Sharing the achievements of the Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster

Sharing the achievements of the Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster

Two years ago this spring, we set up the first Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster. Chaired by dedicated Chilterns farmer, Ian Waller and joined by a group of 18 fantastic local farmers, the cluster has gone from strength to strength.

We are now excited to share a case study of its work, to both recognise and say thank you to the wide range of partners, funders, consultants, contractors, suppliers and volunteers that have helped set the cluster up and deliver such a wide range of projects so far.

The 18 farmers are rightly proud of their achievements and appreciative of the support they have received. Whilst the cluster is still young (with many more ideas and projects to deliver) the farmers want to showcase the vital role they are playing in driving Nature’s Recovery in the Chilterns.

Read the case study

The cluster was set up to support and encourage farmers to help understand the wildlife on their farms and how best to support it. The cluster is a great way for farmers to share ideas, get help from experts, deliver practical projects on their farms and have some fun along the way. By working on such a large landscape scale the benefits to wildlife really make a difference too.

The fantastic support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund through the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership Scheme has enabled the Chilterns Conservation Board to piece together a support package designed by the farmers, based on:

  • Ownership – a bottom-up approach where farmers make the key decisions about their priorities
  • Excite, engage and enthuse – helping farmers to better understand and care for the wildlife on their farms
  • Building trust and relationships – taking the time to really get to know farmers and offering practical solution to their issues and aspirations
  • Providing an end-to-end support package – setting up collaborative projects, providing professional advice, supporting direct delivery of projects, direct capital funding and ongoing monitoring delivered as a package

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The cluster is showing how important this approach is to achieving landscape scale impact across the 6,500 hectares it covers, not only to support Nature’s Recovery but also in wider areas such as carbon storage, soil health and public access.

Over 50 organisations have provided direct support to the cluster and individual farmers. This support has ranged from:

  • help setting the cluster up in the early days
  • informative training workshops
  • volunteers carrying out bird and other wildlife surveys
  • volunteer-led practical conservation tasks (delivered by our fantastic partners Chiltern Rangers)
  • providing expert ecological advice
  • supporting the successful application for new Countryside Stewardship agreements
  • supplying equipment and materials (such as 23 tonnes of supplementary bird food and seed mix for 3.1km of new field margins)
  • installing and monitoring over 50 Owl boxes to delivering direct capital projects (such as extensive scrub management and hedgerow planting)
  • establishing baseline habitat surveys and providing grant funding for a new carbon project (thanks to all at the Rothschild Foundation).

In supporting the cluster our roles have been made so much easier (and great fun) by the fantastic support we have received. A genuine collaborative partnership effort, bringing together such a wide range of skills and expertise. Not to mention the great pie and pint meetings in the Gate pub in Bryants Bottom!

Even though it still feels like the cluster has really only just got started, there are many more ideas and projects in the pipeline for the coming months and years.

For more information please contact Nick Marriner

Read the case study

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