Our Farmer Clusters

Our Farmer Clusters

Our Farmer Clusters are proactive groups of farmers who come together to farm with wildlife and climate change in mind.

To help protect and enhance the nature, landscape and heritage of the Chilterns AONB, the Chilterns Conservation Board (CCB) works with farmers, landowners and land managers. We provide end-to-end support on everything from funding to practical management advice, monitoring wildlife to making new partnerships.

As part of this vital work, we encourage farmers and landowners to work together, form partnerships and aid nature’s recovery across boundaries. Conservation on this wider scale enables us to reinstate natural processes, such as water pathways and soil formation, and create stepping-stones for wildlife to move through the landscape in response to pressures. It also benefits us in lots of ways by providing natural resources, improving our health, and offering economic opportunities.

Lots of farmers and landowners already do great things for wildlife on their own patch, but we need to look further afield to aid nature’s recovery across the whole of the Chilterns. Our ‘Farmer Clusters’ support and encourage farmers to link their conservation efforts and to become more aware of the unique wildlife and habitats on their land and the land of their partners.

What is a ‘Farmer Cluster’?

A Farmer Cluster is a proactive group of farmers from a specific region who come together to farm with nature, wildlife and climate change in mind. They discuss important issues and support each other with regards to cross-farm conservation strategies and initiatives. They gain advice and help to deliver these projects from a variety of partners.

Working with these groups supports nature’s recovery across large areas of land; the Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster and Christmas Common Farmer Cluster between them cover an impressive 15,000 hectares of land within the Chilterns AONB.

Our Farmer Clusters meet regularly to discuss and work on a variety of projects, such as:

  • putting up bird and owl boxes to support key species;
  • organising wildlife surveys to see which species are present to support sensitive management;
  • planting hedgerows to support small mammals and birds;
  • putting out supplementary feed for wild birds through the winter;
  • dedicating field margins to the cultivation of wildflowers and chalk grassland to support pollinators and birds.

Dr Elaine King, Chief Executive Officer of the CCB, is keen to see this work expanded: “Scaling up this approach across the whole of the Chilterns AONB is central to delivering nature’s recovery. By providing a locally brokered approach, we can make sure that investment is targeted, and we achieve the landscape-scale connections that work for our farms and their wildlife.”

To find out more about our Farmer Clusters, or to join your local group, please see below for contact details or visit Farmer Clusters.

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Andrew Stubbings, part of our farmer cluster and supplementary feeding programme (Credit: Nick Middleton)

Farmers supporting farmers

Case study: Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster

Eighteen Buckinghamshire farmers formed a Farmer Cluster in the Central Chilterns. They have gone from strength to strength with understanding and supporting the wildlife on their farms, and reducing their farms’ carbon footprints. Achievements include planting more than 50,000 new hedgerow trees, carrying out farm carbon assessments, setting up cattle-grazing systems to improve chalk grassland, and undertaking wildlife surveys on all their farms.

“Farmers are being asked to do more to look after our wildlife, soils and water, as well as reduce our carbon footprint. For many of us, this is daunting: my farming neighbours know how to produce food, but struggle to know where to start on these new challenges. The cluster has really helped us better understand the wildlife on our farms and how we can help it to thrive. We have a support team we trust and the resources on offer are invaluable, getting expert advice, help designing projects, accessing funding and ongoing monitoring. The power of the cluster really comes through opportunities to work together on projects at scale. We each form a small part of the wider Chilterns jigsaw and, by working together, are making a big impact.” 

– Ian Waller, Chair of the Central Chilterns Farm Cluster and LEAF Demonstration Farmer

Find out more about the work of the Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster and be inspired to get started.

Farmers leading the way for nature's recovery

For more information on farmer clusters please contact

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Nick Marriner

Role: Nature Recovery Manager
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Harriet Bennett

Role: Landowner & Farming Engagement Adviser
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Follow the Countryside Code

Help us to protect the Chilterns AONB when you’re out and about by following the Countryside Code and the rules for the site you are visiting. Please respect others around you and those who care for and work in this special landscape.
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Farmland habitats under threat

Farmland habitats, such as meadows, downlands, hedgerows, woods and ponds, are naturally evolving features of the landscape, but their important characteristics and species are being lost at an alarming rate due to climate change, land-use change and pollution, among other issues. Find out how we are tackling these threats to the survival of our farmland habitats and how you can help.
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Farmland wildlife

The farmland, grassland, woods and hedgerows of the Chilterns are brimming with wildlife, from brown hares bounding across the fields to skylarks filling the skies with song, bumblebees buzzing among cornfield flowers, to mice scuttling under hedges. Explore our farmland habitats and wildlife through the seasons and find out what to spot and what’s rare.
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Don’t feed the kites!

Find out why it is important to watch these beautiful birds from a distance
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