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Countryside Stewardship rolls into Churnet Valley

Tue 4 Aug 2015

Woodland owners in the Churnet Valley are putting government grant funding for woodland management to good use, with farms in the area among those signing up to the scheme. The new funding package, called the Countryside Stewardship scheme, will offer land managers grant funding to help carry out woodland management which improves the woodland for wildlife. Conservation project, the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership (CVLLP) is giving free help and advice to woodland owners interested in the scheme. Over 50 local woodland owners have been given advice through the CVLLP scheme so far. Some have taken advantage of woodland grant funding in the past, including Church Stile Farm, near Kingsley.

The farm, which is working with CVLLP, is making use of funding for a variety of woodland improvement projects. These include fencing off wooded areas to stop animals from grazing, allowing ground flora to develop, thinning to increase the age diversity and planting to extend the woodland. Woodlands are a high priority for the Countryside Stewardship programme. Woodland management activities supported by the Countryside Stewardship scheme include thinning, coppicing, scrub management, restoring areas where conifers have been planted on ancient woodland sites, glade and ride management and removal of rhododendron, an invasive shrub. A key focus of the scheme is to fund projects that help endangered wildlife. For example, willow tits are in sharp decline in the UK, although the Churnet Valley is a stronghold for the bird. Wooded areas can be managed to cater for willow tits by encouraging woodland scrub, particularly near wet areas (and this area has many wet areas of woodland near streams and canals).

CVLLP says that local woodland owners are in a good position to take advantage of the new Countryside Stewardship funding. “Semi-natural native woodlands are a priority for the scheme, and we have lots of that type of woodland in the Churnet Valley. We are interested in all types of woodland though,” says Tabi Kime, CVLLP woodland officer. Semi-natural woodlands consist of native trees that haven’t been planted. Along with these woods, the scheme is targeting the restoration of native woodlands that have been planted with conifers. As part of its free help and advice, CVLLP is handling the paperwork involved in applying for funding. It is also working closely with woodland owners to help them carry out their projects. Landowners who are interested in the Countryside Stewardship scheme should contact Tabi Kime, woodland officer at CVLLP, tel 07860 592302 tabi.kime@rspb.org.uk