Prince Charles helps unite farm­ers

The Field - - News -

Prince Charles is giving the open­ing ad­dress by video at a con­fer­ence to dis­cuss an in­no­va­tive scheme to get farm­ers work­ing to­gether to im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment.

Or­gan­ised by the GWCT, the first Farmer Clus­ter con­fer­ence is be­ing held on 12 Oc­to­ber at the Royal Ge­o­graph­i­cal So­ci­ety.

Speak­ers from Nat­u­ral Eng­land, GWCT, the Wildlife Trusts and RSPB will be ad­dress­ing del­e­gates. Farm­ers from Hamp­shire and Suf­folk will be giving first-hand ac­counts of the ben­e­fits of set­ting up a clus­ter.

The con­cept was de­vised in re­sponse to

Sir John Law­ton’s 2011 re­port Mak­ing Even More Space for Na­ture, which called for con­ser­va­tion to be big­ger and more joined up.

De­vel­oped jointly by Nat­u­ral Eng­land and the GWCT, the idea was pi­loted in 2013 mainly through farm­ers in the GWCT’S grey par­tridge count scheme. A survey of the farm­ers in the pi­lot showed all of them felt the “Clus­ter for­mat” should be­come

“an im­por­tant way for­ward in the fu­ture de­liv­ery of the con­ser­va­tion of soil, wa­ter and bio­di­ver­sity”.

There are now 49 farmer clus­ter groups set up in­volv­ing 981 farm­ers. These cover a stag­ger­ing 210,404 hectares (519,697 acres). In ad­di­tion, there are 12 flood al­le­vi­a­tion farmer groups set up mainly in the north of Eng­land. In Scot­land, Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage has said it is con­sid­er­ing sup­port­ing farmer clus­ters there, too.

Most groups, as rec­om­mended by the GWCT, have some­one to over­see ac­tiv­i­ties. This is funded by the Gov­ern­ment’s Coun­try­side Stew­ard­ship Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Fund worth £7.2m, but there are a few groups who pre­fer to be self-funded.

For tick­ets to the con­fer­ence (priced £45) con­tact Lynn Field on 01425 651025 or visit

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