Farmers can apply to £1.7m Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund for landscape-scale conservation projects

An aerial view of the Upper Wensum Valley. Picture: Pensthorpe Conservation Trust.

An aerial view of the Upper Wensum Valley. Picture: Pensthorpe Conservation Trust. - Credit: Pensthorpe Conservation Trust

Farmers and conservation groups have been encouraged to bid for a share of a £1.7m government fund which supports large-scale environmental projects.

The third national round of the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund has opened, and will accept applications until November 14.

The scheme encourages landowners to think beyond their own fields and consider how environmental benefits can be achieved over a wider landscape by working on projects together.

Since it began, a total of £7.2m has been committed to support 61 groups and 1,350 land managers to improve more than 273,000 hectares of land through enhancing wildlife habitats, planting trees and restoring rivers to their natural meanders.

Previous beneficiaries include the Upper Wensum Cluster Farm Group, which brought together 17 farmers and land managers in a bid to co-ordinate conservation efforts across more than 6,000 hectares surrounding the River Wensum in Norfolk.

To apply, groups must submit new plans for working together and sharing knowledge to improve their land and benefit their communities.

Natural England chief executive James Cross said: 'This scheme is about helping more farmers and land managers make the most of Countryside Stewardship and bring benefits for nature and people on a landscape scale. This is really exciting, a real win-win for farmers, land managers, rural communities and of course, our wildlife.

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'We are proud to be using the fund to help support rural areas. By working with groups of land managers, facilitators can scale up what we can achieve and help deliver long-term outcomes for the environment.'