SKILLED volunteers have been rolling their sleeves up to give local farmers a helping hand

All members of the Tyne Rivers Trust Facilitation fund programme, the farmers are benefitting from tree planting, hedgerow laying and willow weaving.

The measures help to reduce run-off into waterways, whilst connecting up habitats to form wildlife corridors.

One farmer who values the support is Carron Craighead, of Middle Coldcoats Farm in Ponteland.

“I have been involved with the Trust and its facilitation fund for almost two years now,” she said. “And I’ve learnt about some simple and effective ways to reduce run-off into the river.

“(But) it can be difficult to find the time, with running the farm, so I really appreciate the trust’s volunteers giving up their time to help out.

“As a farmer I make my living off the land, so it is important to look after the whole landscape, including the river.”

As the Tyne catchment is not a catchment sensitive farming area, it can be hard for farmers to access funding.

So, the Tyne Rivers Trust, the environmental charity that runs the largest Countryside Stewardship fund in the North, has established a network of volunteers capable of helping farmers take practical steps to reduce the level of agricultural pollution entering rivers.

The volunteers’ many skills include the ability to tackle river bank erosion, something they have put to good use at Middle Coldcoats too.

Danielle Anderson-Walker, the trust’s farms liaison officer, said: “We’ve always had a really strong team of volunteers!

“They help us to improve the river – putting in place practical measures to improve water quality and river habitat – so it’s worked fantastically well to develop tasks for them that also help farmers who are members of our facilitation fund.

“We all share the same goal so it makes perfect sense to work together.”

Tyne Rivers Trust runs two facilitation funds in the North-East on behalf of Natural England. Its primary aims are to help farmers to identify and make changes that will help to reduce run-off and to bolster habitats.

The lowland group has more than 65 members and its upland group has almost 30.

The fund offers farmers advice and support when applying for the Countryside Stewardship scheme and by becoming a member, which is free of charge, farmers benefit from a 20 per cent uplift in their application points.

Membership also provides access to a range of workshops for which the members identify the subjects themselves.