Working with farmers
The future of the Shropshire Hills depends on thriving farms which produce high quality food and take care of the landscape. We are working with local farmers to explore ways of managing the land that create a healthy natural environment, restore the characteristic landscape of the area, and increase wildlife as part of a profitable farm business.
The Upper Onny Farmers Group, facilitated by the Stepping Stones Project, have been involved in a number of Test and Trials of the proposed new Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes. We hope this will influence Government thinking about future approaches to payment schemes and farm planning that support farmers in delivering sustainable environmental outcomes.
This part of the programme is led by Stepping Stones Project Manager Andrew Hearle.
Working with local communities
To be successful the programme also needs to work closely with the communities who live and work within the project area, as well as people who visit the area. We are trialling approaches to community volunteering on farms, as well as in the wider landscape.
The Stepping Stones programme is exploring ways to support and build upon the good work of established local community groups such as the Marches Meadow Group, Restoring Shropshire’s Verges, Caring for God’s Acre and four local community wildlife groups. These local community and volunteer-based groups are undertaking work that enhances the quality, quantity and connectedness of wildlife habitats within the Shropshire Hills. Stepping Stones is keen to help these groups extend their reach and impact across the programme area.
As well as our work with local farmers, we also offer advice and support to non-farming landowners, from people with smallholdings down to wildlife gardeners. We can support delivery of schemes such as hedge planting and meadow creation via the Stepping Stones volunteer group.
We also aim to engage the wider community through participation in events, evening talks for local groups, and appearances on loacl media and our youTube channel.
This part of the programme is led by Stepping Stones Project Officer Charlie Bell.
Creating and managing stepping stones
The third aspect of Stepping Stones is our work supporting the acquisition and management of 'stepping stones' in the landscape, either by the National Trust or one of our partner NGOs or community groups. For example, Stepping Stones has been heavily involved with the management of the National Trust's 'satellite' sites to the Long Mynd, such as Jinlye Meadows and Fir Tree Farm Meadows, as well as supporting the Middle Marches Community Land Trust in their acquisition and management of several local sites. We also run work parties to carry out important habitat management in support of Butterfly Conservation, Shropshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England and on SSSIs owned by private landowners.
This part of the programme is shared between Project Officer Charlie Bell, Project Manager Andrew Hearle, Countryside Manager Peter Carty, and colleagues from partner organisations.