This week the Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster celebrates its 2nd anniversary. On the back of this Ian Waller (cluster chair) and the 18 member farmers are excited to share a case study of its work to date to both recognise and say thank you to the wide range of partners, funders, consultants, contractors, suppliers and volunteers that have helped set the cluster up and deliver such a wide range of projects so far.

The 18 farmers are rightly proud of their achievements and appreciative of the support you have all given in many different ways. Whilst the cluster is still young (with many more ideas and projects to deliver) the farmers want to showcase the vital role they are playing in driving Nature’s Recovery in the Chilterns.

The fantastic support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund through the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership Scheme has enabled the Chilterns Conservation Board to piece together a support package designed by the farmers and one they are really valuing based on:    

  • Ownership – a bottom up approach where farmers make the key decisions about their priorities
  • Excite, engage and enthuse – helping farmers to better understand and care for the wildlife on their farms
  • Building trust and relationships – taking the time to really get to know farmers and offering practical solution to their issues and aspirations
  • Providing an end to end support package – setting up collaborative projects, providing professional advice, supporting direct delivery of projects, direct capital funding and ongoing monitoring delivered as a package

The cluster is showing how important this approach is to achieving landscape scale impact across the 6,500 hectares it covers not only to support Nature’s recovery but also in wider areas such as carbon storage, soil health and public access. We will be sharing the case study widely to showcase your work. 

Over 50 organisations have provided direct support to the cluster and individual farmers. This support has ranged from help setting the cluster up in the early days; informative training workshops; volunteers carrying out bird and other wildlife surveys; volunteer led practical conservation tasks (delivered by our fantastic partners Chiltern Rangers); providing expert ecological advice; supporting the successful application for new Countryside stewardship agreements; supplying equipment and materials (such as 23t of supplementary bird food and seed mix for 3.1km of new field margins); installing and monitoring over 50 Owl boxes; to delivering direct capital projects (such as extensive scrub management and hedgerow planting); establishing baseline habitat surveys and providing grant funding for a new carbon project (thanks to all at the Rothschild Foundation). 

In supporting the cluster our roles have been made so much easier (and great fun) by the fantastic support you and others from over 50 organisations and over 30 volunteers have offered. A genuine collaborative partnership effort, bringing together such a wide range of skills and expertise. Not to mention the great pie and pint meetings in the Gate pub in Bryants Bottom!!

It feels like the cluster has really only just got started and there are many more ideas and projects in the pipeline for the coming months and years. I hope we can continue to work with you and others in delivering these.

The case study is online at this link .

Many thanks again for all of your help.

Ian, Harriet and Nick  (Chilterns Conservation Board)