Since July, I’ve taken on the diverse and interesting role of the Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer for the West Cornwall Catchments which includes the River Cober catchment. My background as a Conservation Adviser for Natural England working across Cornwall has given me a good start in the new area of work.
The main aim for Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) is to support farmers in reducing diffuse water pollution from agriculture through advice and grants. CSF has been working in the Cober catchment for a number of years to mainly reduce phosphate, sediments and pesticides entering the water courses and have recently joined forces with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Upstream Thinking Team.
The purpose of this new project is to deliver enhanced support to the farmers in the Cober and Drift catchments, utilising the help of two experienced farm advisers from the Upstream Thinking Team, Stuart Coleman in the Cober catchment and Jan Dinsdale in the Drift catchment. This is also the first year of the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme with the application window open from the 1 July – 30 September. Stuart and Jan have been looking at the potential of using Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier 5 year Land Management Agreements or 1 year Water Capital Grants with farmers to help reduce the risk of diffuse water pollution on farms.
In the Cober catchment a total of 26 farmers were contacted by Stuart followed by 13 farms visits over the summer. As a direct result of Stuart’s work Natural England have received 3 Mid Tier Five Year Land Management applications and 1 One Year Water Capital Grant application with the aim of improving the water quality from farms within the catchment.
Stuart informed me so far the range of the most popular options to help improve water quality applied for in the Cober catchment have been:
- Introducing buffer strips on grassland or arable fields;
- Installing waterside fencing to keep farm stock out of watercourses and installing related troughs and pipework to provide alternative livestock drinking locations;
- Installing cross-drains on tracks to divert sediment rich water away from water courses;
- Providing low input grassland coupled with using the relaxed grazing supplement;
- Managing rotational scrub management on riparian willow scrub/wet-woodland areas supported by the livestock exclusion supplement.
Stuart expects there to be a larger uptake of capital-grants such as roofing over yards, installing guttering and rainwater harvesting goods and some field gateway relocations in future years. Applications will be scored and if successful passed on to Catchment Sensitive Farming Officers for approval. Successful applicants will be offered agreements with Natural England to begin on the 1 January 2016. In addition to this, advice will be offered in identifying water quality issues and working out the best methods for overcoming them.
Details of the Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier land management options and capital grant items aimed to improve water quality on farms can be found at: Countryside Stewardship grants – GOV.UK
Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer – West Cornwall Catchments (Drift, Marazion, Cober, Porth near Newquay and Porthluney near Caerhays)