Stour Valley Landscape Project

The concept of 'landscape-scale' habitat delivery has received much attention in the conservation sector in the UK in recent years.  The practical realities of translating this aspiration into genuine landscape-scale change 'on the ground' in a populated, privately owned countryside are often naively overlooked .  This project demonstrates what can be achieved through prioritising the use of targeted, 'on-farm, adviser-led'  agri-environment schemes in the wider 'non designated' farmed countryside where the main focus is on building long term relationships with farmers in order to create, from arable land, a contiguous network of species-rich grasslands across 20 farms.  To date this project has created over 200ha of wildflower-rich grasslands, linking the scattered fragmented resource of designated sites, including the Wye Downs Natura 2000 site noted for its chalk grassland habitat. This project represents one of 5 examples in the 'Kent Downs' based on the same model where for over 15 years Natural England has invested much 'on-farm' effort in creating these new landscapes. Particular focus is placed on accelerating the species richness of both newly created grasslands and species-poor grasslands through native wildflower seeding and green hay spreading. In a country where fragmented designated/protected sites offer such a small resource of wildlfe-rich habitat, this 'farmer-engaged' approach is the only means of achieving the long term vision of landscape scale change that is so desperately needed to arrest biodiversity declines and create the next generation of new species-rich habitats. 

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