Nature will be protected and enhanced on an unprecedented scale, with the formation of a pioneering new landscape-scale partnership of farmers in the Hampshire Avon Valley.

Expected to cover over 40,000ha – or around one third the area of all England’s National Nature Reserves - the Environmental Farmers Group (EFG) is the first of its kind in the UK, with 80 farmers united to deliver biodiversity recovery, clean water in the River Avon, and net zero farming by 2040.

Harnessing the enthusiasm of seven existing Farmer Clusters in the Avon catchment, the potential of the new agri-environment Schemes, and future environmental trades, the EFG will utilise opportunities to mitigate carbon consumption, offset biodiversity loss, and reduce phosphate and nitrate levels in watercourses while continuing to produce food.

The new group will offer organisations looking for large-scale environmental trades the advantages of dealing with one body, rather than lots of individual farmers, and the opportunity to benefit from access to recognised scientific monitoring, supported by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

Teresa Dent CBE, Chief Executive of the GWCT, said:

“This is a very inspiring development which allows the farmers to drive how they will collectively deliver the environmental goods and services that government and society wants into the future.

By co-ordinating at real scale [this is the biggest chalk stream catchment in England at 170,000ha], they can be ambitious about what they want to achieve and be fairly rewarded for their efforts.

"I am particularly excited that the farmers are developing a conservation plan for the whole catchment looking at how to achieve their environmental ambitions.

"This is the first time that farmers have come together at this scale to benefit conservation."