How Worcestershire farmers are helping improve river health after Severn Trent grant    

20th June 2024

A Worcestershire farmer has shared how making changes on-farm is helping to improve the quality of drinking water and river health across the county.

Georgina Britten-Long grazes horses and sheep, and grows wheat, oilseed rape and field beans on the family’s lowland arable farm in Wichenford, which she manages with her daughter Savannah Edwards.

Georgina has run the family farm since 1986, but back in 2018 she made the decision to make some changes to the land and farming equipment – with the goal of doing more to help protect the local environment.

Through the Severn Trent Environmental Protection Scheme (STEPS), Georgina has received vital funding for watercourse fencing and precision equipment which helps prevent pesticide pollution, as well as funding to create habitats on farm to boost biodiversity. 

She said: “The whole process is simple, which is why over the last six years, I applied for funding multiple times. STEPS allows farmers to improve the local environment and water quality, as well as delivering real benefits to farm businesses.”

This year marks the tenth anniversary of STEPS, which provides funding to farmers for infrastructure and land management changes that prevent pesticides, nitrates and cryptosporidium from reaching watercourses.

In the past four years, the water company has awarded 101 STEPS grants in Worcestershire, worth over £763,000 for a range of items, including nine pesticide washdown areas and 31 cover crop applications.

Prospective parliamentary candidate for West Worcestershire, Dame Harriett Baldwin was given the opportunity to speak to Georgina and Savannah about the scheme and see first-hand how farmers are making the most of the funding. 

During a visit to Hill Farm, Dame Harriett was shown the precision equipment on an autosteer system on a tractor, which helps with more accurate driving, which in turn helps to minimise pesticide spraying. 

She also heard how farmers working with Severn Trent, have access to a 20-strong team of agricultural advisors – who provide support and advice across a range of issues.

 Dame Harriett said: “I recently met with the chief executive of Severn Trent, who told me about all the important schemes that the company is investing in, to improve our local environment.

"I was delighted to be invited to chat with Georgina and Savannah in Wichenford to hear how Severn Trent is working in partnership with farmers to make a real difference. 

"The Severn Trent support scheme is both helping our environment and also meaning that cricket bat willow is grown in the area - supporting a decades-long heritage of Worcestershire produced-bats.”

 Severn Trent’s partnership work with farmers also includes a Swap your Nozzle scheme – in which low drift nozzles are provided for free to reduce pesticide use. In Worcestershire, 31 farmers have already signed up for the scheme.

The water company has also worked with farmers to create or enhanced 140has of farm biodiversity in Worcestershire from 23 biodiversity STEPS applications.