North Wessex Downs FiPl officers and panel members, Action for River Kennet staff and other partners spent a very wet Friday at the end of March evaluating FiPL funded projects, sharing best practice and discussing future partnership opportunities.

By Rob West, Farming in Protected Landscape Officer


The North Wessex Downs AONB team has worked closely with Action for the River Kennet (ARK) for many years. Most recently we successfully delivered the partnership project Sparkling Streams. The Kennet catchment is mostly enclosed within the AONB, though the boundary of the protected landscape also extends to neighbouring catchments including that of the Test and the Lambourn. As a result, the River Kennet is close to the heart of the AONB team and our priorities.

The Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) team has developed various suitable projects for funding via the FiPL programme with Rupert Kelton, ARK Project Officer. These have all been aimed at delivering improved or new wetlands, in appropriate areas, in order to offer habitat to various species, reduce flood risk downstream and mitigate climate change and its effects. ARK have a fantastic group of volunteers who help deliver project work on the ground and never baulk at getting waist-deep in waders to tackle invasive species, create berms or pollard riverside trees.

FiPL officers have to evaluate all projects funded by the programme to ensure the outcomes promised, have been delivered. Due to the extensive nature of the ARK projects, we thought the best way to tackle this was to take a tour of the various sites to see the works on the ground with Rupert and the team and gather some ideas for what’s next. Evidently the idea proved popular as we ended up hosting some of the AONB and ARK teams, the FiPL Panel members, as well as representatives from the Natural Solutions Partnership, Thames Water and DEFRA. We had a constructive day out in late March touring the various wet places ARK employees spend their time and fending off the worst the weather could throw at us.

12 people are standing in a line in a field in front of a pond.

ARK & AONB staff joined by FiPL panel members and colleagues from DEFRA, Thames Water & other partners. Credit Rob West

The value in days like this is many-fold. We are able to celebrate projects, understand their successes and analyse areas for improvement next time. We also have to the opportunity to share the knowledge and experience of the technical aspects of the project and its impacts but also demonstrate the value and effectiveness of partnership working. The networking opportunity the day provided was also invaluable. For extremely busy people in organisations all pushed for resource, we had the chance to talk about how we can work more effectively together. Not least, we enjoyed a day out in beautiful surrounds talking to lovely people!

The relationship the AONB team has with our local partners is extremely important and the one we have with ARK is particularly special. We are proud to fund and support their fabulous work that aligns with the North Wessex Downs AONB Management Plan objectives. Showing the projects off to other interested parties in our networks is a bonus and one we hope to repeat in the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about FiPL then head to our web pages Farming in Protected Landscapes – North Wessex Downs AONB and if you want to learn more about ARK and all their great work check out Home – ARK River Kennet.

A group of people are standing together next to the fish pass

Shalbourne Fish Pass in action. Credit: Rob West

The following projects have been funded by the North Wessex Downs Farming in Protected Landscape programme and delivered by ARK:

• Lower Shalbourne Fish pass: £4,900 for phase 1 (design) & £5,456.31 for phase 2 (implementation). A project seeking to reconnect the river for fish moving up and down the Shalbourne. Part of a much larger project connecting the entire river for isolated populations of fish.

• Wilton Wetland planting: £22,824.96 at Manor Farm Wilton. A continuation of a legacy project from the Sparkling Streams project. This included planting a recently created wetland area and creating interpretation panels to inform and educate local people about the importance of the project, the farm and the AONB.

• Chisbury Canal Overspill: £4,941.95 at Manor Farm, Little Bedwyn. A project with huge gains across the board; the diversion of an overspill from the Kennet and Avon canal, which was going directly into the designated river, into the now defunct water meadow system to rewet the meadow, create new wetland areas and clean the water before entering the river.

• Og Wetland Creation: £30,020.64 at Maisey Farm. A wetland creation project wetting a field adjacent to the upper Og in an extended corridor of habitats to Marlborough.

Total funding provided: £68,143.86. Of that total, £12,189.14 (17%) has funded project management time and running volunteering days. The remainder has paid for materials, contractors, etc. required for delivering works.