Identifying and supporting HNV farming in the lower Wye valley
The river Wye forms the border between England and Wales in the lower reaches of its course. The Wye has cut a path through a low plateau and on both sides of the river historical and geographical factors have combined to allow the survival of significant areas of species-rich grasslands, largely in bocage landscapes of very small hedged fields.
The area is interesting for a number of reasons. The similarity of the areas on both sides of the river makes it an ideal place to compare the difference in approach between Natural England and Defra on the east bank and the Countryside Council for Wales and Welsh Government on the west.
In addition, both sides of the river have generated their own community-led grasslands projects: the Parish Grasslands initiative in St Briavel’s (England) and the Monmouthshire Meadows project (Wales) raising interesting questions of how to ‘mainstream’ such activity into major funding streams, especially Rural Development Programmes.
Supported by the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and DG Environment, EFNCP commissioned research work to explore the experience of existing and past projects for the conservation of semi-natural grasslands in the Wye Valley, and particularly to draw out the key challenges, strengths and weaknesses of these projects. The report (link) proposes an ambitious new project for the area that builds on this analysis and potentially could be funded under the Co-operation measure (Article 36) that has been included in the Commission’s proposed EAFRD regulation for post-2013. This would depend on the measure being implemented by the UK authorities.