Farming with Nature - for greater biodiversity

Who we are

The North Norfolk Coastal Group (nncg) is an umbrella organisation comprising farmers, landowners, trusts working with government agencies and local authorities who are involved in managing the land and waterways over much of North Norfolk.

NNCG has been set up to aid collaboration between landowners and land managers so together they can work to improve the biodiversity of the managed environment while farming or managing the land profitably and sustainably.

 

Working together, through a single hub, NNCG gives members a collective power to take action, make changes and share knowledge, ideas and expertise.

In 2021 North Norfolk Coastal Group (NNCG) facilitated the first phase of the Biodiversity Audit of the Norfolk Coast. The NNCG brought together a diverse group comprising the UEA School of Environmental Sciences, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), County Ecology departments, Natural England and NGO’s such as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk Ornithologists Association, National Trust, RSPB and the Norfolk Rivers Trust. The Audit has now been reported and can be viewed in full here

The Audit collected millions of pieces of data from hundreds of sources. From that point they were able to gather in-depth knowledge regarding the species – flora, fauna, invertebrate – found along this stretch of land. With that information, group members are able to make decisions about their working practices that can help retain or improve the biodiversity on their land.

Attention has now turned to Phase 2 which covers an area between the A149 and A148. This is being supported by the UEA, AONB, Norfolk County Council and Natural England. As most of this land is arable farmland the focus will largely be on features within this landscape, including hedges, hedge row trees and ponds.

As with Phase 1, the Biodiversity Audit is pulling in millions of pieces of data to get a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the species, the habitats and the overall diversity of the area. From there, land managers can use the information to make decisions that will improve overall biodiversity on their land.

 

Farmers and land managers are facing a suite financial, political, climatic and environmental challenges. the Audit will provide a wealth of knowledge which will help to make rational, considered and effective decisions about future land management practices.

What has been the perceived wisdom for generations of farmers may not be the best way of doing things. Conversely, new ideas that look appealing, such as regenerative practices or organic farming, may not suit every land type. Information gleaned from the Audit, as well as talking to others within the group, will open up new ideas and practices.

The audit will provide a comprehensive analysis of a full spectrum of species inhabiting a region. From that evidence base, land managers will be able to make informed decisions that not only have a positive impact on the biodiversity of an area but can also contribute to better decisions about carbon sequestration and flood management.

With the Agriculture Bill placing the emphasis on good environmental practices, underpinned by ELMs, Net Gain and other policy instruments, this two-phase audit and the subsequent evidence base can help drive a Local Nature Recovery Strategy and Landscape Recovery Plan.

Not only will a wide-ranging Biodiversity Audit give farmers the information necessary to maintain and enhance a species rich environment and tie into the Agriculture Bills environmental ambitions, but it will also provide enormous opportunity and potential to share knowledge, pool resources, increase buying power and collaborate with like-minded organisations and individuals.

The power of collaboration is huge. With more than 58 members representing over 40,000 hectares, the NNCG is a force to be reckoned with. Within that membership there is a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be shared and tapped into. There is also the potential for increased negotiating power when sourcing services, increased trading powers – particularly in the field of environmental trades – and the ability to access government funding across the group or sub-groups. 
 
In addition:
 
Nature does not respect boundaries, by working together group members can control and improve the environment on a landscape scale. 
 
At a time when the value of natural assets is being recognised at national level, the NNCG provides a single point of contact and a brand to market environmental benefits.
 
By being part of a single entity, you avoid duplication of effort in understanding and accessing new opportunities provided by environmental schemes.
 
The group facilities ambitious, large scale thinking.
 
At a time of rapid change within the agricultural sector, the group will keep members abreast of any new developments.
 
The NNCG works closely with academic partners, so group members will have access to and knowledge of the science behind environmental issues, thus helping land managers make decisions based on evidence. 

What is happening now? 

Data collation

Phase 2 of the North Norfolk Biodiversity Audit is underway with millions of pieces of data being collated. The data has been collected by scientists, conservationists, citizen scientists, species-specific groups and individuals. As farmers, the data you can provide from your individual holding is vital, so please do share any data you have with the UEA research team.

Contact Franky Rogers 

The NNCG event programme has swung into being with an informative workshop in April on alternative fertiliser, cover cropping and on-farm composting setting a high bar. The next course will focus on two distinct but equally valuable areas – soil health and fire prevention. Details are below and NNCG members are urged to sign up quickly as places are limited.

At the most recent NNCG event, attendees heard three presentations all with a similar theme – how to make our soils as healthy as possible in a sustainable way.

The event, which was held at Stephen Temples farm at Wighton, began with a demonstration of Stephen’s anaerobic digester (AD) at work. The AD plant processes manure from his herd of Swiss Brown dairy cattle, along with maize, silage and whey from the Mrs Temple Cheese making business. Stephen says the energy produced – in the form of biogas – quickly outweighed the high costs of installing the AD plant. Energy produced from the manure and waste products powers operations on the farm as well as the farm vehicles.

After the demonstration, which took place under the watchful gaze of some beautiful Swiss Brown cattle, the group moved indoors to listen to a presentation from Pawel Kisielewski, CEO of CCm Technologies.

For the past decade, CCm has been trialling the transformation of industrial and agricultural waste into fertiliser. As more than one attendee said as they left the meeting: ‘This sounds almost too good to be true.’ Certainly, the results so far look good, with the major problem being the capacity to produce as much as is required. A fuller report on CCm and its operation can be read here:

The third presentation was by Ian Gould, co-owner of Oakbank Game and Conservation. His talk explained the immense value of cover crops within an arable farm, in terms of soil health, biodiversity and habitat for species. While Ian explained that there was still a lot of work to be done relating to how cover crops impact soil health, the research was beginning to yield answers. One point Ian was keen to make was that there was no one size fits all. What might work on one farm could prove to be a nightmare on another farm, so it is best to talk to an expert and get tailor-made advice.

Anyone wishing to talk to Ian about the most suitable cover crops for their land and their ambitions to increase biodiversity across their farm can contact him here.

The next group meeting of the NNCG will take place on Friday 10th February at the Prince of Wales Stand, Fakenham Racecourse. The meeting will start at 9.30am with tea and coffee available from 9am. It will close at 11.30 for official business but members are invited to stay and chat for longer. An exciting line-up of speakers are planned, including Professor Brian Reid and Sam Paske. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions of the speakers and to chat among other group members.

A little bit about our speakers:

Brian Reid – Brian is the Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Research at the UEA School of Environmental Sciences. Professor of Soil Science at the University of East Anglia and Adjunct Professor with the Chinese Academy of Science Institute for Urban Environment (Xiamen, China). He is a Technical Expert in Soil Quality to the BSI and a member of the ISO Soil Quality Technical Committee ‐ TC190.

Brian’s research has focused on: soil carbon; high carbon soil amendments e.g. biochar and paper crumble; soil interactions with contaminants agrochemicals, antibiotics and nutrients; the fate and transport of these agents in association with soil colloids and organic matter; contaminated land; remediation, and; pollutant risks and ecotoxicity.

Sam Paske – Sam is managing director of Integrated Land Management and specialises in the practical management of Biodiversity Gain Sites, working with landowners through the entire process, from the creation of the Biodiversity Offset Management Plan (BOMP) to the establishment and ongoing management. Sam’s Agricultural Business background, plus his years as a farm manger, means that he understands the considerations that landowners may face when making decisions about BNG. The subject of his presentation on 10 February is: What is Biodiversity Net Gain and what can it mean for farmers?

We opened the meeting by recognising the work that has taken place so far, while acknowledging that there is a huge amount to do in order to make the most of the willingness across the group to work on improving biodiversity across the area.

It is clear that there is an appetite across the county to get involved and to collaborate on enhancing and protecting biodiversity across the farmed environment.

The really exciting news this month is the launch of the website. If you visit https://www.nncg.org.uk, you will be able to take a look at the new NNCG website.

The website will provide up-to-date information, a members forum to share info within the group as well as providing a great showcase for work being carried out by members and our partner organisations.

Only people who are NNCG group members will have access to the Members’ Forum, so do use it as a place for open discussion.

To join the Members’ Forum you will need to visit that area of the website, click on the register or log-in button and add your details.

All information relating to the group will be on the website, so if you need to check back on notes from a meeting, or to access some research or to find out about relevant courses, talks or grants available, then this is the one-stop site for you.

Please take a trip around the website and send any thoughts and feedback to sarah@nncg.org.uk

Steering group

As a next step in the progress of the Group and its activities, we are putting together a Steering Group which will lead on projects over the coming months. Based on the answers from NNCG group members to the Questionnaire, the over whelming majority of people would favour specialist topics rather than geographically located groups, however, the composition of the Steering Group will give geographical spread as well.

While the full composition of the Steering Group is yet to be finalised, the following people have agreed to be part of the Steering Group for a year in the first instance. 

Mike Edwards – Director of Albanwise Environment. 

Jimmy Goodley – Jimmy has farmed on the Stiffkey Valley in North Norfolk for the past 12 years.

Charles Inglis – Charles has farmed at Hole Farm, Hempstead since 2010. Charles won the Ian McNicol Memorial Trophy (awarded by Norfolk FWAG) in 2019. 

Robert McNeil-Wilson – Managing Director of AR Wilson Ltd, with farming operations in both the Glaven Valley and West Norfolk. Robert recently won the 2022 Norfolk FWAG Ian MacNicol prize for Conservation in Farming recognising the success of environmental schemes across the farm.

The process for developing and moving the NNCG forwards is as follows:

1. Steering Group meets to decide timetable and content for events and meetings. (early Jan)
2. Information is sent to all members. (Jan)
3. Members can attend as many or as few meetings and events as they wish but they will need to let the steering group lead know beforehand so we are conscious of expected numbers at each meeting.
4. A programme of events/meeting for the year will be published on the website. (Jan)
5. At the final NNCG whole group meeting of 2023, a report from each group will be shared, including outcomes and future plans. Regular updates from each steering group lead will be published on the website.

Articles of Association and other documents

As the original NNCG and the wider NNCG Facilitation Fund work to come together as a legal entity, it is important that all members are aware of the old structure and how it fits with the new. All relevant documents relating to the groups’ formations and subsequent coming together will soon be available in the Members’ Forum on the website.

At present, the two groups exist side by side.

Upcoming courses and workshops

Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) are putting on a week of events in December (13-16th) with Mel Holloway, who’ll be talking all things Nutrient Planning, Farming Rules for Water and a bit about the new soils standards in SFI. They will be pretty informal and farmers are welcome to bring along their own spreading plans and cropping/soil results for bespoke advice. Refreshments and lunch will also be provided.

The courses can be booked via the Eventbrite links below.

One closest to North Norfolk – Nutrient Planning and Farming Rules for Water Tickets, Fri 16 Dec 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite – Itteringham Village Hall

There’s also other dates across Norfolk and Suffolk:

Nutrient Planning and Farming Rules for Water Tickets, Tue 13 Dec 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite – Bracon Ash Village Hall
Nutrient Planning and Farming Rules for Water Tickets, Wed 14 Dec 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite – Dennington Village Hall, Woodbridge
Nutrient Planning and Farming Rules for Water Tickets, Thu 15 Dec 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite – Hoxne Village Hall, Eye

There will also be an event in the New Year at Eve’s Hill Farm near Reepham on Bokashi, organic manures and Jeremy Buxton’s experience of regenerative farming.

Bokashi – what is it? Tickets, Thu 19 Jan 2023 at 10:00 | Eventbrite

In July 2022 a meeting took place at Muckelton  Farm between the UEA research team and a large number of the NNCG members from the A148 area.

Here is a report of that meeting: 

At the launch meeting of Phase 2 of the NNCG-led Biodiversity Audit, members and potential members of the group gathered at Muckleton Farm to listen to presentations from the UEA  Biodiversity Conservation in Human-Modified Landscapes team, as well as a general overview on farming and biodiversity by David Lyles. 

Professor Paul Dolman opened the discussion by explaining the importance of understanding the local natural landscape when it comes to creating strategies to maintain and enhance biodiversity. There were, said Professor Doman, three strands to the understanding:  

What is the complete pool of species?

Which do we need to prioritise?

What are the land management requirements? 

He and his team had the means of arriving at the answers at their fingertips because of the vast pool of knowledge that had already been gathered – going back decades – by the various groups that collected millions of pieces of data. Much of this data was available via the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Services (NBIS). 

Professor Dolman also emphasised how important it was that anyone with data, fed it into the pool of knowledge as every piece of information helped develop a complete picture.

Work from previous audits is already making an impact. The ground-breaking Brecklands audit was provoking some dramatic changes in biodiversity and, subsequently, soil health, while the more recent North Norfolk Coast Audit had raised awareness on how to deliver strategies most effectively for nature recovery.

Franky Rogers is the graduate who will be working at the coalface of data collection. She explained that her role was to gather, cleanse and validate the data, a process that was already well underway.

Dr Liam Crowther then dug down into the specifics of providing a varied habitat. He used the workable example of a dead tree versus a pile of dead wood. Both would provide natural habitat, but Dr Crowther demonstrated the added value to nature that the dead tree could provide. This came down to being precise about habitats – we know dead wood is a valuable resource, Crowther’s point was that some dead wood was more valuable than others.  

The role that land managers and farmers can play in this and the benefits that can come from enhancing natural assets was outlined by Dr James Gilroy.

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North Norfolk coast
The nncg is an umbrella organisation comprising of ...
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...farmers, landowners and trusts working with government agencies and local authorities...
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..who are involved in managing the land and waterways over much of North Norfolk.
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together the group can work to improve the biodiversity of the managed environment ...
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while farming or managing the land profitably and sustainably.

Partner NGO's

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Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The Norfolk Coast AONB is one of 46 AONBs across England. The charity aims to value and secure the natural beauty of the environment within its area of responsibility, ensuring that activities undertaken in the AONB have a positive impact.

It’s three objectives are to promote and enhance the natural beauty, including the physical, natural, cultural and built environment in and around the AONB; to promote education and appreciation in relation to the conservation and enhancement of the AONB; and to work with partners to positively impact the AONB.

The Norfolk Coast AONB includes the silt expanses of the Wash, the north-facing coastal marsh and dunes of the Heritage Coast and the high boulder clay cliffs east of Weybourne. The coast is backed by gently rolling chalkland and glacial moraine including the distinctive 90-m high Cromer Ridge.

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RSPB

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was formed in 1889 by Emily Williamson. It’s initial aim was to prevent the use of feathers from birds such as egrets, grebes and birds of paradise to be used in the fashion industry. The Society gathered momentum, widened its aspirations and was given a royal charter in 1904. Today it has a membership of well over a million and manages more than 200 nature reserves across the UK.

Using science and evidence, the RSPB has always centred its work on a thorough understanding of the natural world. The organisation identifies important problems, using science and natural science to discover their possible causes. They then work with partner organisations to find solutions and test them to measure success.

In recent years the RSPB has launched the Big Garden Birdwatch, which has over one million people taking part eery year in a huge display of citizen science. To find out more about the work of the RSPB, click the button

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Norfolk Wildlife Trust

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) is one of 46 wildlife trusts covering the United Kingdom. NWT was founded in 1926, making it the first Wildlife Trust in the country. It manages more than 50 nature reserves and other protected sites, as well as giving conservation advice to individuals and organisations.

The NWT reserves include twenty-six Sites of Special Scientific Interests (SSSI), nine national nature reserves, twelve Nature Conservation Review sites, sixteen Special Areas of Conservation, twelve Special Protection Areas, eleven Ramsar sites, two local nature reserves, four Geological Conservation Review sites and five which are in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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Norfolk Rivers Trust

Norfolk Rivers Trust (NRT) is an independent charity seeking to develop practical, cost-effective and long-term solutions to restore, protect and enhance water environments in Norfolk for people and wildlife.

The NRT has a team of ecologists and advisors who take a river catchment-based approach and work across Norfolk, plus the Cam and Ely Ouse catchment area. NRT works with a wide range of organisations including farmers, land owners and government bodies.

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Natural England

Natural England is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Natural England is responsible for ensuring that Englan’s natural environment, including land, flora and fauna, freshwater, marine environments, geology and soil are protected and improved.

At the same time, Natural England also has a responsibility to ensure that people enjoy and understand the natural environment.

Among its responsibilities, Natural England defines ancient woodlands, awards grants such as the Countryside Stewardship scheme and Environmental Stewardship, designates Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI).

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Norfolk Coast Partnership

The role of the Norfolk Coast Partnership is to manage the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on behalf of the four local authorities who share responsibility for it: Norfolk County Council, North Norfolk District Council, Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, and Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

The work of the Partnership balances the statutory duty of conserving and enhancing natural beauty with non-statutory requirements to meet the AONB’s social and economic needs. This means that protecting the landscape relies on a principle of sensitive management rather than on the attempt to preserve the area entirely unchanged.

The Norfolk Coast Partnership brings together representatives from a broad range of partner organisations and interest groups with a stake in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This includes: community representatives, tourist organisations, environment and conservation groups, cultural organisations and land managers.

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Norfolk Ornithological Association

The Norfolk Ornithological Association (NOA) owns a number of nature reserves in Norfolk. This ornithological society, founded in 1970, has its headquarters at the Holme Bird Observatory near Holme-next-the-Sea, which adjoins the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Holme Dunes reserve.

The Holme reserve has a range of different habitats and a number of nationally scarce plants. There is also a regular moth trapping programme. The observatory is in the North Norfolk Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest, an area additionally protected through Natura 2000, Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar listings, and part of the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

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National Trust

The National Trust is a charity and membership organisation for heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – Scotland has a separate National Trust for Scotland.

The National Trust was founded in 1895 to promote the preservation of buildings of historic interest and/or beauty.

The organisation, which gained statutory powers in 1907, owns almost 250,000 hectares (620,000 acres; 2,500 km2; 970 sq mi) of land and 780 miles of coast. Its properties include more than 500 historic houses, castles, archaeological and industrial monuments, gardens, parks and nature reserves.

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Acronyms

AONB – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

BTO – British Trust for Ornithology

CA – Countryside Agency

CLA – Country Landowners Association

CPRE – Council for the Protection of Rural England

CS – Country Stewardship

DEFRA – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

EA – Environmental Agency

ELMS – Environmental Land Management Schemes

FAWC – Farm Animal Welfare Council

FIPL – Farming in a Protected Landscape

FOFP – Focus on Farming Practice

FRCA – Farming and rural Conservation Agency

FSA – Food Standards Agency

FWAG – Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group

GWCT – Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

IEM – Institute of Environmental Management

LEAF – Linking Environment and Farming

LIFE – Less Intensive Farming and the Environment

LNR – Local Nature Recovery scheme

LR – Landscape Recovery

NERC – Natural Environment Research Council

NGO – Non-Governmental Organisation

NSA – Nitrate Sensitive Area

NT – National Trust

RCEP – Royal Commission on Environmental Protection

RPA – Rural Payments Agency

RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

SAFFIE – Sustainable Arable Farming for an Improved Environment

SFI – Sustainable Farming Incentive

SSSI – Site of Special Scientific Interest

SPA – Special Protection Area

TIBRE – Targeted Inputs for a Better Rural Environment

Members' Forum

This is a shared platform among members. Feel free to voice opinions, ask questions, share knowledge and give useful tips. The one rule: treat everyone within this group and their opinions with the same level of respect you would wish for.

Recommended by members

This section highlights businesses and individuals who have been recommended by group members when it comes to providing services for farmers and land managers. If you wish to recommend a Preferred Partner, then contact one of the team who will take your suggestion forward.

Activities

What’s Happening now? Data collection, group meetings and more…

Why would you join the NNCG?

The power of collaboration is huge and the NNCG is expanding both its membership base and the amount of hectares included in the project. It is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Within that membership there is a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be shared and tapped into. There is also the potential for increased negotiating power when sourcing services, increased trading powers – particularly in the field of environmental trades – and the ability to access government funding across the group or sub-groups. 

In addition

Nature does not respect boundaries, by working together group members can control and improve the environment on a landscape scale. 
 
At a time when the value of natural assets is being recognised at national level, the NNCG provides a single point of contact and a brand to market environmental benefits.
 
By being part of a single entity, you avoid duplication of effort in understanding and accessing new opportunities provided by environmental schemes.

Not overlooking...

The group facilities ambitious, large scale thinking.
 
At a time of rapid change within the agricultural sector, the group will keep members abreast of any new developments.
 
The NNCG works closely with academic partners, so group members will have access to and knowledge of the science behind environmental issues, thus helping land managers make decisions based on evidence.