In the summer of 2021, Defra announced a new fund to benefit nature recovery across England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The ‘Farming in Protected Landscapes’ (FiPL) scheme provides grants to farmers and land managers in the Surrey Hills for one-off projects to make improvements to the natural environment, cultural heritage and public access on their land.
Heather Kerswell, Chair of the Surrey Hills Board comments;
The Surrey Hills are enjoyed by millions of people every year and have increased in popularity over the pandemic. With no sign of this trend declining we need to make people aware that this is a living and working landscape that also supports a huge range of habitats and species. By supporting our farmers and land managers we can help protect the Surrey Hills and support our local communities.
This scheme provides a fantastic opportunity to make a real difference to nature recovery and I urge our Surrey Hills farmers and land managers to apply for funding.
The Surrey Hills is proud to fund some excellent projects so far. This winter will see over 7.5km of new hedgerows being planted. More than 6km of this will be as part of a collaborative hedge planting project involving eight different land holdings across the Surrey Hills. They will be planting hedgerows to help support native species and create vital habitat corridors across the landscape.
As part of this project, Manor Farm in Wotton kicked off their ambitious planting of over 4km of hedgerow with the help of Surrey Choices, supported by the Surrey Hills Society. Surrey Choices provide a range of support services, which are dedicated to improving the independence, confidence, and life skills of disabled and autistic people and those with other support needs.
The Surrey Choices Growth Team have also been funded by the FiPL grant as Surrey Hills Conservation Volunteers, supported by Surrey Hills Society, to undertake conservation work at Newlands Corner to help manage access and habitats for people and nature. This funding aims to develop and enhance the landscape, whilst enabling supported adults to gain important skills in horticulture, conservation and working in public spaces with the goal to help their transition into the workplace.
Gordon Jackson, Chair of the Surrey Hills Society and Surrey Hills Trust Fund comments;
Surrey Hills Society are thrilled to be collaborating with Surrey Choices to help protect and conserve the landscape. The Society has brought together a wide variety of volunteers working alongside Surrey Choices, with upwards of 300 volunteers planting native hedgerow in the months of February and March. Most recently we held a Society planting day at Manor Farm on 23 February, where Society and Surrey Choices volunteers worked side by side to help Manor Farm plant their 4.5km of FIPL funded hedgerow this winter.
On Tuesday 1 February 2022, the Surrey Hills was delighted to host the Rt Hon Lord Benyon Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. During his visit, the Minister was able to view some of the FiPL funded projects in action including visiting Surrey Choices at Newlands Corner and seeing a new flail collector purchased via the grant by Michael Baxter of the Albury Estate. This new machinery has enabled the Estate to improve its management of the important heathland, chalk grassland and woodland sites by working more efficiently and productively over larger areas. This is to the benefit of the landscape, to wildlife such as the small blue butterfly, and to the many people who visit this part of the Surrey Hills.
Michael Baxter of the Albury Estate comments;
We used the (FiPL) grant to purchase a specialist flail collector. This will enable the Estate to improve its management of the important heathland, chalk grassland and woodland sites by working more efficiently and productively over larger areas to the benefit of the landscape, wildlife, biodiversity and the many people who visit this part of the Surrey Hills AONB. The grant application was straightforward, and the Estate received support throughout the process.
The Surrey Hills grant has also funded projects such as a three metre Moore Unidrill at a dairy farm in Betchworth, which will help reduce the release of carbon stored in soil, protect the local environment from soil erosion and flooding and improve the sustainability of the farm. Another exciting project is the installation of a variety of wildlife boxes across 20 land-holdings to deliver a large-scale, coordinated improvement to the provision of living spaces for wildlife. Species such as barn owls, dormice and kingfishers are present within some landholdings and the new houses will help these species to increase in numbers, with further projects planned to improve habitats.
The FiPL fund is key to helping deliver the Surrey Hills Management Plan by sustainably managing and conserving habitats and the natural environment, supporting the landscape’s cultural heritage and enriching the access and enjoyment of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for all.
Co-ordinated by the Surrey Hills AONB Board, the Farming in Protected Landscapes scheme is open to all farmers and land managers (including from the private, public and charity sector) within the AONB. Applications are open now and the scheme runs until March 2024.
For further information and guidance visit; Surrey Hills FiPL fund | Surrey Hills