Caring for the Cotswolds - Being the perfect host creates the perfect visitor
A celebration of the innovative fundraising scheme that helps to keep the Cotswolds beautiful also marks a new phase to attract more tourism businesses to sign up.
On Tuesday 16 May, a special event is being held to celebrate the innovative Cotswolds visitor giving scheme now called ‘Caring for the Cotswolds’.
The event taking place at 6:30pm at Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park will provide an opportunity for new tourism businesses to join the scheme to help to maintain the area’s outstanding beauty for all to enjoy. The event will also showcase some of the inspiring projects it has already funded across the AONB and to thank tourism businesses – ‘the members’ – who have helped to make it a success so far.
Are you a business in the Cotswolds? Reserve your place at our 'Become a Member' event
Since the launch of the visitor giving scheme in 2013, over £16,600 has been raised by 19 local tourism businesses, providing grants towards a wide range of environmental and landscape projects: including woodland coppicing and site interpretation at Kites Hill Nature Reserve; the reconstruction of an historic railway halt near Hailes Abbey on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway line; a downloadable walking guide and online resources to bring to life the ‘Cotswold Story: the Bagendon Landscape’.
The Cotswolds attracts millions of visitors a year and such large numbers inevitably impact on the environment. Caring for the Cotswolds – managed by the Cotswolds Conservation Board, with funded projects delivered by the many organisations that look after the features that make the Cotswolds special – is brilliantly simple: visitors are asked to voluntarily donate a very small amount of money via their bill or fees, and that money helps to conserve the landscape they have come to enjoy.
“Our tourism industry relies on the high-quality environment of the Cotswolds and the members that care in the scheme really understand that,” says Liz Eyre, Chairman of the Cotswolds Conservation Board.
“It’s so easy for tourism businesses to participate in the scheme: whether activity companies using the Cotswold Way and other trails who simply collect donations from runners and pass them on to us for trails maintenance; or Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park which makes donations from their annual membership schemes. Members can use whatever method best suits their business model.
“Visitors can also feel more part of the landscape, knowing that by booking accommodation, or enjoying meals and activities provided by tourism businesses in ‘Caring for the Cotswolds’ they are contributing towards maintaining the AONB.”
Manor Cottages, which provides an online booking service for holiday cottages across the Cotswolds, is a founding member of the scheme and largest single contributor to date. The company gives visitors the opportunity to donate £1 when booking their holiday cottage and then matches donations £1 for £1.
Owner Chris Grimes, who is also Chairman of Cotswolds Tourism, says: “We view Caring for the Cotswolds as a vital tool in helping to protect the Cotswolds landscape … and it is very, very simple [to participate]. Any business that benefits from the brand ‘Cotswolds’ really ought to be doing their bit to help protect the beauty and appeal of the region. We’re passionate about the Cotswolds and therefore feel it our duty to be involved in protecting the region.”
Businesses interested in doing their bit can find out more at the Caring for the Cotswolds event featuring presentations from members already in the scheme and conservation projects that have benefited from grants. “The scheme is working well and we are now looking to make a step change in scale to grow it further,” Chris Brant, Communications Officer, says.
Through its Cotswolds Rivers Barn Owl Recovery Project, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) has been working with landowners and farmers along the River Windrush to reverse the decline in numbers of this iconic species. A Caring for the Cotswolds grant of £1,250 “has been invaluable, as it has enabled us to purchase the materials for barn owl boxes and is helping us run training events to train barn owl box monitoring volunteers,” says Richard Spyvee, GWT Living Landscapes Manager.
Barn owl populations declined significantly in the 20th century due to intensification of agriculture, habitat loss and pesticides. There are fewer than 50 confirmed breeding sites in Gloucestershire, but the River Windrush area is a barn owl hotspot thanks to rough grassland habitat where field voles thrive, old barns for nesting and favourable farming practices.
Two of three barn owl boxes inspected in 2015 revealed eggs and young, and results from boxes put up in 2016 are eagerly anticipated this summer. Thanks to landowners’ positive response, the original target of putting up 60 boxes will be well exceeded, Richard says.
A Caring for the Cotswolds grant of £770 towards the restoration of the Coronation Gate and replacement of the Walking Map in Ilmington has been “fantastic” says Jan Sherwood, Chairman of Ilmington Parish Council. “It is all about preserving things that people find really special.”
The north Cotswolds village, with its many footpaths, local hills and views, is a magnet for walkers, runners and cyclists, and the Coronation Gate – beautifully hand-carved in oak to mark the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 – gives access to a path leading to the Centenary Way. Well-loved, the special kissing gate nevertheless needed urgent tlc after 60-plus years of frequent use.
Similarly, the village map in the oak display board on the Lower Green had become badly weathered but now a new, updated Walking Map using fresh imagery and text will highlight Ilmington’s many footpaths and special features – not least St Mary’s Church boasting pews made by Arts and Crafts practitioner Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson, complete with 11 of his discreetly carved signature mice.
Become a member of Caring for the Cotswolds
Caring for the Cotswolds members event: Tuesday 16 May, 6:30pm, Adam Henson Cotswold Farm Park: to find out more and to attend, businesses can click here or contact Chris Brant, Communications Officer, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. 01451 862003.