Formed in 2015, the Arun to Adur Farmer’s Group is a voluntary initiative covering over 9000 hectares (22,500 acres) of the chalk downs between the two rivers and including the river valley floodplains. The Group’s collective work delivers co-ordinated conservation benefits on a landscape scale. There is a strong history of effective farmland conservation in the area and this commitment is reflected in membership of the Group which includes 28 holdings (large and small); over 80% of the eligible area.
The Group’s facilitator coordinates activity, training events, meetings and knowledge transfer. This post is funded for five years through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme which is run by Natural England with funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. There is no commitment for funding after five years but we expect the Group to continue working together and evolve into a long-term project.
Improving soil health is a key objective intended to improve the viability of individual farms while also contributing to the quality of drinking water, building soil carbon within organic matter and enhancing the soil as a living eco-system.
The Group has selected a range of high priority wildlife species for targeted conservation. These are water vole, the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, uncommon and rare arable flowers such as cornflower, and grey partridge, lapwing and corn bunting which are declining species of farmland bird.
Well managed farmland can deliver high quality food, bio-energy, wildlife, an inspiring landscape, clean water, building carbon in soils, flood defence and the conservation of archaeological features. These ‘eco-system services’ may be more fittingly described as ‘life-support services’. The Arun to Adur Farmer’s Group intends to increase the environmental and agricultural value of their farmland which they hope will improve both the resilience and profitability of businesses.
Some actions already delivered include:
- Co-ordinated surveys with the RSPB, of breeding lapwings along the Arun to gain an accurate assessment of numbers and share knowledge on how to increase their population further.
- Training Course on the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly which will lead to an increase in the number of chalk grassland sites being managed for this insect.
- Setting up a detailed soil management trial to assess the benefits on organic matter, water quality and soil biodiversity through different farm management techniques.
- Gaining permission from neighbouring farmers and then surveying with them to assess the potential for habitat enhancement to encourage the natural colonisation of water vole from the Arun into the Adur river catchment.