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Retaining the environmental gain- Protecting reverted monuments and farmer attitudes to monuments in cultivation - LM0427

Agri-Environment Schemes provide funding to farmers and land managers in England to help them deliver effective environmental management on their land. One of their primary objectives is to protect the historic environment, including archaeological features and traditional buildings.

Arable reversion of cultivated land to grassland has the potential to contribute to many environmental objectives, including biodiversity, landscape character, resource protection for soils and waters, and carbon storage, and it is a key option within all AE Schemes (ESA, CSS and ES) delivering protection to archaeological monuments at risk from cultivation. Prescriptions are available to revert land both to improved and unimproved grassland, and by a variety of means such as sown swards or natural regeneration.

Throughout all of the AE schemes, there has been notable success in reverting high risk archaeological monuments to grass. However, many of the original CSS and ESA scheme agreements will expire shortly, and it is believed our successor scheme (ES comprising Entry Level and Higher Level Stewardship) may not continue to secure the protection of those monuments located in predominantly arable areas or intensive stocking areas.
1. Understand the scale, location and value of arable reversion undertaken to date through the following:
• Quantify and map reversion to date and analyse by geology, land classification, by ES, CSS and ESA scheme and by land management option
• Identify the primary objective for reversion and any known secondary objectives (biodiversity, landscape character, Resource Protection and access)
• Resource protection, biodiversity, landscape character, facilitating public access)

2. On the basis of the data gathered above identify and agree a series of in-depth survey areas based on :
• scheme,
• land management option,
• expired agreements
• farming type and
• historic environment resource.

3. Assess the risks to reverted monuments and understand the factors influencing farming decisions through the following:
• Develop and agree a survey questionnaire designed to gather information regarding farming decisions around arable reversion including but not limited to: Farming systems and practicalities; Environmental Concerns; Tradition; Economics; Legal Considerations, and Sources of Information, help and advice

4. Based on the results of Objectives 1 to 3
• Identify (agree number) of farms where arable reversion has been undertaken for the HE for on-site survey and gain all necessary consents including statutory consents.
• To better understand the risks to reverted monuments excavate a series of trial pits by hand to assess soil formation, health and compression post reversion, soil depth post reversion, likely ploughing depth and the anticipated impact on the underlying archaeological resource.
• Assess the success of the reversion in developing a species rich sward.
• Assess the potential the reversion has to deliver on other environmental objectives.

5. Based on the results of objectives 1 and 2, define absolute barriers, identify those that can be overcome and assess the level of engagement required to maintain the benefits accrued through arable reversion by:
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : LM0427 Arable reversion Final report   (1463k)
• TPS - Two Page Summary : LM0427 2pg sum final   (260k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2013

Cost: £30,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Environmental Stewardship              
Historic Environment