Despite COVID-19 disruption, 2020 has been a great year for the Wensum farmers. Now totally self-funded by the farmers there is a greater sense of ownership and motivation to do more.

Figure 1 – A pond 9 months after restoration July 2020

The River Wensum is the spine of our group and being the custodians of it unites us. Collectively, one of our priorities is to improve the water quality within the catchment but with limited existing Environment Agency monitoring and pollution from sewage treatment works, we decided to take control and have bought our water testing equipment. Additionally, we have joined up with the University of East Anglia to routinely test our ditches, drains, tributaries and main river. Alongside cover cropping and improved in-field cultivation techniques we are reducing nitrate and phosphate reaching our water courses which are associated with leaching and soil erosion.

Figure 2  – Turtle Dove captured on our camera traps feed on a supplementary feeding site in June 2020

2020 has also been an impressive year for our beloved turtle doves. We have been supporting our local populations by supplementary feeding, enhancing hedges, restoring ponds and controlling predators. This summer there have been 11 singing birds and we have been overjoyed with nesting and feeding photos caught on our camera traps.

Additionally, our group is blessed with hundreds of old marl pit ponds. Usually overgrown and lacking biodiversity, we have set ourselves a target to restore and enhance as many pits as we can every Autumn to support our surrounding ecosystems. We have seen some incredible restoration responses which have gone on to reveal rare aquatic plants from their seedbanks such as Stoneworts. The ponds have also been quickly colonised with our beloved Great Crested Newt.

Figure 3 – A farm manager helping me take water samples April 2020

Working together is one thing but building long lasting relationships within the group is another. You know it’s working well when there’s machinery sharing and farmers trying cover copping or pond restoration that had never done before! With 27 members now covering 25,000 acres, we are really excited for our future.

Lizzie Emmett, Wensum Farmer’s advisor

A great year so far for the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group

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