Farms offered grants and advice to become more 'water sensitive'

Ed Bramham-Jones, operations director at Norfolk Rivers Trust, pictured with the River Nar

Ed Bramham-Jones, operations director at Norfolk Rivers Trust, which has launched the fourth phase of its Water Sensitive Farming (WSF) initiative - Credit: Norfolk Rivers Trust / Archant

Farmers have been urged to take advantage of a new tranche of grants and free advice aimed at protecting East Anglia's water-stressed environments.

The Norfolk Rivers Trust (NRT) and The Coca-Cola Foundation have launched the fourth phase of their Water Sensitive Farming (WSF) initiative.

The partnership aims to reverse the decline of freshwater environments in Norfolk, and parts of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

Grants are available for projects to improve soil health and water quality on farms, as well as improving flood risk management, carbon storage, groundwater protection and wildlife habitats.

Norfolk Rivers Trust

A new riverside wetland - Credit: Norfolk Rivers Trust

Since its foundation in 2012, the initiative has provided more than 300 farmers with one-to-one advice and improved about 3,100ha of agricultural land with measures including cover crops, buffer strips, reduced cultivations and riverbank management.

It has also created and improved wetlands in the Broads and alongside rare, protected chalk streams including the River Wensum.

A "six-figure sum" has been provided to extend the project for another year, with hopes of extending it further in the future.

The fourth phase, launched on World Wetlands Day, aims to:

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  • Replenish 500 million litres of water
  • Work with farmers to create at least 20 on-farm wetlands, ponds and silt traps
  • Restore stretches of degraded chalk stream
  • Implement land management changes including agroforestry and the creation of floodplains and meadows
  • Plant at least 1,500 trees to stabilise riverbanks and connect existing habitats
  • Implement "citizen science" monitoring schemes to inform efforts to restore the health of local river catchments.

Ed Bramham-Jones, operations director at Norfolk Rivers Trust, said: “I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved as part of our Water Sensitive Farming initiative to date.

"The renewed funding commitment comes at a time when farmers are adapting to a post-Brexit landscape, while facing significant changes to financial support and agricultural practices.

"The new phase of the initiative is really exciting - we hope to reach new farmers, strengthen our existing partnerships with the agricultural sector and supply chain, recruit and train a team of citizen scientists, and ultimately deliver nature-based solutions for our desperately polluted and degraded rivers.”

A farm wetland created on the Sennowe Estate

A farm wetland created on the Sennowe Estate - Credit: Josh Jaggard

The initiative also receives funding from corporate, public and conservation partners including Tesco and WWF-UK.

Norfolk Rivers Trust said it will partner with The Rivers Trust to share best practice with conservation bodies and policymakers across the country, and to encourage collaborative water stewardship action across the entire UK food and drinks chain.