Thanks to funding from United Utilities, Groundwork have been engaging farmers in the Irwell Catchment about how to protect and enhance nature, with a focus on how farmers can prevent phosphates entering nearby water courses.

Chemicals produced and used in farming practices, such as phosphate, have a negative impact on water quality and during periods of heavy rain, the likelihood of these chemicals reaching the waterbody increases.

Groundwork’s experienced agriculture consultant, Mick Holding, has been working for several years with a famers in the Irwell Catchment. By the end of the two year programme Groundwork aim to have supported 40 farmers to develop their own farm plans, which in turn will reduce an estimated 240kg of phosphates reaching the Irwell Catchment water body each year.

Farms for Water

So far, 20 farmers have engaged with the programme, each developing farm plans which identify methods of improving water quality.

Measures include:

  • Hedge planting – where root systems help slow the flow of rainwater reaching the watercourse, and also add an abundance of wider environmental benefits from improved air quality to habits for nature
  • New roofing on sileage stores – reducing the amount of rain reaching the sileage and risk of creating overflows from the sileage store into the river
  • Managing grasslands
  • Aeration of compacted land so that soils become more absorbent
  • Creating ponds for natural flood management

Case study – Hollingworth Hill

A farmer in the Littleborough area had been involved in a woodland planting project for some time but had reached an impasse, with communications breaking down between the funder and the planting contractors. As a result, the farmers had decided to pull out of the planting scheme and were planning to rent their land to a neighbouring farmer or sell the land.

By carrying out the Water Management Plan Groundwork were able to build a relationship and to revisit land management plans with the farmer.

As a result, the farmer:

  • Has digitally mapped and re-designed the woodland scheme using the LandApp mapping software
  • Is exploring peripheral land management options
  • Is exploring the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)

The environmental benefits of this work is significant:

  • All phosphate inputs from grazing animals and farmyard manure will be completely removed from all the land
  • The new large woodland area will actively absorb any remaining phosphate from the soil
  • The new woodland will boost local biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change
  • The new woodland will reduce flood risk

Following our support with this farmer, we were introduced to a neighbouring farmer, who we are helping to reduce inputs and improve soil structure over the whole farm.

This programme was developed by the Irwell Catchment Partnership and funded by United Utilities.