Meet the 'matchmaker' of Nidderdale who finds farmers the financial help to realise their dreams

Caring about the countryside and farming it in order to make a living is a balancing act that Matthew Trevelyan knows a great deal about having done so on an organic farm in the North York Moors with his father for many years.

Matthew is now tasked with the role of Farming in Protected Landscapes (FIPL) officer for the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that is set to host a series of meetings in the coming weeks for farmers.

Matthew said he loves his job, which is all about bringing people together, bringing about new solutions and promoting new ideas.

“There are 44 FIPL areas in England and each Protected Landscape has a pot of money allocated from Defra.

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    Matthew Trevelyan with Wensleydale cheese producer and farmer Andrew Hattan

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    “It means we are local people at ground level helping out local farmers and landowners with funding for projects that they apply for and will enhance four main areas – either nature, people, climate or place.

    “I present the projects to our local panel, which is made up of local farmers and experts from Natural England. There are three farmers on our panel. It is working really well because projects are being assessed by people who know and understand the area, the land and the countryside.

    “We are quite likely to fund innovative ideas that don’t figure in other funding schemes and projects because they are innovative and therefore are not being funded elsewhere and because they are not as such regarded as part of the current legislation. By doing it this way we are encouraging new ideas being brought forward which I hope will influence ideas and standards in future.”

    Matthew said his own farming background helps.

    “I’m particularly keen on ideas that have a nature-friendly aspect but that are also good for a farming enterprise.

    “One example of funding made by a FIPL project has been where a farmer has used it to divide his farm up into new paddocks. You can get some grants already, under other stewardship schemes, for certain elements of doing this, either with electric fencing or reinstatement of historical boundaries or new boundaries, so that has been funded under what can’t currently be funded under a stewardship capital grant.

    “This particular farmer’s project was to fund the water supply for the livestock because by setting up the new paddocks water was a necessary requirement for his stock.

    “This was a prime example of how the funding assisted the farmer to his new system of farming and also assisted the nature and climate specifics of what we want to achieve through his regenerative farming approach.”

    Matthew said he sees the funding possibilities as wide ranging and that he is delighted to have such innovative farmers as Andrew Hattan involved and hosting the first of the coming weeks’ events, in Middlesmoor.

    “Andrew’s Stonebeck Wensleydale Cheese produced from his Northern Dairy Shorthorn herd is one of Nidderdale’s best examples in our area of how high nature value farming mixes with high quality food production and the event we are holding at Middlesmoor Village Hall on Tuesday 9 August will kick off much discussion about farming in this area and we hope will lead to many more funding projects from others.

    “Andrew is successfully producing a high quality product and is passionate about high quality food. His farming system is beneficial to nature, the climate and soil health. Being a farmer myself I really care about food production.”

    Matthew understands that every project takes time from initial concept to seeing it in action and that often new ideas flounder at an early stage because they have an initial cost to bear that the farmer can often see as stymying their idea at birth.

    “We really would like to see all farmers take the opportunity of accessing our funding. We don’t have bottomless coffers and this year it is currently getting more competitive but we still have opportunity for lots of grants in the final year of our current programme that runs to March 31 2024.

    “Myself and my team of two assistants are always very happy to come out and visit anyone who has the germ of an idea, so that we can put them on the right track to successfully achieving the funding and enhancing their farm enterprise at the same time as enhancing nature or the other main considerations.”

    He added: “Projects can often require permissions from other authorities too, so the quicker we know what a project may be, the quicker we can assist and look at helping with what is necessary.”

    Matthew said that of the nature projects that have been funded so far, he is particularly pleased with the Darley Beck Curlew Project for several reasons.

    “It is a monitoring project where we have farmers, ecologists and volunteers all involved. We’ve just seen the curlew breeding season finish. Stage 2 will fund the farmers to take evidence-based actions to make sure the curlews survive either through habitat creation such as scrapes or payment for late cutting of hay meadows or the use of electric fences to deter predators such as the fox. This is funding that wouldn’t be there without the FIPL money.”

    Matthew said other FIPL fundings have included small repairs to heritage buildings such as bridges and new opportunities for the public to learn more about and enjoy the countryside through The Wildish Club project.

    “It’s a low-cost idea where we have funded Lofthouse-based and well-known fly fisherman Oscar Boatfield who has put together various activities and workshops for those who want to get out of town and city life and explore the countryside landscape.”

    “We have already funded so much in Nidderdale. I absolutely love my job. I describe it to people that I’m a bit like a matchmaker, bringing people together and it feels like we are able to influence the future here.