Waveney and Little Ouse Landscape Recovery

Image credit: Environment Agency

Image credit: Environment Agency

Landscape Recovery

WaLOR logo

The Waveney and Little Ouse Recovery (WaLOR) Project is a Landscape Recovery, funded by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs), that aims to enhance the natural heritage of the landscape and combat declines in biodiversity, whilst performing climate enhancing changes.


What can we offer buyers and investors?

Our project is reliant upon a blended finance approach, which means as a project we are looking for buyers of our ecosystem services and investors in our landscape vision. The figure below details our estimated ecosystem services from our nature led landscape recovery plan.

WaLOR Ecosystem Services

The Waveney and Little Ouse Recovery project are now ready to begin engaging and negotiating corporate requirements with buyers and investors in our landscape. Whilst we have quantified the services listed above, we are open to discussion on other interests such as measures of biodiversity increase that would also be witnessed alongside our other quantified benefits in a restored landscape. If you or your business is considering or actively looking into the ecosystem services market and would like to help us to make a landscape scale difference for nature, please contact project manager Daniel Wade: daniel.wade@suffolkwildlifetrust.org

Led by Suffolk Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the Environment Agency, the WaLOR Project is a specific initiative within the UK Landscape Recovery pilot program that focuses on the restoration and enhancement of the Waveney and Little Ouse river catchments on the Suffolk/Norfolk border.

The project, which began its pilot phase in 2022 (with this phase running until the end of 2024), brings together a range of stakeholders, including landowners, farmers, local communities, and conservation organizations. It seeks to address various environmental challenges in the area, such as habitat degradation, water pollution, and declining biodiversity by implementing landscape-scale restoration. This could include creating and restoring of wetland habitats, enhancing of river corridors, improving water quality, and encouraging sustainable land management practices.

River catchment before and after landscape scale recovery - click to enlarge:

The project also aims to engage with local communities and to raise awareness of the importance of landscape recovery and biodiversity conservation - encouraging the public to participate through volunteering opportunities, education programs, and community involvement in decision-making processes.

A large part of making the WaLOR Project viable will be taking a blended finance approach, whereby nature-based solutions and ecosystem services are quantified and investment is sought to fund sustainable options on project land parcels which benefit both the environment and the landowner. By demonstrating this approach in action, and outreaching to others, we hope to encourage wider uptake across the country and more security in the approach for those currently uncertain about the future of the UK’s agri-environment.

Floodplain before and after landscape scale recovery - click to enlarge:

What is ‘Landscape Recovery’?

Landscape recovery refers to the process of restoring and revitalizing natural or human-altered landscapes that have been degraded, damaged, or negatively affected by factors such as natural disasters, pollution, deforestation, mining, or unsustainable land use practices.

The goal of landscape recovery is to reestablish the ecological balance, biodiversity, and functionality of the landscape - whilst also providing social and economic benefits to local communities.

What does ‘Landscape Recovery’ mean in a DEFRA context?

In the UK, the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme has been developed to promote sustainable land management practices and support landscape recovery efforts across the UK; in response to the environmental challenges faced by the UK, such as habitat loss, soil degradation, water pollution, and declining biodiversity

The ELM scheme, which is set to be fully implemented by 2024, aims to reward land managers for delivering public goods, such as improving soil health, enhancing biodiversity, reducing flood risks, and promoting carbon sequestration.

DEFRA Landscape Recovery pilots

The WaLOR Project is an initiative within the UK Landscape Recovery pilot program.

The UK Landscape Recovery pilot program, initiated by DEFRA, serves as a platform for testing and refining approaches to landscape-scale environmental projects - and focuses on developing innovative, evidence-based strategies for landscape recovery and conservation.

The WaLOR Landscape: A study

Prior to the WaLOR project, an extensive study was performed to gather information on the natural assets of the landscape between Diss and Knettishall. It investigates the potential for restoring wildlife sites and reconnecting them through new habitat corridors and expansion of existing sites. For the full report and further information please visit the link below:


Our project aims

Through collaboration with our landowner group, the WaLOR project has agreed four aims:

  1. Reconnect the landscape as much as possible through landscape scale changes.
  2. Provide the opportunity to halt and reverse species declines locally, especially including those associated with riverine and wetland habitats.
  3. Discover and produce a viable business opportunity for investment through nature and climate focused industry through blended finance.
  4. Engage positively with the local community and provide a glowing example of how landscape recovery can be the future for Agri-environment schemes.

How will we achieve our aims?

During the pilot phase of the project, we are working closely within the DEFRA guidelines to produce financeable options for our landowner group that will allow for investment in ecosystem services and nature-based solutions.

WaLOR workstream flowchart

WaLOR workstream flowchart

We are currently working towards the following:

  1. To establish a baseline of existing habitats for the terrestrial and riverine habitats within the project.
  2. To establish quantified scenarios for uplift in the habitats of the area including calculations for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and Carbon sequestration (through Wilder Carbons Carbon+ Tool). We will also quantify how changes effect the flow of water and nutrients into the riverine system from the catchment.
  3. To develop a Stakeholder Engagement Plan that will identify the current level of connection the local population has with the landscape, and to suggest how best to increase the utility of nature to the people in a sustainable way.
  4. To identify and interact with potential investors and buyers of ecosystem services and understand the requirements from both landowner and investor perspectives.
  5. To liaise and collaborate with other local partner organisations to ensure those that share our vision have their say in our plans and help turn them into a reality.
  6. To work with the landowners to form a legal entity capable of accepting and processing investment for ecosystem services and nature-based solutions.

As part of the project, we are also ensuring landowners are given impartial and confidential farm impact advice, to help each landowner summarise and make clear decisions on the costs, risks, and benefits of entering into agreements as part of our landscape recovery project.

WaLOR blended finance

WaLOR blended finance

Key challenges

As with any new or emerging system, there are a few challenges and hurdles that need to be addressed for the project to be most successful:

  1. Licenses and permissions

One of the first challenges the project wished to address is what level of licencing and permissions will be required to make positive landscape impacting changes in the river valley. By working closely with the Environment Agency throughout the project (including them as our government liaison) we hope to understand the time scales for truly impactful changes as soon as possible and be able to feedback to DEFRA on any timing mismatches that may delay project deliveries early. We hope this early scoping will help DEFRA in their delivery of Landscape Recovery projects on a national scale. We have also begun and plan to escalate similar engagement with Natural England and Forestry England.

  1. Agricultural Property Relief

Agricultural Inheritance Tax, also known as Agricultural Property Relief (APR), is a tax relief scheme in the UK that aims to reduce the inheritance tax burden on agricultural land and property. It allows qualifying assets, such as farmland and farm buildings, to be passed on to the next generation without incurring significant inheritance tax liabilities.

However, for those interested in entering into permanent environmental changes such as woodland creation, Agricultural Inheritance Tax can pose a challenge. By restoring ecosystems and allowing nature to reclaim agricultural land, which often means transitioning away from traditional agricultural practices, the status of this tax reprieve is currently uncertain.

The issue arises because Agricultural Inheritance Tax relief is designed primarily for active agricultural land and working farms. It may not apply or provide significant relief for land that is transitioning focus to ecosystem services and nature-based solutions. This can create a financial barrier for individuals or families looking to diversify their land use and contribute to environmental conservation efforts.

To address this, many of the options we will be suggesting to landowners will have some form of agricultural elements (which may be for multiple reasons not just this alone) such as grazing land with livestock, often with breeds adapted to the landscape they will be present upon. However, in some scenarios, there may be areas where producing a crop on an area of land is both non-productive economically and poor for the environment, but important purely for the tax break. In these scenarios it will be important for the government to address how we define productive land perhaps expanding it for commodities such as carbon and biodiversity.

The government has called for open consultation and evidence on the matter of ‘Taxation of environmental land management and ecosystem service markets’ which closed on the 9th June 2023. We hope that this will clear up some of the issues addressed above at a timescale which suits the project.

  1. Stacking finance options

Whilst the transition of finance options and including private investment to support public funding through agri-environment schemes has been talked about a lot, clarity is still forthcoming to exactly how payment structures will be governed and what set of options are available to each landowner.  A summary link is found below to explain the 3 core concepts behind packaging payments for ecosystem services, ‘Piggy backing’, ‘Stacking’ and ‘Bundling’.

Read more information on the government website:


Who is managing the project?

Daniel Wade is the WaLOR Project Manager at Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Daniel Wade is the WaLOR Project Manager at Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Daniel has been working for Suffolk Wildlife Trust since October 2021 where he began as Technical Officer working within the Wilder Landscapes Team. Between March 2022 and March 2023, Daniel went on secondment to the Broads Authority working as Peat Project Officer on the Broads Peat Project (https://www.broads-authority.gov.uk/looking-after/projects/nature-for-climate-peatland-grant-scheme-discovery-grant), helping guide the way to carbon focussed habitat regeneration in the Broads National Park. Daniel has been the Waveney and Little Ouse Landscape Recovery Project Manager since January 2023 and brings the experience of the Broads Peat Project role to help guide our path through this Landscape Recovery pilot.

Whilst currently finalising his PhD on avian influenza in wild birds, Daniel has worked as a field ecologist prior to his role with Suffolk Wildlife Trust, including exciting stints in Sweden, Honduras and India. Daniel’s core passions within the field include migration ecology and habitat restoration.


Payne, W., Wade., D., Hartley, I., Shemmings-Payne, J., (2023) An evaluation of thermal imaging as a tool for assessing occupancy of enclosed nests, Ringing and Migration, https://doi.org/10.1080/03078698.2022.2160788

Wade, D., Ashton-Butt, A., Scott, G., Reid, S, M., Coward, V., Hansen, R, D, E., Banyard, A, C., Ward, A, I., (2022) High pathogenicity avian influenza: targeted active surveillance of wild birds to enable early detection of emerging disease threats, Epidemiology and Infection, 151, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0950268822001856

Broughton R, K., Bullock, J, M., George, C., Gerard, F., Maziarz, M., Payne, W, E., Scholefield, P, A., Wade, D., Pywell, R, F., (2022) Slow development of woodland vegetation and bird communities during 33 years of passive rewilding in open farmland, PLOS One, 17(11), https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0277545

Wade, D., Waters, C., Baxter R., (2019), Seychelles House Snake (Lamprophis geometricus) dietary note, Herpetological Review, 40(8): 802.