April/May 2011: Latest news from the Cotswolds AONB

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The latest news from the Cotswolds Conservation Board

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Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Project.

The Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Project was launched in 2008 to promote the grant aid available to woodland owners, seek the restoration of plantations to native broadleaf cover and to generate English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) applications within the Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Priority Area (CAWPA).

To date there have been two phases of the project, a six week contract with a forestry consultancy and a two year part-time secondment from the Forestry Commission.  So far the project has directly generated 21 EWGS covering 367.16ha of ancient woodland worth a total of £388,259.00.

However, there have been other successful EWGS applications from within the CAWPA not made by project staff but possibly as a result of promoting the project, the grants available and contact by project staff.  Incorporating these figures, the grand total for the CAWPA, including the above, is 102 EWGS covering 1,270.36ha worth £1,441,219.42.00. This includes 92ha of Planted Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS) restoration.

The CAWP has been a great success and clearly demonstrates the value of pro-actively identifying and contacting woodland owners. The project has also identified that some woodland owners will take time to decide to apply for EWGS, anything up to 2 years or even more after an initial contact or meeting.

The project is expected to continue until December 2011.

Cotswold Farmland Birds Project

The Cotswold Farmland Birds project is one of 4 sister projects under the umbrella of the South West Farmland Birds Initiative launched in April 2008. The other 3 are in the North Wessex Downs, South Wiltshire and Dorset. The aim of the project is to reverse the decline in farmland birds, focusing on six farmland specialists, the ‘Arable Six’ - Grey partridge, Lapwing, Turtle dove, Yellow wagtail, Tree sparrow and Corn bunting.

Through the use of agri-environment schemes or independently, land managers are encouraged to adopt measures that provide nesting habitat, summer and winter food (the ‘Big 3’) for farmland birds. This includes beetle banks, field corner management, wildlife seed mixtures, skylark and fallow nesting plots, conservation headlands, un-cropped/cultivated margins, low-input spring crops followed by over-winter stubble.

The Cotswold Farmland Birds Project has so far delivered:

  • Over 130 one-to-one farm visits made with most farmers showing a strong interest in the project
  • 54 live agreements, each delivering on average 10% arable options – way above the 7% ask
  • Approx 31,000ha under agreement delivering around 2,500ha of key arable options
  • 20 applications in progress - based on the willingness to deliver key environmental stewardship in-field arable options on an area equivalent to 7% of their arable area/1 km square
  • 27 events run at which the Project Officer has either given a talk or led a farm walk – with 500 attendees
  • Total ‘live’ HLS agreement spend in the Cotswolds: £3.5 million

There is still much interest being generated across the Cotswolds and it is hoped to continue the project until March 2012.


Funding approved for walling training scheme

The Ernest Cook Trust has just approved a grant of £9,888 for the Board to deliver Lantra level 3 dry stone walling training for up to 8 wallers. The Trust has previously supported the Board in delivering accredited dry-stone walling training, but not for level 3 and there were no courses at this level available to local wallers.

The course, which will start in July, will cover: curved walls, walls on sloping ground, high or retaining walls and features within walls (e.g. stone stiles, pig holes, tree route bridges, troughs, steps and springs). These are all aspects of the skill critically important to the conservation of the landscape and the special features that add local character. As the level 3 course is a compulsory step towards the achievement of the master craftsman certificate this course also contributes towards the development of the next generation of wallers who will support the highest standards within the profession.

For further information, contact David Molloy on 01451 862002.


Cotswolds AONB walling grant scheme set to expand

The Cotswolds Conservation Board is now seeking applications for grants for the repair of dry-stone walls throughout the Cotswolds AONB.

The grants are funded by National Grid as part of the Wormington to Sapperton gas pipeline project. For the first year of the scheme the grants were targeted within the pipeline corridor. Over 30 schemes have been approved to date, providing for the repair of over 3km of dilapidated walls. From 1st June landowners across the AONB will be eligible to apply for grants on average of 30% to repair their walls.

For information regarding the scheme contact Stuart Leaver on 01451 862022.


Understanding and enjoying

Cotswold Way twins with South Korea

The Cotswold Way National Trail has teamed up with South Korea’s Jeju Olle Trail to become one of the world’s first ‘friendship trails’.  This new initiative is a result of last year’s World Trails conference on Jeju Island, attended by the Cotswold Way and hosted by the Jeju Olle Trail.

Friendship trails are essentially similar to twin towns, whereby trails in different countries team up in the name of partnership, mutual publicity and international alliance.

The launch of the new Cotswolds Korea Friendship Trail took place on the 19th April as a mark of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

A short circular walk following the Cotswold Way around Stinchcombe Hill near Dursley has been signed with special markers, introducing people to one of the most scenic parts of the Cotswolds AONB, whilst raising awareness of walking in other countries. Similarly, a section of Jeju Olle will be marked with the familiar oak sign posts seen along the Cotswold Way, inviting visitors to the island to come walking in one of England’s most stunning landscapes.

The Cotswolds Korea Friendship Trail is one of the first ‘twin trails’ in the world, and it is hoped that the idea will spread across the globe, promoting understanding and walking, whilst boosting tourism and local economy.

For further information on the Friendship Trail go to: http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/Cotswold/text.asp?PageId=68


Brand new website for rural skills

The Cotswolds Conservation Board has unveiled a brand new website for rural skills courses across the Cotswolds AONB.

The new website,www.cotswoldsruralskills.org.uk is designed to provide a one stop shop for people interested in learning a new traditional craft or skill. One-day and two-day courses are available in a range of subjects including dry-stone walling, grassland ecology and management, thatching and blacksmithing. Courses are also available in ‘map & compass’ to help navigate the Cotswolds countryside.

As well as providing comprehensive details of courses and annual rural skills competitions, the website enables easy online booking plus the purchase of gift vouchers for courses.

The website is not only a central resource for courses offered by the Conservation Board, but also allows other providers such as colleges, community groups and local authorities to promote their own courses.

New access for disabled visitors

Off-Road Mobility Scooter Hire on the Cotswold Way

On 14th April, an exciting new scheme was launched at Crickley Hill Country Park. People with limited mobility can now reach more areas of the countryside and enjoy the beauty of the Cotswold Way National Trail thanks to a new off-road mobility scooter, or Tramper.

After a short and simple lesson, the Tramper can be hired and used to follow four way-marked trails to experience prehistoric sites dating back six thousand years, ancient beech woodlands, wild flower rich grasslands and some of the finest views in the Cotswolds, including sections of the Cotswold Way National Trail.

For further information contact James Blockley on 01451 862034 or click here.


South East Sustainable Tourism Project

The South East Protected Landscapes (SEPL) group has secured nearly £1 million worth of RDPE funding to develop a major sustainable tourism project for AONBs and National Parks throughout the South East, including the Cotswolds AONB.  The project involves working closely with tourism businesses to develop short breaks that put our finest landscapes at the heart of the visitor experience.

Work on the project is progressing well and project manager Sarah Loftus has now been appointed along with a team of product development consultants who will work with accommodation and activity providers in the respective Protected Landscapes.  The appointed consultant who will work in the Cotswolds AONB is Malcolm Connor.  Developing the marketing and branding for the project is Responsible Travel.  

It is expected to have the first products developed and marketed via new website in July.

For further information, contact Nicola Greaves on 01451 862003.


Guided walks programme and Cotswold Lion

The Spring/Summer 2011 Cotswold Lion is now available and features a range of articles and stories from across the AONB as well as the popular Guided Walks Programme.

The guided walks programme, co-ordinated by the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens, contains over 130 wide-ranging walks across the AONB, varying in length from 2 to 12 miles, and offering a unique, fun and free way to explore the Cotswolds countryside.

The Cotswold Lion newspaper is available to pick up from tourism information centres, libraries and many other public places.  It is also available to download from the AONB website.


New Cotswolds 'Green' Scheme launched for businesses

Businesses across the Cotswolds are being encouraged to go ‘green’, following the launch of a new local tourism initiative aimed at making businesses more sustainable and helping them towards national green accreditation.

The Cotswolds Green Scheme (CGS) is a new sustainable tourism initiative established jointly by Cotswolds & Forest of Dean Tourism, West Oxfordshire District Council Tourism Service and the Cotswolds Conservation Board.

Tourism businesses including hotels, B&Bs, attractions and campsites can join the free scheme by completing a self-assessment questionnaire which measures their commitment to environmental issues such as car-free tourism, use of local produce, nature and conservation, recycling and resource use, and energy efficiency.

The Cotswolds Green Scheme is intended as a 'stepping stone' towards the more rigorous Green Tourism Business Scheme, the national sustainable tourism certification scheme, validated by Visit Britain.

For further information, contact: Nicola Greaves on 01451 862003.


European Day of Parks

The European Day of Parks was launched by the EUROPARC Federation with the aim of raising the profile of Europe's protected areas and generating public support for their aims and work.  Events have been celebrated across Europe on an annual basis on and around 24 May, a date that has been chosen to commemorate the creation of Europe's first nine national parks in Sweden on 24 May 1909.

This year, the Cotswolds Conservation Board is participating in European Day of Parks with the help of the Voluntary Wardens who have organised 2 guided walks to coincide with this day:

  • Green Oases with a City - an easy and enjoyable walk around the historic City of Bath, exploring some of the 'green oases' within the city and including part of the Cotswold Way. The walk starts on Royal Avenue at 10am.
  • From One Estate to Another - a pleasant day's undulating walk into the historic Cornbury Park Estate in Oxfordshire. The walk starts at 10am from Spendlove Free Car Park, Charlbury.

In addition to the above walks, Escape to the Cotswolds in Northleach will be open as usual that week from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm, offering visitors a chance to find out more about the Cotswolds AONB.


Countryside 2011: Cotswold walks

Countryside 2011 is a 2-week showcase of countryside events in the South East between 28 May and 12 June.  This is the second year of the campaign that brings together hundreds of countryside-based events, activities and attractions on one website, a one-stop-shop for visitors looking for things to do and see.

Two guided walks are included in the events listings on the Countryside 2011 website - www.countryside2011.org.uk. The walks, led by Voluntary Wardens are:

  • Be a Cotswold Detective on 31 May - an event specifically designed for younger families to explore and enjoy the countryside around Fifield in West Oxfordshire.
  • The Rollright Stones on 29 May - a guided walk around this historic and fascinating place, starting in Little Compton.

For further details of these walks, visit www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk/guidedwalks


People and communities

Cleaning up the Cotswolds

A major clean-up initiative took place across the Cotswolds AONB in April as groups of volunteers joined forces to clear many important conservation sites of rubbish.

The Cotswolds litter pick was organised by Voluntary Wardens in conjunction with the National Trust, Farming Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), Cleeve Hill Conservators and CPRE, and with the support of Cotswold, West Oxfordshire and Stroud District Councils, Tewkesbury Borough Council and Bath & North East Somerset Council.

The initiative was aimed at raising  awareness of the issue of litter in the countryside and to encourage more people to take their rubbish home to help maintain the beauty of the Cotswolds AONB.

Litter picks took place at Cleeve Hill, Little Solsbury Hill, Dovers Hill and Minchinhampton Common.

Strategic management and planning

National news: Ministerial support for AONBs

Richard Benyon Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries visited the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in early April to make an announcement which confirms government backing for England’s 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Since 1 April 2011 the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has taken over the direct funding of AONBs through a new tripartite agreement between DEFRA, Natural England and National Association for AONBs. This transfer of sponsorship represents a new era for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, confirming them as valued members of the UK’s protected landscape family.

By the change of sponsorship, Her Majesty’s coalition government is acknowledging that AONBs are strategic national assets and that local AONB partnerships and conservation boards such as the Cotswolds Conservation Board are key players in managing positive landscape change.