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Higher Level Stewardship Scheme showcases best practice in stream restoration

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RRC Visit to Longwater Lawn

A New Forest stream restoration project by the Forestry Commission has been nationally recognised as an example for others by the River Restoration Centre.

Restorating a stream that runs through Longwater Lawn, near Lyndhurst, is one of the first big projects under the New Forest’s £16 million, ten-year Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme, which was officially launched earlier this year by the HLS Partnership - the Verderers, the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park Authority.

In the late 1960s, the course of the stream from Beaulieu River was artificially straightened across Longwater Lawn. Meanders were blocked off and short stretches were dug to straighten the channel. All this left many artificial spoil heaps along the stream banksides, and increased flow rates which caused erosion. The Forestry Commission has restored the more eco-friendly benefits of the stream, by reconnecting the old meanders across the lawn, filling the stretches of artificial channel and levelling the spoil heaps.

Sarah Oakley, Ecologist at the Forestry Commission, explained:

“We are delighted with the results of this project - approximately 1,100 metres of restored meander have replaced 590 metres of artificial channel so we’ve almost doubled the stream’s length across the lawn! However, it is more than just a local success story; the project has attracted the interest of the River Restoration Centre (RRC) - a national information and advisory centre on all aspects of river restoration and enhancement, and sustainable river management – and we have received some extremely positive feedback from its members.”

20 members of the RRC visited the Longwater Lawn site last month to share knowledge and understanding of the restoration works. They included the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Wildlife Trust, as well as landowners and representatives from some of the UK’s leading habitat restoration consultancies.

Chris Caswell, Programme Manager for the HLS Scheme, said:

“Longwater Lawn is a real landmark project for this HLS Scheme for it delivers three of the five key objectives of the Scheme: landscape management, resource protection, biodiversity and nature conservation. Not only will this restoration improve grazing for the commoners but also, it will have a lasting effect on the aesthetic quality of an area already much enjoyed by the public. After all the hard work by Sarah Oakley, it is immensely satisfying that this project is recognised nationally, by experts, as an example of best practice.”

James Holloway, Projects Officer from the River Restoration Centre added:

“By reconnecting the relic meanders, the amount of channel habitat and water retained within the system has been instantly increased, and natural dynamic local erosion and deposition processes have been reinstated. The project partners have gone about the work in an admirably sensitive way, with due consideration to the many stakeholders in this ancient and cherished landscape.”



  1. The New Forest HLS agreement covers 20,000 hectares of The New Forest in Hampshire, an area that supports an internationally important mosaic of habitats that are managed for wildlife, underpinned by a unique commoning system. The Verderers of The New Forest are the signatory with the Forestry Commission, The National Park Authority and The Commoners Defence Association creating a delivery partnership that is working with Natural England. The agreement is paid at a currrent rate of £80 per hectare per annum for eligible land managed to deliver restoration of wood pasture, heathland and species rich grassland.  Over the ten year life of the project the HLS is likely to reach £16 million in annual payments. A significant part of this will directly support grazing on the open forest, the majority of remainder will be used for an extensive programme of habitat restoration projects with a schedule of works to improve the protection of historic sites and improve education and understanding of the forest. It is hoped that by coupling the finance with the bringing together of these key partners the scheme will create a lasting legacy of investment in The new Forest that will give sustainable benefits to its communities, wildlife, habitats and visitors  that lasts well beyond the life of the scheme, while also safeguarding the future of a viable commoning system.

  2. Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) is an environmental farming grant administered by Natural England which delivers over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland. The Environmental Stewardship grants deliver conservation of wildlife, maintain landscapes and natural resources and protect historical features. The South East already has over 4,000 live Environmental Stewardship agreements covering over 660,000ha. Through these agreements, over 17km of hedgerows, 5,000ha of arable margins (which is equivalent to 28km) and 14,500ha of overwinter stubbles are managed.

  3. The role of the Verderers of the New Forest is to protect and administer the New Forest's unique agricultural commoning practices; to conserve its traditional landscape, wildlife and aesthetic character, including its flora and fauna, peacefulness, natural beauty and cultural heritage;  and to safeguard a viable future for commoning.  The Verderers derive their offices, powers and responsibilities from an Act of Parliament in 1877 and subsequent Acts.  The Verderers Court comprises the Official Verderer, five elected Verderers representing the Commoners and four appointed Verderers: one each appointed by the Forestry Commission, DEFRA, the National Park Authority and Natural England. The post of Official Verderer is a statutory appointment made by Her Majesty the Queen. The Verderers work in conjunction with the Forestry Commission (which manages the Forest on behalf of the Crown), Natural England, and with owners of other areas of common land within the Forest, such as the National Trust.

  4. The New Forest National Park Authority works with partners to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities. It also has a duty to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park

  5. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For more information, visit

  6. New Forest Commoners Defence Association has, as its primary objective, to promote and safeguard the interests of Commoners, particularly with regard to the welfare of ponies, cattle and other agistered stock.

  7. Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. We conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. We increase opportunities to make the natural environment an enriching part of people's everyday lives, and improve its long-term security by contributing to the sustainable management of our natural resources. For more information see

    Paula Quigley or Louise Perfect at Grayling PR, tel 02380 382970 or email or
    Libby Burke at the Forestry Commission on 02380 286832