In April 2013, Ribble Trust teamed up with Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming team to deliver farm advice and training in the Ribble Catchment in order to reduce the amount of diffuse pollution entering rivers from farms with a view to improving bathing water standards and shellfish water quality at the coast.
The success of the collaboration resulted the project being replicated for a second, third and fourth year with the project now continuing into 2017. During this time more farm advice visits are being made in the target area and further farm engagement events will be held.
Using the Environment Agency’s Ribble Faecal Indicator Organism Budget Study, priority areas were identified. Ribble Trust’s target area was in addition to those being covered by Natural England, demonstrating that working together can have a greater impact and achieve more positive results on a wider scale.
In its first year, the project focused on the River Ribble and tributaries from Clitheroe down to Samlesbury, delivering advice and signposting opportunities to 13 farms. Particular emphasis was placed on;
- Excluding livestock from rivers and streams to prevent direct faecal matter inputs
- Improving farm infrastructure to reduce faecal matter runoff from farmyards and fields
Outcomes and opportunities for improvement at each farm were written up into a PINPOINT report and handed to the landowner. Ribble Trust was able to fund some of the resulting habitat work itself under the Keeping Rivers Cool project, while other funding opportunities such as agri-environment schemes were signposted to the farmer.
In addition to the farm visits, evening meetings were held with guest speakers from organisations including the Farming Advice Service, Campaign for the Farmed Environment and the NFU, delivering advice on best management practice, training and funding opportunities.
A farm demonstration event was held in June 2013, which attracted over 60 local farmers and even made the local press. The event focused on soil management solutions and machinery was showcased by local firm Townson Tractors.
Further engagement was achieved through the publication of the Water Friendly Farming Guide, which was distributed at events and local agricultural shows throughout the duration of the project.
The project has vastly benefited local farmers, providing them with the knowledge they require to ensure that their practices are not damaging to the water environment. Ribble Trust has equally benefited from engaging with farmers, building up relationships and trust that has resulted in a waiting list of landowners wanting to undertake works that improve both their farms and adjacent watercourses.