Update Special 2010

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Summarising the achievements of the Board 2009/10

This newsletter provides a summary of the Cotswolds Conservation Board's Annual Review 2009/10.  A copy of the full Annual Review can be downloaded direct from the Cotswolds AONB website: www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk, or by clicking here.

Forces for change

  • The report entitled "The Future of Farming and Forestry in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty", which focused on the impact of climate change and globalization, was published in October 2009 and well received by the Board’s partners.
  • Over 80 people attended the Annual Forum and over 60 people attended the Farming Forum, held in February and March 2010 respectively. The events provided an excellent opportunity for the Board to highlight the findings of the above report and discuss with its partner organisations, local farmers and landowners how the AONB can help mitigate and adapt to climate change in the future.
  • The Board has promoted the idea of a strategic wildlife corridor based on the limestone grasslands and ancient woodlands of the Cotswolds escarpment to help wildlife adapt to climate change. Response has been very positive with both Gloucestershire and Avon Biodiversity Partnerships suggesting parts of the corridor as priority areas.

Conservation

Promoting rural skills

  • The Board’s rural skills programme continued to be enhanced with 18 courses offered in dry-stone walling, hedgelaying, green woodworking and thatching. The courses attracted over 150 participants.
  • The annual dry-stone walling competition was held with 21 participants, and the 10th anniversary of the hedgelaying competition was held, attracting 27 participants.
  • The functions of rural grants and rural skills were combined into one new post, leading to better co-ordination of activity in these areas.

Higher Level Stewardship

  • The Board successfully developed its advisory service for farmers and landowners on Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) and Farm Environment Plans. At the end of March 2010, a total of 6 applications covering a combined area of over 2,000 hectares had been submitted to Natural England on behalf of farmers in the AONB, equating to a combined potential value of over £800,000 of 10 years.
  • The Cotswold Farmland Bird Project continued to go from strength to strength during 2009/10. During the year, 59 farms were visited, covering 15,900 hectares, resulting in 54 Farm Environment Plans being approved. A total of 27 Higher Level Stewardship applications by farms were received and processed through to ‘live’ agreements.
  • To promote the benefits of HLS, 5,000 copies of a new leaflet aimed at farmers were produced and distributed in partnership with Natural England.

Ancient Woodland Management Project

  • The Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Project  (CAWP) continued to make good progress during 2009/10. A part-time project officer was appointed who initially focused on clarifying the area of woodland within the CAWP. It was found that there are 12,152 ha of woodland of which 6,600 ha are ancient woodland. 2,500ha are not covered by an agreement and up to 20ha have been lost to development since the 1980s. Ownership for 1500ha has been identified and owners contacted.

Managing deer

The Cotswolds Conservation Board and The Deer Initiative have published a new information leaflet about managing wild deer in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Voluntary Wardens continue good work

The Cotswold Voluntary Wardens continued to make a significant contribution to the activities of the Board and its primary purpose of conserving and enhancing the AONB. A total of 43,652 hours, valued at over £280,000 worth of staff time, was recorded by almost 300 volunteers – an increase of nearly 5% on the previous year. Almost 70% of these volunteer hours were focused on conservation activities.


Understanding and enjoying

Publications and publicity

  • Two editions of the Cotswold Lion newspaper were published and distributed to 110,000 people via a range of public outlets. A four-page Grants Supplement was also included with the Spring/Summer 2009 edition and 1,500 copies distributed to landowners, farmers and local communities.
  • Fifteen thousand copies of the Explore the Cotswolds by Public Transport guide were produced along with 12,000 copies of timetables for the Cotswold Way National Trail, North, Central and South Districts. A further 20,000 updated timetables were produced in December.
  • The quarterly Update newsletter was increased in frequency to a bi-monthly electronic newsletter, providing more timely news from the Board for its partners.
  • The Board and the AONB have appeared in numerous national, regional and local press articles, worth over £280,000.
  • Staff and voluntary wardens participated in four country shows during 2009 - the Cotswold Show, Festival of the Tree at Westonbirt, Moreton Show and Wychwood Forest Fair. Voluntary wardens attended a further 37 shows and gave 25 talks to a variety of groups.
  • The AONB website received 52,329 unique visitors and 79,766 total visits during 2009/10, while the Cotswold Way site received 50,518 and 78,879 visits respectively.  To help reach out to a wider audience, a profile page was set up on the social networking and microblogging site twitter.com.

Interpretation and education

  • The Board initiated the development of a new interpretation and information centre for the AONB in Northleach which is due to open in summer 2010 (opened 14 July). The new centre helps to tell the story of the Cotswolds AONB as well as promote the work of the Board.
  • Voluntary Wardens worked with over 300 pupils from 8 schools across the AONB to encourage a greater understanding of the countryside, nature and why the Cotswolds is a special place. The educational project involved a range of activities for pupils and teachers including fossil hunting, map reading, tree and lichen identification.
  • Two new locations were found for the Quantum Sheep interactive educational kiosks at Cotswold Farm Park and the Corinium Museum.

Sustainable Tourism

  • The Board officially registered as a candidate area for the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas. Work started on the development of a sustainable tourism strategy and action plan for the AONB and the establishment of a permanent working group for sustainable tourism.
  • Eleven tourism businesses from the AONB, plus West Oxfordshire Tourism Officers and Board staff attended a workshop in January 2010 as part of a South East Protected Landscapes sustainable tourism project aimed at raising the profile of protected landscapes as visitor destinations.
     

Walking and access

  • The voluntary wardens’ guided walks programme featured 277 walks throughout the year, attracting 3,546 participants.
  • The ‘My Countryside’ bid to Natural England for lottery funding through the Access to Nature Scheme was submitted in January. The ‘My Countryside’ project is aimed at helping people overcome the barriers that prevent them from enjoying the natural world.
  • The wardens completed two new circular and stile-free walking routes as part of the Step into the Cotswolds project.
     

Cotswold Way National Trail

  • A brand new set of circular walks, created with the help of the wardens, was launched to encourage more people to use the Trail.  The series of 12 walks was serialised in Cotswold Life magazine.
  • A new online Hall of Fame was launched in 2009 to recognize walkers who complete the 102 mile Cotswold Way.
  • An ongoing programme of maintenance and improvements resulted in better waymarking and infrastructure.
  • A new 20-page, colour brochure for the Cotswold Way National Trail was produced in 2009 and distributed with Cotswold Life magazine. An additional 5,000 copies were printed and distributed to visitor information centres. The brochure highlighted the many features, attractions and places of interest along the Cotswold Way.
  • A new education project was initiated to help teachers and children learn more about the nature, activities, history and landscape along the Cotswold Way National Trail. The web-based, interactive resource follows two distinct styles. One will be aimed at teachers and consist of formal curriculum-linked lesson plans, while the other will be aimed at children and parents and provide a series of informal, self-guided activities.
     

Strategic management and planning

National Grid Gas Pipeline

Whilst the Board was disappointed that its preferred route for National Grid’s natural gas pipeline between Wormington and Sapperton was not selected, it was pleased that its earlier objections led to a more robust assessment of alternative routes. In addition to securing a general community fund of £100,000 for projects in the vicinity of the pipeline, the Board has worked with National Grid to develop a dry-stone walling grants scheme worth £300,000 to restore and enhance walls within a wider pipeline corridor. It has also negotiated a grants scheme of around £86,000 targeted at a series of Board projects.


Planning Responses & Guidance

  • The Board gained statutory consultee status for National Planning Planning Statements and Nationally Significant Infrastructure Proposals.
  • During the year the Board formally commented on 76 planning and transport applications and policies, plus 9 on major land management policies, all of which had a significant potential impact on the AONB.

Policy and guidance

  • An abridged version of the Board’s position statement on The Management of Roadside Verges has been developed specifically for use by parish councils and other groups managing rural roadside verges in and around villages in the AONB.
  • A position statement on tranquility and dark skies was adopted by the Board.
  • A position statement on the keeping of horses and ponies in the AONB was published. The statement is aimed at raising awareness of the positive and negative impacts of equestrian management, promotes best practice and provides guidance for local authorities.

People and communities

Representing the Board

  • The Board continued to be represented on a number of organisations including, among others, the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Cotswolds & Forest of Dean Destination Management Organisation, Europarc Federation and the National Trails Staff Forum.
  • Last year, staff and Board members attended the following key events, strengthening links with partners across Europe:
    • National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Conference, in Northern Ireland.
    • Association of National Park Authorities (ANPA) conference in Snowdonia.
    • Europarc Federation Conference in Sweden.
    • Europarc Volunteer Co-ordinators’ Workshops (Grundtvig Project) in Italy
       

New website for the Friends

The Friends of the Cotswolds, a charity of eight directors who work to raise funds towards conserving and enhancing the AONB, launched a new website to encourage donations and raise awareness of their work.  www.friendsofthecotswolds.org


Norwegian visit

A group of 38 Norwegians from the Telemark Canal area visited the Cotswolds AONB in October to find out more about the work of the Board including strategic planning, local distinctiveness and tourism.


Letter of support

The Board was very encouraged to read the letter by David Cameron MP in March, published in the Spring edition of the National Association for AONBs publication, Outstanding, confirming his support for AONB's and Conservation Boards.


Forum for Partners

Two Forums for Partners were held during 2009.  The events were held at the Moreton Area Centre and Westonbirt Arboretum, and attracted over 50 representatives from partner organisations.


Cotswold Voluntary Wardens Conference

The Cotswold Voluntary Wardens Annual Conference was held on 9 October and attended by over 90 wardens, Board members and staff.  The theme of the event was farming past, present and future and was organised around this topic with the aim of increasing wardens' knowledge of this subject.


Managing special landscapes in other countries

Martin Lane, the Board’s Director secured a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship in 2009 to enable him to look at the governance arrangements for the management of protected landscapes in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.


Sustainable Development Fund

Eight local community projects were supported by the Board’s Sustainable Development Fund. Over £30,000 of funding was awarded to projects worth over £200,000 in total.