Fenland SOIL were delighted to be a partner of the 14th Annual IUCN Peatland Programme Conference as it made its way to the lowlands for the first time. The conference, known for its dedication of advancing peatland conservation and research, featured a diverse range of discussions and presentations around the theme, “Beyond Restoration.”
Megan Hudson, General Manager, had the honor of representing Fenland SOIL at the 14th IUCN Peatland Programme Conference, held from October 3-5th 2023 at the Maltings in Ely.
Overall, the annual conference served as a collaborative platform where diverse stakeholders came together, learned from each other, and worked towards a common goal of preserving and managing peatlands sustainably. This multidisciplinary approach is essential for addressing the complex challenges associated with peatland conservation and management.
Day One of the conference saw fascinating plenary sessions from a wide range of speakers from across the 4 UK nations. Christopher Moses from Defra gave the England update along with colleagues from Natural England and the Environment Agency and reiterated the commitment from Defra to act on all 14 of the Lowland Agricultural Peat Taskforce Report from Robert Caudwell which were released earlier this year, with a particular focus on tackling water management challenges. The Environment Agency also highlighted the importance of a mosaic approach to managing our peatlands, as pioneered by Fenland SOIL in our Discovery Grant project work.
Day 2 saw Megan Hudson, Martin Hammond and Luke Palmer spent time hosting field trips to their farms and introduce delegates to the complexities of lowland agricultural peat. Fenland SOIL offered two fieldtrip offerings for the delegates, the first was in collaboration with the National Trust Wicken Fen team which saw a morning visit to understand the conservation work being carried out by the team and was followed up with a tour of Stretham Old Engine to learn more about the history of water management and a tour of the work being done at F C Palmer and Sons in Stretham.
The second offering saw the delegates visit the team at G’s Norfolk farms to learn about how they manage a higher water table alongside intensive vegetable production, hosted by Martin Hammond and Peter Sargeant. The delegates also visited Environment Agency colleagues at Denver Sluice and headed over to Welney Wetland Centre for the afternoon to learn about the extensive restoration works they have carried out.
Megan also presented during the final day workshop ‘Peatland Policy: a just transition for people and nature’ alongside representatives from DAERA and Scottish Government, representing the farming community in East Anglia, which prompted intense debate over how we manage these areas going forward and emphasised the complexity of the challenges facing lowland agricultural peat.
Reflecting after the conference Megan said; ‘It was fantastic to be involved with this conference and better still to have the IUCN delegates out on two of our Fenland SOIL member farms. There was some great discussion over the 3 days and I feel that delegates left Ely with a new understanding of the level of complexity in restoring lowland agricultural peat in this part of the world. Thank you to the IUCN team for highlighting the work we have been doing!’
For more information on the Peatland Programme you can locate the website via this link IUCN UK Peatland Programme (iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org)