Somerset Wildlife Trust, a key partner in the Hills to Levels project arranged a visit ,supported by Natural England, for a group of agricultural students and their lecturers from Bridgwater and Taunton College’s Cannington Centre to explore Southlake Moor and Burrow Mump. The aim was to give them a better understanding of the issues surrounding flooding and water management that are so vital to the healthy future of the Somerset Levels & Moors landscape. The visit also showed why it is so important that farming and conservation work together to ensure that wildlife has a positive future in the face of the challenges this internationally important area faces, and that local communities better understand the water management issues that have such a real impact on their lives.
From Burrow Mump down to Southlake Moor, which forms part of the extensive grazing marsh and ditch system of Somerset Levels & Moors, students gained an understanding of how water travels through from one area to another, and learnt about some of the challenges face by landowners and farmers managing land in the area.
Charlie Coates, Agricultural student said 'It was so interesting to see how farmers cope with the flooding and manage the land. It's completely different to what I am used to, coming from Exmoor'.
Daniel Rood – Lecturer in Agriculture, Food & Land Management at Bridgwater and Taunton College said 'Enabling the students to see first-hand the areas affected by flooding and the different farming systems in the area has broadened their minds on the issues of land management'.
This visit was facilitated through the Hills to Levels project, set up as a response to some of the worst flooding in living memory which occurred in 2014. The Royal Bath & West of England Society established a partnership between the RSPB, FWAG and Somerset Wildlife Trust and together secured funding for the project from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Since it began in 2015 Hills to Levels has provided grants to farmers to help build their resilience to flooding across the Levels and Moors, whilst engaging with farmers to slow the flow of flood water through the upper catchments of Somerset’s rivers.
One vital part of the project is linking what happens in the upper catchment with the impacts which may accrue downstream across the Levels and Moors. Engaging and educating communities is one strand of this work and getting the next generation of farmers to increase their understanding of the importance of nature and agriculture working hand in hand.
In future planned trips, the students will be meeting with livestock famers on the levels and learning about water management with the Environment Agency.