Farmers in west Dorset have secured funding for a new, collaborative way of working together. ‘The Brit and Hooke Facilitation Fund’ will see farmers and landowners discussing land management, farm business and wildlife conservation issues, plus opportunities arising from Brexit.

Farmers within five neighbouring river catchments, including the Hooke and Brit, will work together to benefit farm businesses and secure environmental gain. The group has secured funding from Natural England.

The total farm holdings of the group covers over 4800 hectares and encompass four nationally protected sites, totalling 329 hectares (813 acres), plus a further 12 Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI).

The successful application to Natural England was determined by a shared goal to deliver business and environmental improvements and a willingness to work together.

Leading the way is the group's coordinator, Alex Butler from the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group south west (FWAGsw) and Dorset Wildlife Trust's conservation officer, Nick Gray.

Alex Butler said, “With Brexit looming on the horizon it is an uncertain time for the farming industry, this funding has provided an opportunity to share and spread knowledge and could lead to new ways of working post Brexit that will benefit farmers and the environment.”

Nick Gray said, “This sort of group working is very much in-line with policy emerging from the new agriculture proposals currently being reviewed in government. The government paper highlights the crucial role farmers play in maintaining public goods such as biodiversity, water quality, carbon storage, health and wellbeing.”