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CNL responds to Government landscape consultation

An aerial image of the Cotswolds showing fields, woodland, and blue skies

Image: Squashed Robot Films

This week, the Cotswolds National Landscape Board has submitted its formal response to the government consultation around the Landscapes Review. The review was led by Julian Glover, and published in 2019, with an official government response delayed until 2022 by the pandemic. Following the government response, a public consultation ran until early April this year.

The response to the consultation from Cotswolds National Landscape focused on ensuring the nation’s protected landscapes (National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Andy Parsons, Chief Executive, explained “for these treasured places to remain relevant we have to consider the key drivers of change – such as nature recovery, climate change, public health and enabling more connected communities. It is no longer enough to simply conserve and enhance natural beauty, we must recognise that all landscapes will evolve.” A priority for the Cotswolds will be to support farmers and land managers through a period of transition post-Brexit. The Cotswolds National Landscape team will champion environmental land management schemes that work for all farmers and land managers, and  the early signs of its potential are encouraging, demonstrated through the hugely successful Farming in Protected Landscapes programme.

Many residents in the Cotswolds will be aware that, for some time now, there has been a discussion around redesignation of the Cotswolds from an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to a National Park. There are many strong feelings for and against this – not least because the AONB covers a massive area (790 sq miles) and it doesn’t sit within any one local authority, indeed there are 15 district, county and unitary boundaries within the AONB. The Landscapes Review identified “strong candidates” for redesignation, including the Cotswolds. It suggested that Natural England and ministers considered the case for each candidate.

In its response to the Landscapes Review, Government hasn’t explicitly identified a possibility for a change in designation for the Cotswolds. Instead, Natural England has set up a Landscapes Advisory Panel, which is tasked with looking at designations at a national level across the whole of England. This work could possibly include reviewing the case for new AONB designations, and for potential redesignation from AONB to National Park for a small number of English landscapes, including the Cotswolds. The Chairman of the Cotswolds National Landscape Board, Brendan McCarthy, says “we look forward to participating in this review to ensure that our protected landscapes are fit for the 21st century, and that they best serve the needs of the local people, communities and nature throughout the whole of the Cotswolds National Landscape”.

The Cotswolds National Landscape team is looking forward to this new era for protected landscapes and acknowledge that to achieve success there will need to be a big team effort, working in partnership with Defra, local authorities, charities, businesses and local communities and individuals. The outcomes of the consultation will be published later in the year.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  • Please contact Alana Hopkins at hopkins@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk for further information or interview opportunities.
  • 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

Over £950,000 in grant funding allocated across the Cotswolds

A herd of brown cows approaches the camera inquisitively as the sun sets in the background.

 

The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, being delivered in the Cotswolds by the Cotswolds National Landscape team, has already allocated almost one million pounds in grant funding since the programme launched in July 2021.

The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme was created and launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The aim of the three year programme is to help farmers, land managers, and others deliver work on the farmed landscape under the themes of climate, nature, people, and place.

Through the programme, farmers and land managers can be supported to carry out projects that support nature recovery, mitigate the impacts of climate change, provide opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and cultural heritage, or support nature-friendly, sustainable farm businesses. The programme is part of Defra’s Agricultural Transition Plan and has been developed with the support of a group of AONB and National Park colleagues from across the country.

In the Cotswolds, 38 projects have been approved so far, with allocated grants exceeding £950,000. With match funding included, the supported projects are valued at over £1.6 million in total project costs, representing a huge investment in the Cotswolds landscape.

Funding has been allocated to a wide range of creative and considered projects: from accessible paths across farmland showcasing organic arable and livestock farming; to owl and kestrel boxes, and farmland bird conservation helping support wildlife; to hedgerow creation and restoration to increase biodiversity and help capture carbon; a rural skills education centre to increase accessibility and education; to a demonstration farm highlighting regenerative farming and conservation grazing – applicants have impressed the assessment panel with the breadth of their projects, and their understanding of the key themes outlined by Defra.

The previous application deadline has now been dropped by Defra, so applications are now open until the end of the programme, or until the remaining funds (just over £1 million) are fully allocated – whichever happens first.

Scott Brown, Farming Engagement Lead for Cotswolds National Landscape, said, “It’s a real privilege to be working with farmers in the Cotswolds National Landscape. So many of them are genuinely committed to producing great quality food and looking after this special place for others to enjoy. With major changes in farming and environmental policy now well underway, coupled with the urgent need to tackle the climate and nature emergency, it’s a time of great uncertainty and huge challenges for the sector. But there’s clearly a willingness to adapt, and seize opportunities that will lead to a more prosperous future, not only for farmers, but for people, wildlife and the planet. This deserves our recognition and support. By funding and showcasing just some of the fantastic work farmers do in the Cotswolds, I hope the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme offers a bit of that recognition and support, and helps to lay the groundwork for more farmer-led activity in future.”

Farming in Protected Landscapes is a three year programme which will run until March 2024. More information can be found online at https://www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk/looking-after/farming-in-protected-landscapes/ or by emailing farming@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  • Please contact Alana Hopkins at alana.hopkins@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk for further information or interview opportunities.
  • For more information about the Farming in Protected Landscapes, please visit https://www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk/looking-after/farming-in-protected-landscapes/
  • 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

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

Stunning kingfisher sculpture trail concludes with fundraising auction

Andy Parsons (L) and James Webb (centre) from Cotswolds National Landscape, with Simon Chorley from Chorley’s Auctioneers. Image by Russell Sach.

Last Thursday, the Kingfisher Trail 2021 came to a celebratory close, with an atmospheric auction hosted by Chorley’s Auctioneers at Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham. Over the summer, the unique collection of 22 individually designed sculptures flew across the Cotswolds, and many came to perch for one night only at the auction, where they were snapped up by auction guests and remote bidders.

The Kingfisher Trail has raised around £60,000 – with several of the kingfishers snapped up by eager buyers in the weeks before the auction, and the remaining sculptures selling through the auction. The sales of the sculptures are a fantastic acknowledgement of both the creative talent and skills of the artists involved, and the willingness for bidders to support the work of the Cotswolds National Landscape team.

All the kingfisher sculptures have a personal story and were beautifully designed and decorated by participating artists. Each kingfisher carries the signature style of its creator, with surface decoration on the kingfishers inspired by a range of themes from climate change, to the pandemic, to the conservation of the Cotswolds countryside.

Now, as the kingfishers take flight to their new homes, funds raised by the Kingfisher Trail will be put towards work which engages young people with the Cotswolds countryside and traditional rural skills. After the confirmation throughout the pandemic of just how important our green spaces are, it is more important than ever before to inspire young people from all backgrounds to get outside into the fresh air, and involve them in projects which provide a sense of achievement and a positive outlook.

Andy Parsons, Chief Executive from trail organisers Cotswolds National Landscape, commented:

“Within three years we have an ambition for our Rural Skills Outreach programme to be largely self-financing – supported by the more commercial elements of our rural skills programme (courses, tourism experiences and corporate days). Unsurprisingly though, it’s these areas of our operations that have suffered badly over the past 18 months, and we are in the process of starting to rebuild. So, the funds raised through the Kingfisher Trail will be a massive help in ensuring we can continue to reach out to those young people who need it most.”

ENDS

Editors’ Notes – for high resolution imagery, please contact Alana Hopkins at Cotswold National Landscape – alana.hopkins@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk


Relay walk to celebrate the Cotswold Way starts in Bath!

Led by John Bartram of the Cotswold Way Association (front left) and Mike Cripps of the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens (front right), walkers started the 102 mile relay walk of the Cotswold Way in Bath on Saturday. Image by Russell Sach

A celebratory relay walk of the 102 mile Cotswold Way route began in Bath on Saturday 11th September, with the first team walking from Bath to Cold Ashton. Their 10 mile walk coincided neatly with the start of the Bathscape Walking Festival 2021.

The relay, organised by Margaret Reid, Head Voluntary Warden, and Becky Jones, Access and Volunteer Lead at the Cotswolds National Landscape (CNL), will see a baton being passed along the entire length of the Cotswold Way between relay teams made up of CNL team members, Cotswold Voluntary Wardens, Ramblers, and volunteer walking teams from local businesses Robert Welch Designs and John Lewis in Cheltenham.

Each day of the week will see a new team taking the baton, designed and made by Robert Welch, and walking a section of the route. The aim of the relay walk is to celebrate everything the Cotswold Way has to offer: spectacular views, quintessentially Cotswold towns and villages, and an unforgettable walking experience. More than that though, it is to raise awareness of what it takes to look after a national trail like the Cotswold Way: the time, effort and funds spent taking care of pathways, stiles, gates, and access. Much of the maintenance work along the route is completed by volunteers, but few of the tens of thousands of walkers who enjoy the route each year fully understand how much work goes on behind the scenes. From scrub clearing, to way marking, to mending and installing access points, the work on the Cotswold Way continues all year round.

John Bartram, Chair of the Cotswold Way Association, commented, “The Cotswold Way has delighted walkers for 50 years, and what better time to celebrate it and to ensure that there are sufficient funds to keep it in first class condition.”

Becky Jones, Volunteer and Access Lead at Cotswolds National Landscape, said, “The success of the trail over the last 50 years has been down to the volunteers: from the Ramblers who created the route, to the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens who have given their time, skills, and enthusiasm to maintaining and improving it to make it such an important feature of the Cotswolds landscape for everyone to enjoy.”

And there is more to do – with a greater emphasis than ever before on working to make traditional walking routes more accessible to disabled ramblers, funds are needed now to continue to adapt appropriate sections of the route so that a greater range of audiences can enjoy and explore what it has to offer.

The relay teams will conclude their efforts on Sunday 19th September with a final leg from Broadway to the start/end marker stone for the Cotswold Way in Chipping Campden. And after that? Very likely a huge quantity of well-deserved tea and cake! Members of the public are encouraged to look at ramblers.org.uk/gloucestershire and Cotswoldsaonb.org.uk websites to find guided walks featuring sections of the Cotswold Way to experience the route for themselves. To contribute funds to the Cotswold Way Association, please visit cotswoldwayassociation.org.uk/fundraising/

For more information about the Cotswold Way Association, please visit https://cotswoldwayassociation.org.uk/