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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/


A417 Missing Link: CCB Relevant Representation update

A visualisation from Highways England to show how one of the new road crossings may look.

Following the submission of Highways England’s Development Consent Order (DCO) application on 31 May 2021, and its subsequent acceptance for Examination from the Planning Inspectorate, we have now published our own Relevant Representation relating to the A417 Missing Link plans. This can be found here, and considers our four main queries relating to the scheme. We will make further written Representation/s during the Examination to expand on matters included within this Relevant Representation.


Work begins on a new walking route around Bath!

Circuit-of-Bath-Waymarker-with-Jess-Julian-House-and-Wardens-landscape_Nicole-Daw-280721

Cotswold Voluntary Wardens work with Jess Gay from Julian House to begin installing way markers for the Circuit of Bath route around Bath.

New signage installation has begun last week for a walking route around Bath, as part of the Bathscape Scheme. The ‘Circuit of Bath’ takes walkers on a 20 mile circular route around Bath, taking in the magnificent views of the city itself, local towns and villages, and the spectacular countryside.

Circuit of Bath Waymarker Close up_Nicole Daw 280721

Circuit of Bath waymarker close up, image by Nicole Daw

Covering the hills and valleys within and around the city of Bath World Heritage Site, the Bathscape Partnership of organisations, community groups, and conservation bodies oversees the National Lottery Funded Bathscape scheme, to co-ordinate management of habitats and encourage more people to get out and enjoy the landscape. The scheme aims to engage with more than 4,000 people on guided walks and organised nature-based events and to make it simpler for thousands more to access the exciting network of local walks and trails, including the Circuit of Bath.

For a real challenge, the Circuit of Bath can be walked in a day, and local charity Julian House, who support vulnerable and at-risk individuals across South West England, have been doing just that for the last 20 years. The route, which was previously not waymarked, has been central to the charity’s annual fundraising objectives. This year, they have offered two opportunities to complete the route – the first was in April and the second will be on 26th September, which will also coincide with last day of the annual Bathscape Walking Festival. The route can be easily broken down into sections.

Having the route waymarked and included as part of the Bathscape Scheme allows people to explore this walk all year round – enjoying the changing seasons of the countryside around the city, and also helping people stay in top condition for the annual challenge set by Julian House.

Jess Gay, Senior Community & Events Fundraiser at Julian House said: “The Circuit of Bath sponsored walk is a really important event in our fundraising calendar – especially this year. The sponsorship raised by those taking part in the event will be used to help fund our vital services, including our hostel and domestic abuse refuge, which have been in high demand during the pandemic and will likely continue to be as the country continues to navigate a way out of the pandemic.”

Dan Merrett, Bathscape Manager said, “We’re delighted to see the waymarking begin on this fantastic route around Bath, and we hope that by making it more accessible, people will be encouraged and inspired to support Julian House by taking part in their annual sponsored walk of the route.”

The Circuit of Bath way marking discs are being installed with help from the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens – the volunteer arm of the Cotswolds National Landscape, in which the Bathscape is located. Work by the Wardens and the local Ramblers group will continue into the future to maintain and improve the Circuit of Bath route with the aim of keeping it accessible so that people can continue to explore and get to know the beautiful countryside on Bath’s doorstep.

ENDS

­­­Notes to editors:

  • Thanks to the vital support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The World Heritage Enhancement Fund, Network Rail, Bath & North East Somerset Council and partner organisations, the Bathscape Scheme has received funding of £2.2 million to cover its many different activities over the next five years.
  • For more information about the Bathscape Scheme, please visit www.bathscape.co.uk or contact Lucy Bartlett at lucy.bartlett@bathscape.co.uk
  • For more information about Julian House, please visit www.julianhouse.org.uk  or contact Jess Gay at jessica.gay@julianhouse.org.uk
  • For more information about the Circuit of Bath sponsored walk to fundraise for Julian House, please visit https://www.circuitofbathwalk.co.uk/
  • The Bathscape Partnership board oversees the work of the scheme and comprises: Avon Wildlife Trust, Bath & North East Somerset Council (lead partner), Bath Preservation Trust Bath Spa University, Cotswolds National Landscape, Federation of Bath Residents Associations, National Trust, University of Bath, Visit Bath, Wessex Water. The Circuit of Bath route is a celebrated piece of work from a partner perspective as it crosses several section of land owned by them. The route is a great way to introduce people to the work done by the Bathscape Scheme’s partners.
  • 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.

Response to the announcement that the A417 ‘Missing Link’ road scheme has been accepted for examination

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) announced on 29 June 2021 that an application for the A417 ‘Missing Link’ road scheme has been accepted for examination.

The Cotswolds National Landscape team has engaged with Highways England about its plans for a road scheme to ease traffic congestion on the A417 since it was first proposed. Although this engagement has resulted in positive changes, there are still opportunities to ensure the design of the new road meets the landscape-led vision, objectives and design principles that have been agreed by Highways England and other stakeholders.  The road scheme must not only address safety and congestion issues but also bring the best outcomes for local communities and benefit the natural beauty, diverse wildlife and unique heritage of the Cotswolds National Landscape.

We are supportive of the landscape led vision of the road scheme, though we remain disappointed that the scheme still does not deliver biodiversity net gain. This means it fails to ensure wildlife habitats are in a better state than they were before the development. We will continue to work collaboratively with Highways England, key partners, and stakeholders, to unlock ways to achieve this through maximising the opportunities for biodiversity both within and outside the scheme boundary and developing landscape-scale Designated Funds initiatives to provide long-term benefit to this special landscape

We want to see a well-designed scheme delivered, and remain committed to working together with key partners, stakeholders, and Highways England.  We will now examine the details of the documents submitted as part of the DCO process, to ensure that the final scheme delivers a lasting and beneficial legacy for this very special, designated landscape, and the people and wildlife who call it home.

ENDS


Steppers UK continue their AONB Challenge in the Cotswolds!

Steppers UK group, photo by TEa Smart / Squashed Robot Films

Members of the Steppers UK group around the Cotswold Way marker stone, before they set off to complete the fourth walk of their AONB Challenge. Cherelle Harding, who organises the walks, is shown fourth from the right.

Steppers UK, a community interest company based in Coventry, continued their AONB Challenge to visit, and walk in, every Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the UK this month with a trip to the Cotswolds town of Chipping Campden.

The group, originally formed by Cherelle Harding in response to the coronavirus pandemic to encourage more Black, Asian, and ethnic minorities to get outdoors, has already completed hikes in the Malvern Hills, Shropshire Hills, and Cannock Chase as part of their AONB Challenge. The pandemic restrictions paused progress for a while, but the group chose the Cotswolds National Landscape for their fourth walking adventure.

Cherelle explained, “I founded the group in 2020 as a bit of a response to the type of year many of us were having. Everywhere was closed, but the outdoors remained open. I wanted to encourage more people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds to explore the outdoors and build positive relationships with nature.

Through organising walks and cycle rides, we aim to support the mental and physical wellbeing of group members, as well as expanding the life perspectives of those who often spend most of their lives in the city. This is essential, and we aim to do this by providing safe, fun and comfortable experiences for people to explore the wonders of the countryside, forests, rural, and coastal lands of the UK. At the moment, we’re focusing on places nearer to Coventry for the AONB Challenge, and we’re fundraising to raise travel money to help us get to the further away places like the Isle of Wight. It’s a big challenge, but we’re really loving it and I’m optimistic we can complete it!”

The group’s aims fit within an overarching movement to promote diversity in outdoor spaces and improve access for those lacking representation or opportunity, and for those with varying abilities. Research shows that for communities with cultural heritage in Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia, there is often a disconnect between people of these diasporas and nature. Cherelle is among a larger community of people running groups like Steppers UK with the hope of reconnecting people to nature, encouraging them to experience the many benefits it offers, and motivating them to take care of the countryside and to adopt environmentally friendly behaviours.

The plan is working: since Steppers UK started, and in line with government guidance around coronavirus, walk participants have grown from six to around 25 people. Group members have sung their praises, describing the group as an unexpected highlight from the lockdown experience, and as having given them more confidence to explore the outdoors with like-minded people. One participant, Tayyibah Mota, has even been inspired to set up a new Instagram page of her own (@Jungleejoggers) where she shares her outdoor experiences. Since then, she says she has “connected with many other BAME people and hijabi sisters around the UK who have an interest in the outdoors”.

Rebecca Jones, Trails, Access and Volunteers Lead at Cotswolds National Landscape, said, “We’re so pleased that Cherelle and Steppers chose the Cotswolds for their latest adventure. We look forward to welcoming and working with groups like Steppers UK who are working to change issues surrounding representation and access to the outdoors. The Landscapes Review from 2019 clearly expresses that protected landscapes are for everyone, and it’s great to see people truly embracing that idea!”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Steppers_UK

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/steppers_uk

  • 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.
  • The organisation’s land management position statements are for use by local authorities, government agencies, land agents, advisers, land managers, farmers and the public. They, along with the planning and transport position statements are available online at www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk
  • 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

Coronavirus update 26 March 2021

A booted foot stepping on a log

On Monday 29th March, the lockdown rules in England are changing.

The government has said that from 29 March, when most schools start to break up for the Easter holidays, outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the Rule of 6) or 2 households will be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside.

We anticipate that this will mean many people will feel the call of the wild and may wish to stretch their legs by getting out into the countryside. All our outdoor spaces have seen increases in the numbers of people enjoying everything the great outdoors has to offer us – especially the physical, mental, and emotional benefits it gives us. Fresh air has never been better for us, but we all need to help take care of the countryside as it takes care of us.

In the Cotswolds, we are expecting visitor numbers might be high, and so we’d like to encourage everyone to be tolerant and kind to one another over the coming months. Please read of the guidelines below before making any trips, so that we can keep respecting the countryside, and the people and wildlife that live here. Here’s a little video about respecting the great outdoors!

  1. HANDS – FACE – SPACE
    Even when we’re outside, it will still be important to maintain social distancing, and continue to follow the hands-face-space guidance. Please give way and make space for one another on footpaths, please remember hand sanitiser or wash hands frequently if you’re able to, and remember a face mask for when you meet other people from outside your household.
  2. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
    Before you go anywhere, remember to plan ahead: check which car parks are open (and make a plan B for alternative parking arrangements if the place you aimed for is full), check if there are likely to be loos open where you’re going, and make sure you have the right footwear and clothing for the activity you’re planning.
  3. PLEASE PARK CONSIDERATELY
    Remember not to park across driveways, gateways, or block any access. Farmers are always working hard and need to move their vehicles – so keeping access clear is a huge help.
    Please try to avoid making any overcrowding worse – if where you’ve arrived is already full, please employ your Plan B and try somewhere else. Remember – emergency vehicles may also need access to car parks. Please avoid parking on verges / on the roadside – this is not only a potential hazard for road users, but also chews up the ground and turns the verge to mud.
  4. COUNTRYSIDE CODE
    Please check the Countryside Code to make sure you know the best ways to respect the countryside while you’re away from home. The Countryside Code helps us all look after wildlife, habitat, and livestock. The countryside should be a safe space – please help us with that by taking a look at the Code ahead of your trip.
  5. TAKE YOUR LITTER HOME
    Please bring a separate bag so you can collect up your litter and take it home with you. Please don’t leave it behind in the outdoors – it damages nature and is dangerous for wildlife and livestock.
  6. STICK TO THE PATH
    The ground is still muddy in places, but please avoid the temptation to go around it! If you’re off the path, you could be damaging crops – and remember, that could be someone’s livelihood. It’s also important to stay clear of ground nesting birds.
  7. KEEP DOGS ON LEADS 
    Even if your dog has good recall, you never know what might be over the crest of a hill or round a corner. Even just the shock of a dog giving chase can kill a sheep, so please keep all dogs on their leads.
  8. BAG IT & BIN IT
    An oldie, but a goodie! Please don’t leave dog mess – please bag it and put it in a dog waste bin when you find one, or take it home. Grazing sheep can be poisoned by dog poo if they eat it.
  9. BBQs ARE BETTER AT HOME
    Even sparks might start wildfires, which will kill ground nesting birds and will damage the environment.
  10. TRY TO STAY LOCAL 
    Although the ‘stay at home’ rule will end on 29 March, many restrictions will remain in place. We are still being advised to minimise the number of journeys we make where possible, so please try and stay local.
  11. BE SAFE
    Adventure within your limits – be kind to yourself and don’t take any unnecessary risks. Enjoy the fresh air, the views, and the exercise!