Event type:
Virtual Conference
Date and time:
Microsoft Teams
SMS event

This virtual event aimed to highlight best practice, accomplishments & outcomes achieved under Sustainable Management Scheme (SMS), Rural Communities - RDP 2014 - 2020.

The day provided an opportunity to bring project partners and others together to share best practice and to stimulate ideas and discussions. The event served as a platform to showcase how project partnerships are delivering collaborative, landscape scale, sustainable land management; successfully implementing nature based solutions to tackle the challenges we are facing and to improve our natural resources for the benefit of the people in Wales.

The event attracted significant interest from stakeholders, with over 90 people joining us online.

Event Highlights

The event opened at 10am, with a Welcome and Introduction from Catherine Hughes (Powys Moorland Partnership) & Sian Roberts (Cazbah Ltd).

Delegates took the opportunity to watch several Live SMS project presentations during the day, along with project videos, and an invitation to listen to a podcast from a project reflecting on their work.

The event was very interactive, with delegates posing interesting and thought provoking questions to project presenters whenever the chance was given.

At 11am, delegates observed a 2 minutes silence to commemorate Armistice Day.           

A lively discussion was chaired by Catherine Hughes, sharing project achievements & lessons learnt from the SMS projects. The following points were brought up during the session which evoked further discussions amongst delegates:

  • Delegates were keen to see that SMS could be used to inform the Sustainable farming scheme 
  • Delegates asked for opportunities to be part of pilot studies for a Sustainable farming scheme 
  • Positive acknowledgements of the wide ranging huge scale activities and outputs that the projects have delivered through the SMS
  • Further support from Welsh Government is needed to continue this new way of working to support the principles of SMNR
  • The importance of collaboration and rural engagement 
  • Looking at innovative methods including PES for the future
  • More support is needed for collaborative bottom up designed strategic landscape scale projects, and for Welsh Government to appreciate the need to follow this approach in the future of rural development.

A breakout session was held; delegates were split into 6 groups to discuss the following topic headings:

1.    Ecosystem resilience 
2.    Collaborations and needs going forward
3.    Health & wellbeing 
4.    Working at landscape & catchment scale 
5.    Monitoring & Evaluation
6.    Community engagement & rural community development (Bilingual group)

Feedback from the breakout sessions included the following comments:

  • The Importance of taking a place based approach 
  • Future schemes need to look at payments to farmers/landowners as currently their involvement is through goodwill, their local knowledge is key
  • Need for a holistic approach but also recognise the need to focus on specific issues
  • Need for a Landscape Approach as SMS supports throughout other areas of WG
  • Need for a strategic approach when it comes to flood management
  • Need for new developments to include flood alleviation features
  • Positive comments such as SMS brought people together to achieve multiple goals across landscape scales 
  • The importance of nature based solutions and the flexibility for farmers to feel involved and having a choice on implementation of capital works 

The event closed at 3:15pm, following closing remarks from Catherine Hughes, Sian Roberts, and a thankyou to all presenters, organisers, and attendees from Nicola Thomas (Acting Deputy Director of Environment and Communities Division, Welsh Government).

The general positive atmosphere throughout the day and the constant attendee online interaction suggested that the event was a worthwhile networking and sharing experience for all those involved.

Links to Event materials:

Managing Resources Sustainably in the Black Mountains

Lead organisation: Brecon Beacons National Park Authority
Email: Louise.Moon@beacons-npa.gov.uk 
Grant Award: £1,004,155
Location: Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons National Park

A collaborative project from the Black Mountains Land Use Partnership, engaging local landowners, graziers and regulatory bodies it aims to bring about positive social, economic and environmental change through the implementation of cooperative and sustainable land management across the black mountains landscape. Project activities will include bracken management, heather regeneration and the protection of peat resources. Planned improvements to livestock access will help with stock management and provide a better visitor experience to the area. The focus will be on peatland and bracken management in tandem with improving the visitor experience in the area and engaging local communities who will be involved through developing a rural skills programme, engagement with schools and the creation of employment opportunities.

Powys Moorland Partnership
Lead organisation: Ireland Moor Conservation Ltd
Email: will@irelandmoor.com  
Grant Award: £600,000
Location: Powys

A landscape scale project to encourage moorland restoration through bottom up collaborative action driven by communities living and working on and around the moors. It seeks to realise multiple benefits including public health, skills sharing and education. Key stakeholders including landowners, farmers, and communities will create a vibrant moorland environment to boost biodiversity, delivering economic and social benefits. It is hoped to create an exciting strategic initiative in Powys and realise the full potential of nearly 20,000 acres of moorland stretching from the Llanthony Valley in the south of the county to Beguildy common in the north, which can be enjoyed by communities as well as attracting tourism and new business opportunities to boost rural employment and stimulate rural economy.

  • 11:05 - Project Presentation -  Lewis Stallard - 

Farming the Gwent Levels Sustainably
Lead organisation: RSPB Wales
Email: Jonathan.Cryer@rspb.org.uk and Lewis.Stallard@rspb.org.uk
Grant Award: £ 554,953
Location: South East Wales Wetlands.

This collaborative project includes RSPB Wales, Natural Resources Wales and the Gwent Wildlife Trust working closely with farmers and other partners to develop the understanding, knowledge, skills and experience need to deliver the sustainable management of natural resources within the Gwent Levels.

Participating farmers and project partners will take action to improve the natural resources in the area, particularly water and soil management. Actions to deliver these outcomes include habitat improvement and creation, offering significant potential to improve soil condition, and establishing habitat strips for pollinators, which will also act as buffers alongside watercourses. Taking advantage of the flat geographical nature of its area the project seeks to maximise opportunities for traffic free cycling, as well as existing access and recreation facilities on farms, and creation of new facilities.

Fferm Ifan Ecosystem Service Improvement Scheme
Lead organisation: Fferm Ifan
Email: ffermifan@gmail.com  
Grant Award: £696,352
Location: Upper Conwy Area

A collaborative farmer led project taking landscape scale action on land management to improve ecosystem resilience and the services they provide. A cooperation of 11 farmers, Fferm Ifan seek to improve and manage natural resources in a more sustainable and efficient way. The project covers approximately 2,456 Ha and includes new targeted land management actions which will also deliver socio-economic benefits to the 11 farms and to the wider rural community Fferm Ifan live within.

  • 11:50 Project Presentation - 

Realising the Natural Capital of Welsh Peatlands

Lead organisation: Snowdonia National Park Authority
Email: Rachel.Harvey@eryri.llyw.cymru 
Grant Award: £ 924,956
Location: Pan Wales

A project, taking collaborative action with stakeholders, including communities, to transform and improve peatlands across Wales. Improvements include ecological stability and long-term sustainable management of peatlands. It is hoped to deliver the project on spatial (e.g. catchments) and sectoral (e.g. protected sites) scales, as well as developing the expertise and capacity of partners to deliver peatland restoration. This project will help deliver the 2020 target to bring peatlands into Sustainable management. Coordinated action will deliver multiple environmental benefits through collaboration with existing mechanisms together with capital works covering the current ‘difficult to do’ sectors of peatland restoration, leading to longer term sustainable management supported through payment for ecosystem services (PES). Other critical activities will lead to more coordinated and coherent approaches covering external funding, training, education, PES procurement, monitoring and research activities relevant to Welsh peatlands.


  • 13:30 Breakout session -  


Dolau Dyfi Meadows

Lead organisation: Pont Cymru
Email: julia.korn@pontcymru.org 
Grant requested: £ 467,114
Location: Lowland area of the Dyfi catchment, Gwynedd

This collaborative project is focused on joining up natural resources with health and well-being benefits in the Dyfi area. The collaboration includes Local Authorities, landowners, Snowdonia National Park Authority, RSPB, Montgomery Wildlife Trust and Keep Wales Tidy and aims to grow as the project develops with input from the public and surrounding communities. The area has seen a dramatic loss of its lowland semi-natural grassland, and it also has a higher than Wales/UK prevalence (%) of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health.

The project aims to help tackle these challenges by improving targeted areas of the landscape and connecting people with nature. Investment will be made in 35 areas to improve habitat management and facilitate sustainable grazing to help enhance ecosystem resilience. Investment will also be available for access works and promotion, encouraging locals and visitors to use the outdoors and create safe spaces and enjoyable places to visit. Further activities include establishing a local volunteer network, art projects and a potential “walking to health” programme. Project beneficiaries include farm businesses and rural communities, including through the employment of local contractors and boosts for local tourism businesses.

Tir a Môr Llŷn – Land and Sea
Lead organisation: Cyngor Gwynedd Council
Email: arweljones@gwynedd.llyw.cymru 
Grant Award: £700,000
Location: Llŷn Peninsula

This collaborative project led by the Llŷn Landscape Partnership brings together statutory, environmental, economic and social groups. The project is centred on addressing the challenges impacting on the natural resources in the area. Communities within the Llŷn Peninsula rely on and benefit from their natural resources.

This project therefore aims to maintain and expand a continuous strip of diverse habitat around the coastline, working with farmers to create connectivity corridors linked to the Wales coastal path, opening up recreational opportunities, benefitting health. It will also develop good practice in catchment management and invasive species control, producing significant economic and social benefits when allied to agricultural improvements and to socio-cultural resources such as the Wales Coast path. 

The Project will also be exploring the concept of ‘payment on outcomes’ with the help of three National Trust farms. The aim is to create a model and encourage the wider community to pilot and run the new approach. The Partnership has developed a collaborative and cooperative approach on a local level, allowing all involved to engage, develop and implement practical work plans quickly and seamlessly. The Partnership will build trust and positive collaborative working in the area to help deliver this project. Time will be spent on engaging the wider community through holding local events and engaging local schools to raise awareness of the benefits of the work.

  • 15:00 Project Video - Dunes 2 Dunes  - Sustainable Management of Bridgend Coastal Landscape - Bridgend County Borough Council

Dunes to Dunes: Sustainable Management of Bridgend
Coastal Landscape
Lead organisation: Bridgend County Borough Council
Email: Mark.Blackmore@bridgend.gov.uk
Grant Award: £312,541
Location: Kenfig National Nature Reserve, Bridgend

The focus of this project spreads across and between the dune landscapes of the Kenfig Burrows and Merthyr Mawr Warren dune systems in South Wales. The projects aims to build a lasting collaboration of land and reserve managers, land owners, users and beneficiaries to help achieve the sustainable management of this coastal landscape to improve biodiversity and provide benefits to the local community. Habitat management works will help improve the resilience of the dunes ecosystem with increased biodiversity, better connectivity and stability being the main focus. The project will improve the look and accessibility of the area for visitors and enhance their experience through better signposting and advertising of walking routes and attractions. The project aims to maximise the health and well-being opportunities of the area through accessible well-maintained walking routes and quality green spaces. The project will also work collaboratively with local businesses such as the Golf club supporting them with their ongoing sustainable performance with the ambition to achieve the GEO Certified Eco label. Work will also include woodland planting and harvesting and exploring the potential to use the wood as a renewable fuel source.