The organisation that exists to oversee the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is to encourage the essential rural skill of dry stone walling by subsidising training course fees for students in West Oxfordshire.

This year the Cotswolds Conservation Board will join forces with three grant funding bodies to help subsidise dry stone walling courses run by Abingdon and Witney College on the Cornbury Estate.

The Board will help cover the cost of course fees by administering grant funding from the West Oxfordshire Network Leader + Programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Ernest Cook Trust. The subsidy will reduce a £700 fee per student to a charge of just £150.

Walling students will be taught by members of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain and gain a Lantra Level 2 certificate which is a nationally recognised qualification.

Steve Billcliffe, Director of Development for Abingdon and Witney College, said that the college welcomed the support that the Cotswold Conservation Board is able to offer students:

"This innovative course will be attractive to many adult learners in the area and will help the rural economy of West Oxfordshire as well as preserve vital countryside skills for future generations."

It is hoped that local wallers and landowners will employ the trainees to help with their walls outside official course hours. Two sets of courses are to be held this year, one starting on 13th April and the other on 7th September.

For more information or to enrol on the course please contact Abingdon and Witney College's Admissions Office at Witney Campus on 01993 208110 or email


Notes to editors:

This is not the first time that the Cotswolds Conservation Board has subsidised rural skills course fees in this way. For the past two years, the Board has been working in partnership with the National Trust, Stroud College and the Cotswold branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association to subsidise dry stone walling course at the Ebworth Estate near Stroud.

The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is cared for by the Cotswolds Conservation Board - an independent organisation with 40 members, 17 nominated by local authorities, eight by parish councils and 15 appointed by Government.

The Cotswolds Conservation Board acts as an advisor to planning departments of the17 local authorities within the AONB.

The Government has designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks as our finest countryside and they are recognised as being of national importance.

With its rolling hills and valleys the Cotswolds is the largest of 40 AONBs in England and Wales and is protected to ensure that its beauty and special character are conserved. It covers 2,038 square kilometres (790 square miles), stretching from Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the north, through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, down to Bath and Wiltshire in the south.

The Leader + Programme is administered by West Oxfordshire Network, a partnership of local businesses, government and community organisations. They are able to offer grants of up to 50% of costs for innovative community-led projects, which meet local needs.

Abingdon and Witney College has recently completed a £2.7m development at its rural skills centre, Common Leys Farm, near Hailey. New teaching facilities have been built for Animal Care, Horticulture and Conservation Skills as well as a refurbishment project for the existing Equine School and Stud Farm.

Press contact: Claire Cunningham

Tel: 01451 862003

Cotswolds Conservation Board Fosse Way, Northleach, Gloucestershire GL54 3JH

Tel: 01451 862000 Website: