Land Use and Management
Wilts Tree Wardens; WCA Elms Project
Tree Wardens - if you have engaged with the Wilts Council tree warden scheme, or want to, please come and discuss your ideas for preserving and enhancing Wilts tree cover and engaging people with trees and nature.
Elm Trees - if you or a group you are involved in, including parish councils and environmental groups, are interested in repopulating Wiltshire with disease-resistent elm trees, please visit our special page and email us if you would like to get involved.
Background on Elm Trees project
At our May meeting, Robin Leech, Farm Ecologist and cluster group facilitator for the Wylye Valley Farmers explained how elm trees were now being brought back into Wiltshire through positive farmer action.
At our June meeting we developed the idea that elm planting would be a great way for WCA to engage with local communities to plant Elms in parishes throughout the county.
Download our ELMS FOR ALL leaflet for distribution. This is supported with a poster you can put on your local notice boards and post for your local social media.
Green Alliance: Government Net Zero Action, Agriculture and Land
Lydia Collas, September 2023
Lydia Collas, a Senior Policy Analyst from environmental think tank Green Alliance, presented their latest analysis of government action in net zero related policy areas. She explained that they measure progress against government targets on their own terms, and leave it largely to others to assess how well those targets address the climate crisis.
Lydia has personally worked on agriculture and land. This sector is lacking most in terms of supportive policy to cut emissions: only 6% of the emissions cuts needed between 2028-2032 are set out in firm policy at this point. She discussed some of the implications of this for farmers, who are being insufficiently supported to cut emissions, touching briefly on solutions.
Livestock methane and the Climate Emergency - Andrew Nicolson, July 2023
This was a particularly timely talk after the previous Countryfile episode where the issue was highlighted.
Livestock are responsible for a substantial and rising proportion of greenhouse gas emissions as well as taking the largest portion of arable land, so being one of the main two drivers of deforestation and biodiversity loss (the other being biomass for energy).
The scientific recommendation is to reduce livestock dependency, for health and environmental reasons; and it's a big opportunity to slow climate change. However inertia and vested interests make rapid change difficult.
The main question: how to engage public opinion on this problem in a proactive and positive way, leading by example and influencing others.
Elm Trees: Repopulating Wiltshire - Clare Druett, June 2023
We discussed a project to link with parish councils and help repopulate Wiltshire with disease-resistant elm trees.
We were joined by Naomi Styles, who has taken an interest in the project and is a Wiltshire Council tree officer.
Welcome and introductions
Wiltshire Council tree officer Naomi Styles presentation
The Elms idea and what its purpose is
Overview of some initial resources
Feedback from elms planting development meeting
Discussion on possible routes into your existing projects
Draft project leaflet to engage communities
This video (Spring 2021, 40 minutes) from Peter Shalcroft, a South Wiltshire farmer involved with elm tree planting and supplying disease resistant trees
BBC news article (December 2019)
Tree Council project (2021)
Butterfly Trust report (January 2019)
Wylye Valley Farming - Robin Leech, May 2023
Robin Leech is Farm Ecologist and cluster group facilitator for the Wylye Valley Farmers, running environmental projects, biodiversity monitoring and farm advice.
Watch presentation, including:
- the farm cluster
- role as an ecologist and main objectives
- the government ELMs subsidy scheme
- restoration projects including elm and juniper trees
- engaging with farmers
- government help needed
Watch discussion, including:
- elm tree restortion across Wiltshire
- moving towards organic methods
- SSSI issues
- methane reduction [not started]
- measuring soil carbon [no information gathered]
Afterwards we discussed some action projects, to be progressed at the next meeting: see above.
30th April: we headed to the woods!
Avon Needs Trees (ANT) is offered WCA a guided tour of their developing site at Hazelands.
Other events and volunteering days are also being organised at Hazeland by ANT.
Avon Needs Trees is a registered charity creating new, permanent woodland throughout the Bristol-Avon catchment to fight the climate and ecological emergencies.
Since their formation in 2019, they have had two incredibly successful projects in Wiltshire purchasing two sites of 47 acres, planting and caring for 22,000 native trees with the help of hundreds of volunteers from local and surrounding communities.
ELMs: Environmental Land Management Scheme: March 2023
Clare Druett gave a presentation on how the government's Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs) is developing.
Lucy Bates, WWT Nature Recovery Champion: February 2023
Lucy gave a great presentation on Nature Recovery planning, covering the Local Nature Recovery Strategy (statutory but not yet developed for Wilts, awaiting guidance) and what is already happening.
This interesting blog from Lucy gives some idea what she has working on previously: Integrating Pest Management with Nature Recovery in Wiltshire
We hope to welcome Lucy again soon to talk about farming and nature recovery: taster slides here.
Oliver Howells, Senior Ecologist with MOD: 16th January 2023
Oliver Howells, Chief Ecologist with MOD talked about his experiences with the MOD estate, particularly the Salisbury Plain Training Area.
Oliver advises all branches of the MOD on a range of ecology matters. He has a small team of ecologists who cover SW England (including Wiltshire), West Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland.
He also leads the MOD UK-wide SSSI Condition Improvement Project with some work overseas, including Belize.
Oliver has lived in Wiltshire all his life and ecology is his passion. He gained a BSc in Geography at Nottingham University and MSc Natural Resource Management at Edinburgh University. Having a very broad interest in natural history across a range of habitats he worked on a wide range of environmental projects before joining the MOD, where he has worked for over 20 years.
- Me, my role, my team
- Wildlife and the defence estate – context, facts and figures
- MOD estate in Wiltshire
- Bombs and biodiversity - integrating nature and military training on Salisbury Plain
- Delivering nature recovery – some examples
- Delivering net zero and other natural capital outcomes – woodland creation, nutrient management, biodiversity net gain
- Working in partnerships – farmers, Wilts Wildlife Trust, Wilts Council, RSPB, Conservation Groups
Christmas Food! - 19th Decemper 2022
We had an informal festive session where our regulars talked about their challenges navigating Xmas Dinner which brings into focus the disparity in the way different people see things. For some a strong sense of habit and ritual denies them the pleasure of trying plant-based alternatives and experiencing the joy of treading more lightly on the earth and being kinder to nature, while for others the thought of a meaty feast is anathema. Everyone who spoke was catering for some vegans and vegetarians. This survey has some wider statistics.
Some helpful web pages for recipies are:
And some guides to shop-bought options:
We'd love to hear your experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Matt Johns of Johns Associates - 21 November 2022
featuring the Salisbury Tree and Ecosystem Strategy
Matt has spent the last 30 years investigating a wide range of environmental themes with the purpose of understanding, designing, agreeing and achieving how to minimise impact and deliver the maximum benefit possible.
Matt is Director and co-owner of Johns Associates, a Wiltshire-based multidisciplinary environmental consultancy. He takes a 'hands-on' approach and can be found out in the field as often as in the office! Matt is also a part-time PhD researcher at the University of Manchester with a focus on maximising carbon sequestration/storage and ecosystem services through wetland habitat restoration.
Matt has worked with Wiltshire Council on the Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy, and is currently working with Salisbury City Council on their Tree and Ecosystem Strategy. At the moment residents can identify key and significant trees and add it to this map. This article has more information.
17th October 2022:
Euan McKenzie, Ancient Woodland Inventory Officer at WWT
Euan had just completed an inventory of woodlands that are at least 140 years old. This was done from OS survey maps & tithe maps going back to the 1880s. He needs volunteers across Wiltshire to go out and check the mapping!
Get involved: email email@example.com to sign up to the mailing list.
July 2022 meeting
At our “almost” 2nd anniversary, we had a catch up on all YOUR green initiatives going on around the county, hedge and tree planting, green verges, wildflower meadows, rewilding, green corridors, working with farmers etc etc.
Anya Doherty of Foodsteps - June 2022
food footprint labelling: crucial to achieving climate and nature goals for 2030
Foodsteps was founded by Anya while she was researching sustainable food systems at the University of Cambridge. Anya’s work included co-leading the largest experimental trial to date into carbon labelling for food, and undertaking an environmental impact assessment of Cambridge’s own food offering.
Foodsteps are at the forefront of the push to get in place a comprehensive ‘traffic light’ labelling system for food so consumers can make choices which reduce environmental impacts. They also work with firms creating food products to assess, reduce and explain their carbon footprints.
Site Visit to Yatesbury House Farm, May 2022
In May we had a tour of Yatesbury House Farm, an organic mixed 673 ha family farm on the Wiltshire downs near Avebury and Calne.
We saw how the farm uses mob grazing of mixed lays and is planting fruit trees in some areas. We heard how the organic farming methods have increased soil carbon. The vegetable growing operation is run by Yatesbury Natural Agriculture Farm .
April 2022 meeting
Our speaker was Shinya Imahashi from Yatesbury Natural Agriculture Farm who talked to us about ‘Shumei’. This is a Japanese system of ‘Natural Agriculture’ which places health, beauty and love at the core of its activity. This was a chance to see a different way of viewing cultivation practices as Shumei sees farming as an ‘art whose product touches your soul’. There is an emphasis on a balanced eco system starting from healthy soil.
March 2022 meeting - with Peter Thompson on Farming alongside Nature and Farm Clusters
Farming alongside nature: Peter Thompson originally trained as an Agronomist and spent 10 years advising farmers on growing crops. He then decided to add his agricultural knowledge to his real love of conservation, and so has spent the last 30 years advising farmers on how to farm alongside the natural world. He ran the pilot scheme for Farmer clusters – where farmers join forces to manage land on a landscape scale - which has now very much joined mainstream national thinking. https://www.farmerclusters.com/
Tree planting in Wiltshire: The Council Climate Emergency Task Group held a meeting to review progress on the key message they gave to Council on the importance of trees in the fight to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Speakers included Dave Woods, Director of Avon Needs Trees and Rosie Walker, External Affairs Officer (SW) Woodland Trust. General conclusions were that there was still much to do but there are a number of encouraging signs for progress in the county. Officers are in the process of finalising plan for supporting progress.
January 2022 meeting - with Simon Watchorn
Catherine's contact who is a knowledgeable farmer in Suffolk and involved with the levy-funded Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board gave a very interesting talk, notes to follow.
October 2021 meeting
Part 1: guest speaker Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association, farmer, restaurateur and hotel owner talked about her fascination with the complexities of farming and her views of its future.
Helen, based in Bishopstowe, east of Swindon, knew from an early age that farming was for her, she told her father she wanted to be a ‘proper farmer’ aged just 9. In 1986 by the time she was 24 her father had passed the reins on to her and not long after, she began the journey converting Eastbrook Farm to organic.
Part 2: our responses to Wiltshire Council's Green and Blue Infrastructure strategy. WCA submitted a response to the Council: thanks to all who contributed.
We previously had our first meeting with Lynn Trigwell and Paul Robertson, WC GBI, after sending them our draft responses.
Sue gave an update on the key points in our response and some exciting ideas on how we can progress with GBI in our communities.
We're looking to grow local action, starting with developing a proper understanding of our local areas using the Community Environmental Toolkit developed by the Council.
August 2021 meeting - Farming Clusters etc - notes and links here
Catherine has made a very good start on getting an overview of farming in Wiltshire and the existing farm clusters, listed in the notes. Some other links are listed for further research.
July 2021 meeting - notes and links here
Jo talked about her work that is ongoing with the DEFRA Nature Recovery Network , where there is a nationwide scheme being developed to create a map of the country showing areas that are already protected for wildlife, and areas suitable or having potential for protection, regeneration or connection corridors. This is a perfect fit with what we’re trying to do and something we’d be very keen to help with. More local information on the West of England Nature Partnership site, https://wenp.org.uk/nature-recovery-network/
Sara says Rewilding Britain’s vision is “….to see rewilding flourishing across Britain, reconnecting us with the natural world, sustaining communities and tackling the species extinction crisis and climate emergency. We want to live in a world where we face up to the scale of destruction we’re heaping on this Earth, put an end to further degradation and start to recover what we’ve lost”. You can join the rewilding network free at https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/the-rewilding-network/join
Wiltshire Council 'Community Environmental Toolkit'
At our June meeting, Paul Robertson, Landscape Officer at Wiltshire Council, gave presentations on: Community Environmental Toolkit (CET); Green and Blue Infrastructure (GBI); the Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS); and central govt progress on the Environment Bill. For more details see: