A group of farmers and landowners in the South Downs around Winchester are working together to achieve landscape, habitat and biodiversity benefits on a scale that could not be done by working alone.
The Winchester Downs Cluster has been running for 4 years and with one year of our Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Funding to go, it’s a good time to reflect on what we have achieved and what we want to focus on in the future. The Cluster has been a fantastic catalyst for local land managers to become acquainted, share best practice and give individuals the confidence to implement new ideas. The group has grown from 18 members to 36, 30 of which and in Countryside or Environmental Stewardship, and now covers an area of 9,500ha
When the group first formed, our members got together to decide what issues they wanted to work on across the local landscape. Once agreed, these ideas were used to formulate an operational plan (see below). This not only listed out our key objectives, but also enabled us to track progress over time. During our 4 years so far all members have benefited from a number of farm walks and events that have helped to deliver our aims. This has included improving habitat management for wildlife, grassland restoration, reducing maize strips and increasing wild bird seed mixes, farmland bird ID, woodland management and ash-dieback, and community engagement both between members of the group and with local communities.
Looking to the future, there are still objectives in our operational plan that we are working towards. Landscape, including biodiversity and habitats, will still be a top priority for the group and we hope to further our work on community engagement and soil health. We hope to continue growing and developing………keep an eye out for further updates on our progress!
The Operational Management Plan can either be viewed below or through this link.