RSPB and United Utilities sign up to shared vision in the North West

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PHOTO CAPTION: Steve Mogford, CEO of United Utilities, and Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB, at Haweswater in the Lake District.

• CEOs at RSPB and United Utilities formalise working relationship
• Wildlife, water quality and local communities will all benefit through nature-based solutions
• Partnership will improve climate resilience and visitor experience at multiple sites across North West England

A remote hill farm at Haweswater in the Lake District today marked the agreement of a new shared vision for a conservation charity and a water company.

Naddle Farm sits within United Utilities’ Haweswater estate, the gathering grounds for the water supply of a quarter of the North West’s population.

Since 2011 the RSPB has been managing the land in partnership with United Utilities for the benefit of biodiversity, water quality and to develop a sustainable farming model for the future.

United Utilities CEO Steve Mogford and RSPB CEO Beccy Speight visited the farm and signed an agreement aimed at replicating its successes across other areas of United Utilities’ 56,000 hectare land holdings in the North West.

The Haweswater estate has been the site of a pilot project over the last ten years which is returning the land to a more natural state. In this way it is making the landscape more resilient to the challenges of a changing climate, while creating opportunities for sustainable hill farming and improving access for visitors. It includes award-winning schemes such as the re-meandering of Swindale Beck. The river, which had been artificially straightened some 200 years ago to increase grazing land, was put back to its original course, restoring important habitat for salmon, birds and insects, while reducing levels of silt being carried into the reservoir downstream.

Tens of thousands of trees have been planted and 29 miles of moorland drainage ditches have been blocked up to restore peat bogs, reduce soil erosion and lock up carbon. As part of a farming diversification trial into eco-tourism, wildlife hides have been created to help visitors enjoy the special creatures such as red squirrel, badger and pied flycatcher which are returning to the valley.

A new tree nursery is to be established at Haweswater as part of the partnership which will provide local employment and supply specialist upland trees, shrubs and arctic alpines to help the landscape restoration work continue.

United Utilities CEO Steve Mogford said: “On the surface we may seem to be two very different organisations, but we share a lot of the same goals. What we have learned together over the years is that what’s good for water is good for nature and good for people. Here at Haweswater we have demonstrated that nature-based solutions have a very real contribution to make as we meet the challenge of a changing climate – both in terms of weather patterns and the economic climate that our upland farmers find themselves in.

“Never has there been a more important time to formalise our commitment to partnership working. Together we can maximise the opportunities to increase the natural capital of our land holdings to deliver great water and more for the North West.”

The RSPB’s chief executive, Beccy Speight said: “Together the RSPB and United Utilities have been harnessing the power of nature to tackle climate change in some of our most iconic landscapes. Once restored, these places can lock in huge amounts of carbon, give us clean water, provide homes for endangered wildlife and help protect our homes from extreme weather. None of us can work on this scale alone and it is through innovative partnerships such as this that we can make the biggest difference and help to revive our world.”

Besides Haweswater, United Utilities and the RSPB already work together at Bowland in Lancashire, Dove Stone reservoir near Oldham and with Hafren Dyfrdwy at Lake Vyrnwy in North Wales.

Under the new shared vision, additional areas of opportunity could include help and support for farming tenancies, the creation and management of new wetland, peatland and woodland, and work to improve the visitor experience. The two organisations hope to tap into Natural Capital Markets including green finance initiatives and ELM schemes to fund beneficial land management projects.