Facilitation Fund



A Facilitation Fund in the Blackdown Hills AONB

The Blackdown Hills Farming and Woodland Group (BHFWG) is a training and collaboration network for farmers, woodland owners and other land managers within the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  It began in spring 2018 and currently runs to August 2021.  Its work is financed through the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund, a national programme to bring land managers together to improve the local natural environment at a landscape scale.  The Blackdown Hills group is now one of over 100 such locally-led Facilitation Fund groups across England.

There are currently 85 members of the group, and more can join at any time.  Members have been identifying the subjects they want to learn and share knowledge about, and a Facilitator team, of Gavin Saunders and Nicola Cunningham, has been arranging a programme of events to pursue their priorities.  

The full list of events to date is shown below.  For details of current and upcoming events see Noticeboard.

Members have also been assisted in submitting Mid Tier and Higher Tier Stewardship applications, and signposted to opportunities for woodland harvesting advice, soil aeration and other activities.

Beyond these specific subjects, the group is seeking to build closer, more fruitful connections between farmers and land managers, improving collaboration, combatting isolation, building friendships and engendering a sense of shared experience in looking after the natural environment. 

The group is overseen by a steering group of farmer members and partner organisations, and is administered by Butterfly Conservation, with support from the Blackdown Hills AONB.  

It has been agreed that for the time being, the Facilitation Fund will take over the role of the Blackdown Hills Rough Grazing Association (in terms of organising training events and farm visits).  The BHRGA will evolve and resume this role after the Facilitation Fund comes to an end, to provide a long-term basis for landowner knowledge-exchange and collaboration into the future.

To find out more about joining the Group, or about the training being offered and planned, contact Gavin Saunders

Events to date:

Ash dieback, Bickham Wood 17/5/18

Folly Farm walk 22/5/18

Woodland management, Park Farm 5/6/18

Wildflower seed harvesting, Goren Farm 13/6/18

Hense Moor walk 10/7/18

Public launch, Southey Moor 20/7/18

Natural Flood Management, Penny Thorn Farm 18/9/18

Hedge management, Cotley Estate 18/10/18

Orchard pruning, Park Farm 23/11/18

Stewardship discussion evening 13/12/18

ELMS discussion evening 17/1/19

Grassland management, Blackhayes Farm 24/1/19

Timber harvesting, Park Farm 13/2/19

Veterinary issues on wet land, Luppitt 21/3/19

Mid Tier Clinic, Woodhayes 18/4/19

Pollinators, Staple Farm 21/5/19

Earthworms and spoil health, Higher Luxton 10/6/19

Mid Tier clinic 14/6/19

Butterflies on the farm, Goren Farm 18/6/19

Mid Tier clinic 20/6/19

Wildflower ID, Old Wolford 3/7/19

Wellbeing activities in woodland, Young Wood 24/7/19

Beavers on the Otter catchment, Otterhead 4/9/19

Southey & Gotleigh Moor SSSI owners gathering, 8/10/19

Fungus foray, Young Wood 19/10/19

Climate change and farming conference, Monks Yard 12/11/19

Managing hedges for Brown Hairstreaks, Angersleigh 22/1/20

Evening talk: Graham Harvey 20/2/20

Scrub machinery, Southey Moor SSSI 9/3/20

Farm Carbon Toolkit training 30/4/20

Botancial ID for Mid Tier applications 28/5/20

Agricultural payment changes 29/6/20

Mid Tier records keeping training 20/8/20

Squirrels control Lantra course, Young Wood 2/9/20

Visit to Knepp rewilding estate, Sussex 23/9/20

Ponies in conservation grazing, Cotley Estate 16/10/20

Tree planting 27/11/20

Hedge coppicing, Racedown Farm 11/12/20

Rebecca Hosking - Regenerative Farming 16/2/21

An introduction to FarmBench 18/2/21