Month: January 2022

Statement following Defra’s response to 2019 Landscapes Review

On Saturday 15th January 2022, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) issued a formal response to the Landscapes Review led by Julian Glover and published in autumn 2019. The review looked at England’s protected landscapes and sought to identify ways in which they could be revitalised and brought into the 21st century. The report argued that more must be done for nature and natural beauty, for the people who live in and visit our landscapes, and to introduce those who aren’t familiar with the countryside to get to know it. The report said that our national landscapes are for everyone and, in the Cotswolds, we believe in that too – wholeheartedly.

We are pleased that the long-awaited response from Government about the review has been issued. Defra now plans a 12 week consultation in which protected landscapes, other interested organisations, and members of the public will be encouraged to submit their feedback. We will also be attending Defra-hosted workshops with eagerness, and look forward to hearing the views of our fellow protected landscapes, and those working across them. The intention to strengthen what AONBs can do, and deliver, is one we support. We all have strong foundations of success to work from, but time is running out for nature and the environment – we must act now to make positive changes for everyone.

We are pleased to see that Government has identified the need and value in strengthening AONBs in order to deliver for both nature and people.

Brendan McCarthy, Chairman of the Cotswolds National Landscape Board, says, “We have a strong Cotswolds National Landscape team in place, and a wealth of expertise across our partner organisations. Further increased funding and resources would allow us to unlock the potential of the ambitions described in the Landscapes Review. Although Government has said that there is limited scope to increase core grants by the scale suggested in the review, we sincerely hope that Government continues to make meaningful increases to our overall funding in future. These increases will allow us to better realise the vision that we all have for the Cotswolds.”

One of the Landscape Review’s recommendations was a renaming of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) to National Landscapes. We implemented this in 2020 with a rebrand to Cotswolds National Landscape, and we are encouraged to see that this change will now, very likely, be rolled out across all other AONBs. This recommendation symbolises a more unified approach to how we work for people and nature as a collective presence of landscapes in the UK. In addition, we look forward to seeing how a progressive national partnership of National Landscapes – in which national parks, AONBs, Natural England, and the new National Trails charity – will be given more opportunity to work together to strengthen that collective offering. We look forward to exploring how the detail of this collaborative working will develop.

We are pleased that Government has acknowledged the importance of developing the statutory purposes and remit of AONBs to bring them into the 21st century – and that it has recognised the meaningful change it will make if those are expanded to include tackling climate change, helping nature recovery, and providing for people and society. Government has indicated that this is a priority and, alongside its ambitious and tough environmental targets, we feel that the expansion of our statutory purposes will allow us to do much more to meet these targets and to continue the vital role protected landscapes have to play for wildlife, people, and the nation as a whole.

Andy Parsons, Chief Executive of Cotswolds National Landscape team, says, “Among the many positives in Government’s response, we especially applaud the concept of supporting and rewarding farmers – they are an essential part of our economy and landscape, and should always be recognised as such. In the Cotswolds, we have made fantastic progress in allocating significant funding of around £500,000 to farmers and land owners/managers through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme. This has been within the first six months of a three year programme, and we look forward to seeing the creative and considered ways in which people continue to apply to the programme.”

Finally, we welcome the emphasis on people and society – the countryside and our protected landscapes offer health and wellbeing benefits for everyone, which has been especially evident through the pandemic. We are ever-grateful to our band of Cotswold Voluntary Wardens, whose numbers have grown through the pandemic as people sought to be outside and in company. Volunteers – wardens, project volunteers, and others are the lifeblood of our work and must also be supported in their efforts. We hope that increased support and funding for the delivery of this public health work would give us opportunities to help more and more people enjoy – and look after – the countryside.

Have your say

The consultation will run for 12 weeks from today, closing on 9th April 2022. The consultation is open to everyone, and we encourage members of the public to get involved. This is the first major review of protected landscapes since they were first created over 70 years ago. This is a significant opportunity for people to shape how protected landscapes will deliver benefits for years to come.


New river project enters full flow with the arrival of new team members!

The new Everyone’s Evenlode project team (L-R): Rosalind Marsden, Ruth Rudwick, Rowan Wynne-Jones. Image by Russell Sach.

This January, the new Everyone’s Evenlode project, being delivered by the Cotswolds National Landscape team, picks up pace with the final member of the new team arriving in post.

Thanks to funding from Thames Water’s Smarter Catchment initiative for the River Evenlode (in partnership with the Evenlode Catchment Partnership), three new team members dedicated to education and outreach across the Evenlode catchment area have joined the Cotswolds National Landscape team. Rosalind Marsden has joined as the new Education Officer, Ruth Rudwick is the project’s Community Outreach Officer, and Rowan Wynne-Jones is the Community Outreach and Education Officer.

Thames Water’s River Evenlode Smarter Catchment plan aims to develop a programme of inspiring activities to show the relevance of the river and its catchment within the community. The new Everyone’s Evenlode team will help meet these aims by encouraging people to understand the amazing benefits of a healthy river environment; helping them access and enjoy nature; and by engaging with schools – to help inspire younger generations to connect with their local stretch of river, learn about healthy river environments and nature, and act to take positive action to care for and ecologically improve the River Evenlode.

Each member of the new team brings a specialism, and together, they will be developing an exciting programme of opportunities for people to wade right into caring for the Evenlode!

Ruth, who is combining her new role with finishing a wildlife conservation foundation degree at the Royal Agricultural University, will be working with youth and community groups to help them access the Evenlode. She says, “By exploring opportunities to enjoy the river, people also understand its environment more and that can lead to action to take care of it. It’s about enjoying and caring for the whole catchment area, even beyond the river itself: doing hedgerow surveys, or creating leaky dams to help with flood management, or building and putting up bird and bat boxes”.

Ros, whose previous roles have included a wealth of outdoor teaching for organisations like Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and the National Trust, is just as keen to get the project in full flow. She is enthusiastic about setting up a pilot River Schools project aimed at both primary and secondary students, similar in concept to Forest Schools. Ros will aim to offer a range of activities to choose from, for example pond dipping, tracks and signs, seasons and senses, possibly some rural crafting, a river walk, or learning related to water cycles.

Rowan joins the team as an experienced forest school leader, youth worker, and community outreach worker. Her hybrid role for Everyone’s Evenlode includes elements of both community outreach, and working with schools. She says, “Spending time in nature provides a multitude of benefits for people’s mental and physical wellbeing, from reducing stress levels and anxiety, to increasing fitness levels and general happiness, whilst simultaneously helping individuals to feel a greater connection to something outside of themselves. Providing children and young people with the opportunity to explore, learn about, and engage with their local watercourses can help spark a life-long passion for protecting the environment, as well as providing opportunities for memorable, hands-on learning.”

The team hopes that this project will help provide opportunities for members of the community to access stretches of the River Evenlode, and encourage them to find ways to engage with it that benefit both themselves and the environment.

Together, this aquatic dream team will be actively seeking schools and groups from right across the Evenlode catchment area to get involved in the project – hoping to inspire people from all walks of life to care about their Evenlode.

The Everyone’s Evenlode team is very keen to hear from schools, youth and community groups, landowners, farmers and individuals within (and close to) the Evenlode catchment area: if you would like to find out more or be involved in the Everyone’s Evenlode project, please email the team at evenlode@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  • The Cotswolds National Landscape was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966 in recognition of its rich, diverse and high quality landscape. www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk
  • The Cotswolds National Landscape is looked after by an independent organisation (officially titled Cotswolds Conservation Board) established in 2004 which has a small employee team along with 37 board members – 15 nominated by local authorities, 8 by parish councils and 14 appointed by the Secretary of State.
  • The Cotswolds is the third largest protected landscape in England after the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks and represents 10% of the total AONB area in the UK. 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.
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), along with National Parks, are considered to be the most special landscapes in the country and belong to an international family of protected areas.  There are 38 AONBs in England and Wales, and a further eight in Northern Ireland.  For further details, visit: www.landscapesforlife.org.uk. For details of the 15 National Parks in the UK visit: www.nationalparks.uk