Oct/Nov 2011: Latest news from the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

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The latest news from the Cotswolds Conservation Board

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Over £1m investment for dry stone walls

Over 4 miles of dry-stone walls are being reinstated across the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty thanks to the National Grid Dry-stone Walling Grant Scheme established last year.

The grant scheme, which has now closed, totalled £400,000 and was set up with the Cotswolds Conservation Board as part of a mitigation package for the construction of a 44km gas pipeline between Wormington and Sapperton.

The scheme has helped to provide funding for 65 dry-stone walling projects totalling 6,743 metres in length. The average grant covered 45% of total costs, with the match funding being provided by landowners. It has resulted in over £1million of investment in walling throughout the Cotswolds, leading to more than nine years’ worth of work for local dry-stone wallers.

Stuart Drysdale who runs Cotswold Alpacas with his wife Trudy in Cowley said: “This grant has enabled us to renovate the dry-stone walls surrounding the dutch barn and fields which are home to our growing herd of Alpacas. This has hugely improved the appearance but more importantly made the fields escape proof! With so many modern elements impacting on our landscape today, we appreciate the Board’s financial support which has allowed us to reinstate a small part of the Cotswolds visual heritage.

Winners announced at North Cotswolds Hedgelaying Competition

Twenty eight hedgelayers from across the region took part in this year's annual North Cotswolds Hedgelaying Competition held at Woodlands Farm, Chedworth, Gloucestershire and organised by the Cotswolds Conservation Board with the support of the National Hedgelaying Society.

Held on Saturday 19 November, five classes of competitors, from novice through to professional – battled it out for the prestigious hedgelaying trophy and cash prize under the expert eye of the judges.

The winners were announced as follows:

  • Open: 1st Steven Leslie from Derbyshire; 2nd Rob Thompson from Nuneaton; 3rd Nigel Adams from Oxfordshire.
  • Intermediate: 1st Tony Wilsdon from Bampton, Oxfordshire; 2nd Hefin Davies from Burford; 3rd John Dunbar from Wolverhampton.
  • Junior and Beginners: 1st Martin Jarratt from Chipping Norton; 2nd David Faulkner from Marston St Lawrence, Oxfordshire; 3rd William Balmont from Reading.
  • Veteran: 1st Clive Matthew from Leicestershire; 2nd Peter Tunks from Surrey; 3rd Tony Heard from Alcester, Warwickshire.
  • Beginners Pairs: 1st Chris Rawlings and Jeremy Bainbridge from Oxfordshire; 2nd Stuart Edmunds & Robert Gascoigne from Thame, Oxfordshire; 3rd Tristan & Terry Hillsdon from Aylesbury, Bucks

Understanding and enjoying

Lottery bid seeks to secure historic building and collection

The Cotswolds Conservation Board has submitted a first-round application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help secure the future of the grade II* listed Old Prison at Northleach and develop a vibrant visitor centre.

The 18th century Old Prison, owned by Cotswold District Council and which is currently on the market, houses the new Escape to the Cotswolds discovery centre, opened in 2010, and the unique Lloyd Baker Rural Life Collection. It also houses the Board’s offices, with the Board being a tenant of the District Council.

Through the bid for funding from the HLF, the Board is seeking to realise the building's full potential as a centre and resource for the local community and safeguard access to this wonderful building and landmark on the Fosse Way itself.

The application for a total of £1.3m towards a £1.8m project will, if successful, create a vibrant visitor centre at the heart of the Cotswolds. As well as conserving and improving access to and interpretation of the former Northleach House of Correction and the Lloyd Baker Collection, the new centre will act as a central hub for the Cotswolds AONB helping to deepen understanding and appreciation of the significance of this special landscape through volunteer-led hands-on activities and demonstrations, interactive interpretation and costumed story-telling. The centre will also become a focus for rural skills training, building on the Board's existing rural skills training programme, and will seek to be a showcase for sustainable energy conservation and production within the context of a historic building.
If successful, this first-round application will lead to the Board being invited to submit a detailed second-round application. The first-stage decision is expected in January 2012.

Following significant local media coverage of the bid, an e-petition has been set up by a local resident, using the CDC website. For details, click here.

Bath marker project for the Cotswold Way National Trail

The steering group for the Cotswold Way Bath marker project has been looking at new options for installing a start/finish marker for the Cotswold Way in Bath, following its failure to gain planning consent.

After long and careful consideration, including discussions with planning and conservation representatives from Bath and NE Somerset Council, the decision was made to abandon the ‘obelisk’ and to pursue a flat piece to be mounted at floor level. This approach will allow the marker to remain true to all the original themes and objectives of the project, but will reduce any visual intrusion.

Local artist Iain Cotton has been selected to create the new marker. Iain has a long and varied experience of similar projects that justify his reputation as a skilled letter carver and creative designer. He has undertaken commissions for varied organisations including the National Trust and far afield as the USA; this year he exhibited his work in Bath and Japan.

The Cotswold Way team are now looking forward to having an attractive, enticing and fitting work of public art to celebrate the National Trail and its place within the city and the AONB on its doorstep.

Groundbreaking new sustainable tourism initiative launched

A major new initiative urging people to reconnect with their local landscapes has been launched.

‘Our Land’ unites and celebrates the nine protected landscapes of South East England, including the Cotswolds AONB  – the first time such a collaboration has been created – in a new central tourism website: www.our-land.co.uk (hosted by responsibletravel.com). The promotion of sustainable tourism businesses that have a passion and commitment to their local landscapes and communities lies at the core of the site.

Our Land was launched in the Surrey Hills AONB in October by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP, TV presenter Kate Humble and VisitEngland CEO, James Berresford. The initiative is backed by nearly £1million funding from the Regional Development Programme for England.

Visitors can use the new website to find and book their next holiday by browsing specific regions and accommodation preferences or by viewing suggested itineraries themed around seasons and activities, as well as reading about the sights, sounds and smells that make the different landscapes so distinct.

Communications agency, Forster, has been hired to help raise awareness of Our Land among consumers through an ongoing press and media campaign.

Pictured: Rob Fairbanks, Lead Officer Surrey Hills AONB; Chris Reynolds, Independent Chairman Kent Downs AONB; Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, Sec of State for Culture, Sport, Olympics; Kate Humble, Presenter, Conservationist, President RSPB; Nick Johannsen, SEPL Chairman & Lead Officer Kent Downs AONB; Justin Francis, Managing Director responsibletravel.com

Cotswolds receives Charter award at Europarc conference

The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has received an international accolade for delivering and promoting sustainable tourism.

The prestigious European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas was presented at the annual EUROPARC Conference in Bad Urach, Germany, attended by over 300 people from 20 countries. The Cotswolds was one of 12 protected areas from the UK, Finland, France, Spain, Germany and Italy  who received the Charter award following a positive evaluation. In addition five parks were re-evaluated this year after their first five years of work with the Charter. A total of 89 protected areas across nine different countries are currently involved with the Charter process.

On receiving the award, Vice Chairman Liz Eyre said: "The European Charter is a huge accomplishment for the Cotswolds AONB. The award reflects the desire by all our partners to ensure that this very special area continues to prosper from tourism but without spoiling our main assets - the natural environment, landscape and tranquility."

Pictured: Liz Eyre, Vice Chairman; Nicola Greaves, Information & Interpretation Officer; Jo Burgon, Chairman, Enjoying & Appreciating Sub-Committee.

Promote your Christmas events

Since its launch earlier this year, the new ‘Escape to the Cotswolds’ website has been growing in popularity, attracting over 6000 unique visits and over 25,000 page views.  As well as a great range of information on walking, cycling and places to visit, one of the main features of the site is the events page which is among the top viewed pages of the site. 

We want to encourage event organisers up and down the Cotswolds to use this free facility to promote their own events.  To make it easy, a dedicated page has been set up which only takes a couple of minutes to complete.  With so many Christmas events taking place over the next few weeks, why not take this opportunity to promote them here?

Events can be published very quickly after submitting, and if you have any photos of that you would like included, just email them to: info@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk.

People and communities

New parish Board members

Two new parish representatives have recently joined the Cotswolds Conservation Board, replacing former parish council members, Susie Moore and Tim Hill who left earlier this year.

Harry Acland, Chairman of Notgrove Parish, has lived at Notgrove since 1969.  He went to the Royal Agricultural College 1985-1988 where he studied Rural Estate Management, after which he trained and worked for the Ministry of Defence as a land agent on Salisbury plain, qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor in 1990.  Six years ago, Harry returned to run the family farm at Notgrove which he has since diversified into horse livery, dog kennels and holiday cottage accommodation. The farm is also within the Higher level Landscape Scheme to promote farmland birds.

Parish Councillor for Chedworth, Adrian Bell has a background in agricultural marketing & public relations, and sustainable agriculture.  Adrian is also Director of the Wiltshire Horn Sheep Society, Chairman of Guild of Agricultural Journalists, member of the Soil Association, and Liveryman with the Worshipful Company of Farmers.

New Farming and Woodland Adviser joins the team

Charles Robinson has joined the Board's staff team at Northleach as a Graduate Farming and Woodland Adviser. His role is divided between promoting and implementing Higher Level stewardship on farmland within the Cotswolds Farmland Bird Project Area and encouraging landowners to enter into the English Woodland Grant Scheme within the Cotswolds Ancient Woodland Priority Area. This scheme provides several management options to plant new, and manage existing woodland to greatly benefit biodiversity.

Having grown up surrounded by the stunning countryside of Exmoor, Charles has always had a passion for the environment, fueled whilst carrying out work experience with the National Trust and Exmoor National Park. This led to his decision to go to Harper Adams University College to study a degree in Countryside Management. Whilst on this course I undertook a year’s placement at the National Trust Dudmaston Estate in Shropshire and worked as a volunteer assistant forester.

Charles said: "I believe this role will greatly benefit my career as a whole, through experience and training. It provides the first rung on the ladder to a fresh graduate and I am delighted to have been offered the opportunity. I hope to continue in this line of work either in the Cotswolds or back on Exmoor for years to come."

Strategic management and planning

Response to the draft National Planning Policy Framework issued

The Cotswolds Conservation Board has submitted its formal response to the Government’s consultation on the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for England. The new framework is intended to replace all existing Planning Policy Guidance and Statements and therefore aims to simplify planning rules and make the process easier to understand.

Malcolm Watt, Planning Officer for the Board said:

Getting the right development in the right place is a vital issue for people living and working in the Cotswolds. The Board finds much in the new framework to welcome – such as the new need to consider the impact of development on tranquillity, and the proposal to give local communities the opportunity to develop their own plan for their town or village. We also welcome the simplification of the whole planning process.

However, the Board is concerned that despite Government assurances, the framework as currently worded weakens the protection of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from poor quality development. The Board’s suggested changes to the NPPF will achieve a better balance between development and the protection of the natural beauty and special character of the area. For example, the Board suggests that it should be an aim to ‘avoid’ environmental harm being caused by development rather than just ‘minimise’ any harm, as is suggested in the draft NPPF.

We also have concerns that the draft framework does not recognise the economic benefits that flow from a high quality environment, including through the provision of vital services such as water supplies and encouraging sustainable tourism.”

The Board’s full response can be viewed here

Diary dates

Friday, 2 March 2012: Cotswolds Conservation Board Annual Forum, Bailbrook House Hotel, Bath.

Next year's Annual Forum is entitled 'Ecological networks - Joining forces for nature'  and will feature Professor Sir John Lawton, author of Making Space for Nature, as our keynote speaker. Sir John will be joined by a range of other speakers who will provide examples and case studies on how we can engage with different audiences to help develop an ecological network for the Cotswolds.


Forthcoming rural skills courses:

  • Hedgelaying for beginners: 14/15 January; 4/5 February; 25/26 February
  • Woodland coppicing: 22 January
  • Woodland coppicing & hurdle making: 18/19 February
  • Map & compass: 25 March