Improving water quality in the Crookhurst Beck catchment

10th December 2020 - Ellen Catchment

The Crookhurst Beck catchment is a small lowland catchment which flows into the Solway Firth to the north of Allonby village. Streams in the catchment have struggled with water pollution issues, impacting on the bathing waters at Allonby.

Farmers and land managers have a crucially important role to play in improving water quality in rural areas, and we’ve been working with them in the Crookhurst Beck catchment over the last few years through various complementary strands of work, much of which has continued successfully through the pandemic.

Farming Rules for Water advice and soil testing

We’ve been visiting farms and providing practical one-to-one advice to improve awareness of the Farming Rules for Water – new regulations designed to protect water environments. 

We have also tested soil and manure samples to help farmers match the nutrients they apply to the needs of their crops and soil. Last winter we did these tests at 17 farms in the area, with five fields being tested at each. This winter’s soil sampling campaign is now well underway and we are pleased that many farmers have again asked for our support with soil sampling and nutrient planning. 

This work is funded by Natural Course.

Soil sampling 

Improving farm infrastructure

We also provide targeted support to improve farm infrastructure. Many farmers we are working with have upgraded their manure stores and fenced-off small streams. Preventing unrestricted livestock access to watercourses reduces bank erosion and faecal matter entering the water. 

Many more works are planned in the New Year, including installing livestock drinking troughs which will enable farmers to protect more watercourses, and reducing soil compaction using an aerator. Breaking up compacted soils allows more rainwater to soak through the soils surface, reducing overland run-off and the risk of nutrients washing into watercourses. 

This project is funded by the Water Environment Grant scheme through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.


A new slurry store (L) and the soil aerator (R)

Farmer meetings

Finally, we run monthly meetings where farmers in the catchment can get together as a group to share best practice and discuss new ideas. This forum has been running since 2016 and has been really valuable. Sadly, only three meetings have been possible this year due to COVID restrictions, but we’re looking forward to seeing the group on a regular basis again when we can in the future. 

Funding for this group is provided by the Rural Payments Agency.

A socially distanced meeting!