In early 2024, Groundwork Greater Manchester organised a gathering of farmers and land managers from across the Irwell Catchment for a crucial workshop at Edgworth Cricket Club.
The workshop served as a platform to discuss the evolving landscape of Environment Land Management Schemes (ELMS) and as a space where landowners could explore avenues for securing funding vital to farm sustainability and nature recovery.
In partnership with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), the Groundwork team delivered an insightful session led by project manager & Irwell Catchment Partnership host Aimee Brough and farm advisor Mick Holding with the help of Jack Flusk, the Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer for the Irwell Catchment. The workshop attracted over 20 land managers, including arable and dairy farmers, alongside stakeholders such as the Environment Agency and the Woodland Trust.
The workshop focussed on listening to the important ideas of these land stewards about bringing back and protecting nature in Greater Manchester, to inform the development of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy in GM (LNRS). The farmers, who together manage over 30% of the land in Greater Manchester, were key experts in understanding the options and difficulties of restoring nature.
The LNRS in Greater Manchester is an evolving plan to help bring back and protect nature in Greater Manchester. It matters to farmers because it guides how they can work with others to care for the environment while farming sustainably. Importantly, the LNRS is set to inform funding that farmers can access through ELM Schemes.
You can read more on the LNRS and how we are engaging farmers here.
Attendees discussed the important balance needed between farming and nature protection, suggesting actions like planting more hedgerows, taking care of soil, and making habitats for local species like lapwings and curlews. They emphasised the need for ongoing financial support from programs like ELMs and private funds such as Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) to deliver these much-needed nature protection interventions.
The workshop was a place for reflection and appreciation, recognising the hard work of farmers in caring for the land and its biodiversity. Through discussions, everyone agreed on the importance of working together across different sectors to address the urgent challenges of climate change and nature conservation.
Andy Paton, a participating farmer, highlighted the usefulness of these workshops, saying:
It’s good to bounce off other farmers and get ideas and insights of what people have done, what has worked and what hasn’t worked.