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Farming for the future in Llŷn

Sheep grazing at Dinas Fawr, south of Porth Oer, Llŷn Peninsula, Gwynedd, North Wales.
Sheep grazing on the Llŷn Peninsula | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Our natural environment is under ever increasing pressures so we're working closely with our tenants to try a new approach that helps redress the balance. Read about the Payment for Outcomes (PFO) trial, an innovative whole farm approach, looking to find ways in which farming can be more environmentally and economically sustainable on the Llŷn Peninsula.

What’s happened in the past?

Like much of the country, Llŷn's beauty and tranquillity conceal the underlying pressures that challenge the long-term viability of the natural environment – pollution, climate change, and an intensification of farming.

One commonly used method of encouraging farmers and land managers to sustain and increase wildlife has been through government funded agri-environmental schemes. These schemes pay farmers to undertake specific actions for habitats and historic features on their farms. They can be quite prescriptive and inflexible, and have had mixed success.

Overall, current agri-environment schemes in Wales have not reversed the declines in wildlife. The general feeling within the farming community is that they are unable to use their knowledge of the land to any great effect and are not empowered to make strides towards helping nature.

A different approach

Greater success has been seen in some of our European neighbouring countries, through the adoption of an outcome based approach to payments.

This type of scheme offers payments based on the desired outcomes for habitats or species, rather than specific actions, and places the decision-making in the hands of the farmer.

We are testing this new way of encouraging, supporting and empowering our tenants to take a nature friendly farming approach; working closely with them to help their farms become richer in nature without depleting or damaging natural resources.

View of fields and heathland looking east from Braich-y-Pwll on the Llŷn Peninsula, Gwynedd, North Wales.
View looking east from Braich-y-Pwll, Llŷn Peninsula | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Trialling payment for outcomes

The Payment for Outcomes (PFO) trial is a collaborative project jointly funded by the National Trust and Welsh Government as an SMS, with assistance from Gwynedd Council. It is an innovative whole farm approach, looking to find ways in which farming can be more environmentally and economically sustainable on the Llŷn Peninsula.

We believe a farmer led initiative has real value in helping us achieve healthy, resilient landscapes that are rich in wildlife. Critically, the farmers will decide the actions they undertake, learn from experience and have more control over the condition of their land and the resultant payment.

The Llŷn peninsula is one of two places (the other being Malham in the Yorkshire Dales) to trial this approach. By working with our tenants to develop a payment for outcome model, we aim to help inform the future policy of farming support in the Welsh and UK government.

The ‘outcome’ in Llŷn

We’re focussing on how we can get the coastal slopes and heathland habitats into better shape within the Llŷn Special Area of Conservation. Neighbouring fields are becoming more flower-rich and attractive to insects and birds, with a softer transition to productive, sustainably managed land that helps support the farming system.

At Cwrt in Aberdaron the nearby species rich churchyard of St Hywyn has been used as a donor site to help with the first steps in improving an existing hay meadow providing a good source of green hay and yellow rattle.

The coastal slope at Muriau near Abersoch hadn’t been grazed for years, and as a result had developed a low diversity of plants with bracken, gorse and a thick thatch of grass dominating. Simple actions including introducing fencing and a water supply have meant cattle have been able to return to graze the coastal slope and significant improvements to the habitat have been seen already.

A man looking down the guard around a tree sapling, in a landscape dotted with other newly planted trees

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