Late in September this year the Connecting the Culm project hosted a knowledge-sharing visit from our partners in the Interreg 2 Seas funded Co-Adapt programme. The CtC team coordinated the 2-day visit which, as well as a tour of the Culm included trips to the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Somerset and the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s exemplar farm on the Somerset Levels.

Representatives came from the Netherlands, Belgium and France and, together with our UK partners, we shared how we have developed the themes of Co-Adapt in our catchments: adapting to climate change; working with communities; and working with nature.

At Holnicote we met with Project Manager Ben Eardley who showed us two sites where the National Trust is trialling Stage Zero approaches to natural flood management. This involves creating more natural floodplains by encouraging water to flow across the land more of the time, leading to a wild and more natural ecosystem. They first tried this 2 years ago on a small stream and the results were dramatic – the picture below shows this Mudpool site and how the habitat has developed since.  Pigs and cattle are used in low numbers to manage the grassland and keep the many small water channels that develop from getting too well-established. The picture below shows Ben Eardley talking to the team at the NT’s Mudpool site.

A group of European visitors on a tour from the Interreg 2 Seas programme

At the second site the Trust is applying the same principles on the River Aller, moving thousands of tonnes of soil around on the floodplain to expand the floodable area – and the diggers were at work during our visit! (see picture below). Early next year the river channel will be filled in and the water will flow out onto this plain, reducing flood risk to the village of Allerbrook and creating an extensive new wetland in the process.

European visitors from the Interreg 2 Seas project

On the next day attention moved to the Culm where we visited two of our nature-based solutions sites near Hemyock. Over lunch in Hemyock Village Hall the partners saw the innovative co-creation and community engagement work we’ve been developing on the Culm (picture below).

People interacting with a river-themed creative activity

We then moved on to the Somerset Levels where our Dutch and Belgian partners felt much more at home. “At last”, said one, “I understand how this landscape works!” We explored this extraordinary landscape, much of which lies below sea level, and the work of the Somerset Wildlife Trust to demonstrate how the peat can be re-wetted to create a huge boost for wildlife and sequester carbon in vast quantities.

A group of people by a water channel in the Somerset Levels

Alongside these professional visits we also took our visitors to Sheppy’s Cider Farm near Wellington, where they discovered some of the many types of cider and the techniques that are used to make it; and later tried their hand at another very English tradition, pub skittles!

Our thanks to all our European and UK partners for a highly enjoyable and informative visit. Sadly Co-Adapt comes to an end by March 2023, but we have made good contacts across the channel and we are sure to keep in touch.