A WATER company is backing a project that works with farmers in Dorset to boost declining farmland bird species.

Wessex Water is supporting the South Wiltshire Farmland Conservation Project, run by the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to improve opportunities for bird species in the county as well as in Wiltshire through its biodiversity funding programme.

Tracy Adams, farm conservation advisor from Cranborne Chase, said: “Since 2010 Wessex Water has supported the project which to date has created over 1,000 hectares of farmland habitat and has seen us work with 147 farms to deliver environmental improvements.”

The next stage of funding will see the project continue to improve habitats on agricultural land, which will enhance wildlife populations including the declining arable bird species as well as help reduce pollution going into rivers.

Tracy added: "By bringing together groups of neighbouring farms we will be able to create crucial year round habitats for farmland birds and other environmental improvements on a much wider scale.

"We will continue to focus on species of birds associated with arable farmland which are known to be under the greatest threat, including lapwing, turtle dove, corn bunting, grey partridge, yellow wagtail and tree sparrow.

"But we will also move beyond this to work with and support groups of farmers to identify what other wider environmental improvements they can make on their land.

"The project will also deliver a pollutions solution programme where we will provide local farmers with the skills and equipment to test water flows from their land for chemicals and other pollutants so that they are able to reduce the amount reaching sensitive rivers, which will benefit both wildlife and river water quality."

The project was recently recognised for its outstanding contribution to the wellbeing of AONBs after winning the Bowland Award from the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Beauty (NAAONB).

Dave Jones, a regulatory scientist at Wessex Water, said: “The work achieved by The South Wiltshire Farmland Conservation Project not only benefits the declining farmland bird population but it also tackles the increasingly important issue of diffuse pollution from agriculture through an innovative farmer-led approach.

“As we continue our investment to improve river water quality, the project will also complement our catchment work in the Dorset Stour and Hampshire Avon and also provide wildlife benefits along our pipeline from Corfe Mullen to Salisbury to reduce the impact of our construction works on this project, which is a part of our water supply grid scheme to safeguard future water supply for customers.”

To date the company's Partners Programme, which provides financial support to develop projects that benefit the environment within the Wessex Water region, has helped more than 30 conservation projects.


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