Farmers across Somerset are being invited to bid in the county’s biggest auction yet for works to help stop flooding.

The auction will run online from Wednesday, March 18 to Monday, March 30 at, following successful trials funded by Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) in 2018 and 2019.

This year the SRA, Environment Agency, and Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG SW) are offering farmers a choice of up to seven different methods of natural flood management (NFM).

These include hedge planting, better maize management, and grassland subsoiling and slitting.

All measures help to slow the flow of water, while delivering other benefits. For example, grassland subsoiling and slitting aerate the ground so that more rainwater can filter in, and they also improve the soil.

All that farmers must do to take part is visit the NatureBid website, choose one or more NFM methods, select areas of their land where they believe those methods will get the best flood prevention results, then bid for funding.

The total available this year is £40,000, the biggest sum yet.

After the auction closes, bids get checked by FWAG SW. Grants from the SRA and Environment Agency are then given to the best, most competitively-priced ideas.

Cllr David Hall, Chair of Somerset Rivers Authority, said: “One of the key points recognised in Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan, which was drawn up during the major floods of 2014, is that what happens on the land is really important. Every field, every farm, every stream has a part to play when it comes to managing water.

“The SRA has funded hundreds of natural flood management measures across Somerset through the award-winning Hills to Levels project, but online auctions mean we can do much more. Last year 200 bids were successful.

“It’s a system that cuts out paperwork and saves time and money. It lets farmers use their knowledge of their land to pinpoint places where between us we’ll get results. I say – give it a go!”

The one proviso is that as the main purpose of NFM activities in Somerset is to slow the flow of water down through the higher parts of river catchments, the website will not allow farmers to place bids for land in low-lying Internal Drainage Board areas, or in areas which drain out of the county. Otherwise it covers the length and breadth of Somerset.

Richard Masters of Sharpshaw Farm in Nunney near Frome got a grant for better maize management in last year’s auction. He said: “The online auction tool was quick and simple to use. I was able to achieve what the farm needed with the grant money and I’m really pleased I took part.”

John Quick of Quantock Farm between West Monkton and Clavelshay also secured a grant for better maize management in last year’s auction. He agreed with Mr Masters: “The online auction was really quick and easy to use and allowed us to achieve a lot with our maize ground, without all the paperwork of other environmental schemes.”