One year on and the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme has awarded almost £419,000 to 24 local projects in the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), with total project costs of almost £632,500.

This national funding programme from Defra was launched a year ago and is aimed at farmers and land managers in Protected Landscapes (AONBs and National Parks) in England.  Across these areas nationally, over 1,000 projects have been supported by the programme so far.

The Shropshire Hills AONB covers almost a quarter of Shropshire, extending from the Wrekin to the Clun Forest, and from the Stiperstones across to the Clee Hills. It is a diverse and tranquil area, with rugged hills, rolling pastoral fields, woods and meadows, picturesque villages and historic buildings, hillforts and ancient monuments.

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The Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership team is supporting local farmers to apply for grants, and the Local Assessment Panel - made up of farmers, AONB Partnership members and other key stakeholders -meet regularly to consider applications and approve projects.

Phil Holden, Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership manager, said: "The funding is for one-off farming projects and will close in March 2024. Projects must reflect at least one of four themes to deliver local benefits to nature, climate, people and place. Making an application can help local farmers and land managers get in the best position to take advantage of the new environmental land management schemes and Alison Jones, our farming in protected landscapes adviser, is on hand to help applicants through the process."

Six new projects have been approved this month: they include grassland habitat restoration and planting a new orchard, supporting a demonstration of silvopasture agroforestry - the intentional integration of trees, foraged plants and livestock- protecting a section of Offa’s Dyke by careful removal of trees, and developing a farm-wide compost operation to enrich the farm soils.

Successful applicant Rowanna Britten from Lower Bush Farm, a not-for-profit care farm in south Shropshire, added: "A massive thanks from everyone at the farm for this opportunity. It’s going to make a massive difference to the lives of so many people. We can’t wait to get started."

Their project includes constructing animal housing with access for those with special educational needs and disabilities, and building up to five camping pods from locally sourced logs for farm glamping diversification.

Andrew Beavan, farmer on the Powys-Shropshire border, also can’t wait to get started. He said: "We are delighted to hear that our application has been successful, and we would like to start work on the water schemes as soon as possible. We have given all elements a great deal of thought, and we are confident that the scheme in its entirety will deliver for the objectives set out by the AONB, and also our own objectives to further enhance our ability to produce sustainable organic beef and lamb from our upland farm."

Andrew’s project will be significantly improving the farm’s water supply infrastructure, providing sustainable clean water to 140ha of plateau land for livestock. With this in place he will be able to exclude his animals by fencing to protect the headwaters of the River Teme and source of River Redlake.

Alex Carson-Taylor, Chair of the AONB Partnership, added: “These varied projects highlight the opportunities for farmers in the Shropshire Hills AONB to enhance their farms and in doing so provide public benefits through supporting nature recovery, tackling climate change, protecting landscape features, and enabling greater access for people. I would strongly encourage landowners and managers to explore how the programme may benefit them and the wider AONB area."