a modest impact on conservation of the miles of boundaries and numbers of features requiring repair, but the publicity attached will highlight the value of these features to the local environment and economy. We will publicise the craftsmanship being undertaken and take the opportunity for added value to local tourism from working demonstrations.
The Hub’s Training Needs Analysis of 280 farms in the project area, undertaken in 2011, uncovered a range of skills that farmers and land managers felt they required in order to maintain the viability of their businesses. These included demand for traditional conservation and heritage skills, including a range of vernacular boundary maintenance and restoration. There is a shortage of craftsmen with these traditional skills; they are getting older and less able to undertake the strenuous physical work involved. There is a real risk that skills will not be passed down to the next and future generations; hence this project presents an opportunity for young people to enter a niche job area.
For benchmarking we noted that HLF has funded £440,000 for a Lake District National Park Authority dry stone walling apprenticeship scheme to include boundary repair and restoration. The LDNPA project will, as with the CVLL programme, focus on teaching practical rural heritage skills such as dry stone walling and hedge maintenance, and will also aim to raise awareness about traditional local skills; and includes training six apprentices. The CVLLP is, in terms of comparison funding, a taster, but important as a local pilot for future extension.
The programme will be promoted in conjunction with the apprenticeship scheme; suitable boundary features identified by CVLLP partners and the Farm Advisor; with guidance from NE and EH as necessary. Volunteers will be identified and encouraged to participate through the project partners.
Fit to existing strategies and objectives
DEFRA and NERC funded Countryside Survey 2000 (CS 2000) concluded that between 1984 and 1990 the length of hedges in Britain declined by about 23% and that the length of dry stone walling declined by some 10% (CS2000, 52).
English Heritage’s 2004 ‘Heritage Counts’: the severe shortage of professionals in traditional skilled industries so vital to the historic environment was highlighted.
‘England’s rural areas: steps to release their economic potential’. Report of Rural Advocate 2007-8 and government response: the government welcomed the Rural Advocate’s challenge to recognise the potential of rural areas and to focus on the opportunities they offer.
‘Developing the Rural Environmental Economy of the WM’: ie ‘The challenge for the West Midlands is to optimise the benefits from the rural environmental economy for the region.
Natural England has targeted the Churnet Valley as a priority area for the Higher Level
Stewardship scheme on the grounds of the amount of biodiversity, historic and access opportunities it represents.
Comprehensive description of the project
The project will be run by the CVLLP Farm Advisor. Staffordshire Rural Hub office will be providing project management, administration etc.
The programme of work to restore and retain landscape and heritage features, such as dry stone walls, stone stiles, historic hedgerows, will add value to NE payments for traditional boundary work. This programme will be made available where the work is not covered by HLS and where the feature is adjacent to a roadside or habitat route.
The programme will have £80,000 available including match funding over three years.
The CVLLP project will be able to offer:
Some lengths will be repaired by an experienced dry stone wall contractor; some by apprentices under supervision; others by volunteers under supervision; many by the farmer. Thus additional lengths will be achieved by the engagement of a tutor (with or without volunteers) to work with the farmer (or his/her apprentice) in order train them up on site. The walls which will be repaired by a contractor will be decided by the complexity of the wall itself and its location. Where the wall would benefit from considerably more attention than would normally be given to a field wall, this would be traditional and unusual style such as Churnet Valley Herringbone, with the possible inclusion of snoops, cripple holes and sheep pens etc. Walls to be repaired by apprentices and volunteers will be decided by ease of access, etc and that the landowner is happy for the wall to be repaired by them.
Hedgelaying will be undertaken at £15m run. The hedges identified will be laid by experienced hedge layers with apprentices under supervision and volunteers. The experienced hedge layers will be able to demonstrate this skill to the volunteers. The lengths of hedge laid by volunteers will be additional to the overall figures.
The dry stone walling and hedgelaying budgets and targets will be varied as necessary, to allow for identified priorities.
The part-time Farm Advisor (FA) will run the boundary project. He/she will be contracted for an additional equivalent 1.5 days per month for the duration; including liaison with NE, hedgelayers, stone wallers, CVLLP partners et al, to identify work. He/she will ensure HSE requirements are identified and addressed by the participating project leads, contractors and landowners. The FA time allocation will be flexible and built into the programme to meet variances: eg start up demands, end of programme tapering, seasonality. The programme will require that the FA takes on a non specialist/general inspection role for the work as it progresses, and liaise with the customer.
There will be an opportunity to link the active practice of traditional countryside boundary management with the tourism experience for visitors, by promoting some days as demonstrations. Sponsorship will be sought to cover the cost of these events and a modest charge to visitors considered.
Who will benefit?
The Wider Community: The tourism sector of CVLLP and visitors will benefit from a better preserved landscape, where boundary features and small scale enclosures have been identified as important in the Landscape Character Assessment.
Businesses: Businesses have the chance to become involved in the scheme and thus promote their business, by sponsoring specific aspects including transport, materials and tools. The Hub Board will volunteer their time and make approaches.
Land managers and farmers
Apprentices: (CVLLP 21) new trade and skills opportunities will be opened up.
Volunteers: (CVLLP 9) there will be opportunity for volunteers to play their part in improving the economic and environmental viability of the area. In addition local communities, may wish to be involved in a boundary restoration project in their village or parish.
Socio-economic benefits of the project
Land-based industries now represent only a very small proportion of the national economy, although in the project area they do remain a notable component of economic activity. Farming incomes are generally poor and have become increasingly volatile, as traditional farming of the area is declining. If livestock numbers continue to drop, there will be an impact in particular on upland grazing, with continuing loss of dry stone walls and boundary features and unmanaged hedges. The programme is part of the CVLL project aim to maintain the farming in the area.
Farm tourism will benefit from the project: tourists come to a place because of the environment – landscape, culture, wildlife, etc. all of which are created by farmers. It will enable farm tourism to link up with traditional skills activity eg boundary work demonstrations.
Outputs and outcomes
The programme will complement the apprenticeship and ATP programmes, providing facility for dry stone walling training sessions for students to reach level 2 dry stone walling.
Publicity and Profile: the programme will be featured at local agricultural shows, CVLLP events and activities, in the local press and radio; to highlight the importance and historic and conservation interest of CVLL boundary features; to interest potential landowners and young people in the apprenticeship scheme, HLS etc. These events will be manned by volunteers from the Hub’s membership.
The programme will include restoration, reinstatement and where necessary replacement of 20 distinctive built boundary features such as gateposts, stiles, mile markers. This is based largely on the assumption that a qualified stone waller or hedgelayer will primarily supervise apprentices or volunteers in the work. In the main, where it applies, the farmer will be left to undertake the work as already experienced. Nonetheless there will be features and hard to restore areas that will need the professional services of the specialist.
Dry stone walls 1300 metres = £32,500
Hedges 1250 metre runs = £17,500
Total = £50,000
or equivalent according to identified priorities.
12 apprentices introduced to both trades.
20 volunteers acquire boundary skills.
40 farmers benefit from restored boundaries and/or boundary features.
200 farmers informed about success of programme through competition sponsorship.
800 visitors to shows, activities and events will have engaged with the ‘boundary story’.
Demonstrations and shows
The boundary programme will be on display at minimum three public events in the locality through the project period.
This project will be delivered by the Staffordshire Rural Hub. Payment will be made at 50% of expenditure in arrears, upon receipt of evidence of expenditure and upon meeting agreed targets.
Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) payments are designed to fund management not covered by HLS or other schemes, or for measures over and above the requirements of other schemes. HLF applications can count HLS as a source of matched or partnership funding towards securing grants for further works, but only where the HLS payments are for separate works that are not subject to prior conditions. Where HLS agreements within an area-wide project have been signed less than 12 months prior to the HLF application, the payments will be viewed as matched funding. The projected payments for future HLS agreements will also be included in the calculations
All boundary features will be matched against HLS programmes which will be included within a Natural England HLS Agreement.
Risks and constraints
Risk: Failure of Higher Level Scheme to identify suitable boundary payments to be matched.
Contingency: Boundary payments can only be made at 50% of invoiced costs where Natural England have agreed payments.
Risk: Lack of take up; failure to meet targets.
Contingency: This could be an issue where existing HLS programmes are insecure and there is a move from Stewardship to HLS. The independent M&E should identify likelihood at an early stage, if it occurs the CVLLP team will work to ensure a solution agreeable to HLF is found.
Risk: Cannot find the boundary trainers willing to take on work, the project has identified that there is a shortage of skilled countryside workers. This may result in difficulty in finding suitably qualified instructors within the project timescales.
Contingency: The boundary project is targeted to end in 2015, we have included a 9 month contingency to project end date.
Post project risks
During the project we will explore further opportunities to extend the boundary repair and restoration work, deploying the newly skilled paid workforce and volunteers. We will encourage development of tourism opportunities linked to the demonstration of traditional skills.
Constraints, licences, permits etc
Boundary work can only be carried out where it matches funds and adds value to boundaries already identified by Natural England as suitable for inclusion within Higher Level Scheme Agreements.
This project has been identified as State Aid, Staffordshire Rural Hub will report to DEFRA directly.
We will work with the landowner community to help them adjust to issues relating to climate change and to help them better understand how good management can help buffer the wildlife important sites on their land from the results of climate change.
We will work with the Participation Team to involve as many people as possible in the Himalayan balsam pulling project.
SRH will maintain high levels of biosecurity within their site work, particularly with reference of Phytothfera contagion between woodland parcels. The Farm Advisor will also work with others to raise the awareness of biosecurity issues within the valley.
Innovate within the project: SRH will be looking to maximise local markets for farm products.
Green Procurement: Within the project to identify and 'economise' the biodiversity resources of the Churnet Valley, by purchasing/using local products to deliver other elements of the project. For the appointment of contractors and external contractors, SRH will make use of the EU Green Procurement Toolkit to maximise environmental benefit.
Follow Environmental Policy: The Officer will be expected to adhere to the SRH Environmental Policy.