North Somerset Wetlands Programme

Our North Somerset Wetlands Programme was set up in 2011 to determine the condition and current wildlife value of the ditch system, to allow us to identify the most valuable wildlife ditches.

In 2015 Avon Wildlife Trust were awarded five years of funding by Wessex Water to develop and deliver conservation work in the priority Tier 1 area of the North Somerset Levels and Moors. We have worked in this area for several years; between 2011 and 2014 we were funded by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation to establish a rigorous baseline of the management condition and current wildlife value of the ditch systems and surrounding habitats.

Wessex Water funding will enable us to work with landowners and managers in the North Somerset Levels and Moors to improve habitat management for wildlife. The project is focussing on protecting Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Years 1 and 2 focus on the Gordano and Puxton areas, and Years 3-5 will also include the areas around Tickenham, Kenn and Nailsea Moors.

Securing funding over five years is of great benefit to Avon Wildlife Trust, to allow us to develop long term relationships with the land owning communities around our Reserves in these highly biodiverse areas. In addition to offering advice to farmers on management, our conservation advisors can support farmers with grant applications to Government Schemes such as Countryside Stewardship. We also have our own capital pot of funds to support our land management advice on farms and will be spent where the most biodiversity gain can be found. The grant scheme is critical to support the advice we give and to help farmers manage the land in a sensitive fashion for wildlife. 

Between 2011 and 2014 we:
• worked with 69 farms
• assessed the management condition of 1387 ditches
• carried out aquatic invertebrate surveys on 173 ditches
• conducted plant surveys on 236 ditches
• Ran a small grants scheme for ditch management work.

The Esmee Fairbairn funding allowed us to identify the best wildlife ditches and where ditch restoration and management advice and support was needed. The Wessex Water funding allows us to build on the successes of the previous project and facilitate the actions identified.

In 2016 the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership awarded Avon Wildlife Trust one year’s funding to complement our work with farmers in the North Somerset Levels and Moors. This additional funding is to provide more focussed soil and water advice on fifteen priority farms. This will include soil testing and soil structure analysis and planning; nutrient planning, ditch management where applicable, and parasite analysis and management in livestock.