Chalford Parish Council launches new biodiversity trails!
Early in 2021, Chalford Climate Action Network received a grant from the Cotswold National Landscape’s Caring for the Cotswold scheme. Dr Grace O’Donovan explained the group’s objectives and how the grant was used. “We have a range of initiatives to reduce our community’s use of carbon and become more sustainable. This has included enhancing several habitats around the Parish, including planting a spinney of 150 trees. Next, we wanted to create trails so everyone could enjoy these sites and learn why they are so valuable. In particular, we wanted to encourage people to visit varied and lesser-known parts of the Parish, so the trails go through grassland, ancient woods and along The Thames and Severn Canal and the River Frome.” If walked in full, the trail combines four established protected areas and two new wildlife sites developed by the Network’s Biodiversity Action team.
A trail leaflet is available, but around the walks there are five information boards, which in addition to advice on what can be seen, offer a QR code to direct people onto the trail’s website. “Then you can download either a GPS or Google Earth file which will guide you round the walk. Local schoolchildren visit the sites too, and search for all the unusual plants and animals. They are very good at finding them – perhaps because they are closer to the ground than adults!”
Making Space for Nature in Tysoe
This project started as a space in the church yard, set aside for wild flowers. Since those early days and with the help of a Caring for the Cotswolds grant, the project has extended to many new areas. New sites have been designated and managed for wildlife, including wildflowers, which attracts pollinators and a host of birds and mammals.
There is a strong focus on education, supported by three attractive information boards in the village. These boards tell the story of what is happening in the specified areas and are updated regularly to keep people interested in what’s going on. Over the summer holidays, the church hosted a Wildlife Activity Week for thirty primary school-aged children with Tysoe connections. The excellent report and accompanying photo story board can be read here:
For people and for nature: Lovar Garden, Box, Wiltshire
The Lovar Garden is in Box, at the southern end of the Cotswolds, between Bath and Chippenham.
Cllr Marilyn Tye, who is championing this project on the Parish Council, explained why the location is especially valuable. “Our village is quite hilly, and this is the only flat area of countryside, so it offers a unique, easily accessible level walk for those with limited mobility. And during the pandemic, it has been especially cherished as somewhere to find tranquillity.”
With joint funding from the Cotswold National Landscape’s Caring of the Cotswolds scheme and the Wiltshire Community Foundation, the garden will be enhanced. A group of Cotswolds Voluntary Wardens have been doing a lot of work too, including improving the footpaths.
The next steps including adding benches so that more people can sit and soak up the restorative peace of the garden, and an information board to help visitors to connect more deeply with what they are looking at. Cllr Tye adds: “We are so grateful to everyone who contributes to the Caring for the Cotswolds fund. These improvements will make such a difference to the mental and physical wellbeing of residents and visitors.”
The Lovar Garden is free, open to everyone and can be incorporated as part of the 4½ mile Box Heritage Trail as a short diversion at the start. Full details of the Trail are available here: 20200319-Box-Heritage-Trail-Interactive-Map.pdf or by searching “Box Heritage Trail”.
The Tombs and Trails of Radway, Warwickshire
With lots of hard work and the help of a Caring for the Cotswolds grant, the team at Radway Parish Council have cleared a historic graveyard, including the graves of eminent soldiers. What was an overgrown, rather unused and somewhat inaccessible green space, is now a pleasant accessible area. The space has been used by people in the village to meet, which has been very beneficial in these Covid times. A large bench has been donated, from where one can sit and take in the whole green space.
An information Board explaining the history of the site will be erected. This will explain the personal history of some of the famous people in the graveyard, the story of the removal of the church which was a ‘mystery’ for many years.
The graveyard is next to the well-used Battlefield Trail which links Edgecote, Danes Moor, Cropredy Bridge and Edgehill; each a site of one or more famous battle, civil war and medieval. The ‘new’ church has a well-stocked and managed civil war permanent expedition. The Battlefield Trail, tours and re-enactments bring visitors to the area, who will now have even more heritage to enjoy.
The Tetbury Trail
John and Nicola Swanton – with Lottie – being taken for a walk along the Tetbury Trail by volunteer project manager, Paul Lockley © John Swanton, Cotswolds National Landscape Board Member
The ‘Trouble House Halt’ gets a mention in the vintage Flanders and Swann song – Slow Train – which laments the Beeching cuts to Britain’s railway branch lines in the 1960s.
One of those lines, between Tetbury and Kemble, was closed in 1965, and is being brought back into life for other forms of transport. About a mile of overgrown former rail line has been cut back and given a limestone base, making it a dry and accessible path, which can now be easily walked from Tetbury to the Trouble House pub – ‘The Tetbury `Trail’. This link has been designated ‘a bridleway’ so horse-riders, cyclists, wheelchair users, pushchairs and walkers can benefit from this link.
The Cotswolds National Landscape has contributed funds (along with many others) from its ‘Caring for the Cotswolds Fund’ to help finance the mile or so of new track from the outskirts of Tetbury to The Trouble House pub. Volunteers did an excellent job cutting back the undergrowth, whilst the limestone path was installed by professionals with the correct equipment.
The Tetbury Rail Land Regeneration Trust and their volunteers are to be congratulated for their work and tenacity in securing this accessible route through the countryside and making ‘The Trouble House’ a destination once again.
Stepping Up to Improve Access
Volunteers adding the final touches to the new steps at Beckford Nature Reserve © Ben Dent
On the edge of the village of Beckford, between Tewkesbury and Evesham at the north western end of the Cotswolds National Landscape, lies a three hectare nature reserve. In the 1980s, it started being used by Huntsman’s Quarries to extract gravel and sand. Later, Huntsman’s restored the land to a conservation area, and in 2008, the local community bought the site using grants, donations and fundraising events, and so established a permanent reserve, open to the public for free.
Mark McCauley, Chairman of the Trustees, explained that the Reserve has been even more popular during the pandemic. “We have seen many more people finding comfort in spending time amongst the trees, wildflowers and wildlife, with some people coming for the first time. However, the path round the reserve includes two slopes, which become slippery with mud when it’s wet.” Caring for the Cotswolds contributed nearly £1,700 towards the costs of installing safer steps. “This has made them more robust, easier to use, especially for elderly people and anyone who finds the terrain difficult, and easier to maintain in for the future. Importantly, it will also help to conserve the habitat as visitors will be encouraged to keep to the designated paths.”
On your marks, get set, go !
Work has begun on many of the new projects supported by Caring for the Cotswolds, including the new Education shelter at Sladebank Woods CIC © Martin Jakes
It might still be cold and wet but that hasn’t stopped the young people from The Shrubberies School and The Apperley Centre starting the construction of the new Education shelter at Sladebank Woods. Built by volunteers with a range of abilities, it will be the focal point for future events, including bringing young people with severe learning difficulties into nature to develop practical and life skills. Once complete, the impressive pole structure will have a six metre diameter and will be at the heart of a wider project to create accessible pathways and compost toilet facilities. The materials are locally sourced from the Bathurst Estate and Westonbirt.
Sladebank Woods sits on the edge of the Cotswolds near Stroud. It is the westernmost point of a woodland running out to Swifts Hill and beyond. It was grazed by cows up until 1960 and has two areas of remaining wildflower meadow. The project will capture and tell the story of how it became a mixed woodland and now sits in the landscape of the Slad Valley. The aim is to create a woodland that is resilient and diverse in the future. Involving and educating people is absolutely vital to this.
14 new projects supported by Caring for the Cotswolds!
Volunteers after planting 180 trees at Middle Hill, one of the wildlife sites that will form part of a new guided walking tour in Chalford, Gloucestershire and one of the recently approved projects. © ChalCAN Biodiversity Action
In January the Caring for the Cotswolds Grants Panel met for our biggest meeting yet. The applications had already been reviewed by the Youth Panel and their feedback helped inform the decision making. The Grants Panel approved 14 new applications totalling £25,000! The applications were well balanced across the four themes and there was a good geographic spread from a range of organisations.Please see our press release for more information on all of the successful organisations and projects: Caring for the Cotswolds, Press release Mar 2021
A massive thank you to the members of our Youth Panel
The Youth Panel is made up of young people from across the Cotswolds
The Youth Panel has played an important role in the review of the recent round of Caring for the Cotswolds applications. Over two sessions, they rigorously assessed each application, which was given a score. They provided commentary to justify the score, gave feedback on the value of the project to the community and analysed the budget.
The Youth Panel did an excellent job, despite all of the pressures of the school timetable, mock-exams and Covid. Well done to everyone involved.
Injustice, imprisonment and rioting…….in west Oxfordshire?!?
The newly installed information panels telling the story of the Ascott Martyrs
The Ascott Martyrs were sixteen women, some with babies in arms, who were imprisoned in 1873 for supporting their striking farm worker husbands in the Oxfordshire village of Ascott Under Wychwood. The traumatic event led to riots and a reprieve from Queen Victoria. Their legacy today is that picketing was made legal in 1874 and local religious leaders were no longer appointed Magistrates.
The information panels are part of a seat that surrounds a memorial tree, which was planted in 1973 on the village green to commemorate the centenary of the event. Thanks to the Ascott Martyrs Educational Trust and a grant from Caring for the Cotswolds, an important part of Cotswolds history has been brought to life.
The Heritage Trails Project
A job well done; one of many improvements to a series of trails completed by the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens in North Wiltshire.
The Heritage Trails Project was developed to encourage the local community and visitors to appreciate the historical environment and experience the natural beauty of the North Wiltshire countryside. This ambitious project was led by the Avon District Cotswold Voluntary Wardens and part funded by the Wardens Countryside Fund.
The first part of the project involved improving the Public Rights of Way (PRoW) and path furniture: stiles, gates, way marker posts and signs. In total 55.48 miles of PRoWs are included in the trails, resulting in a significant number of repairs and installations to make the trails accessible to all. Work included the installation of additional way marker posts and the replacement of some of the stiles with kissing gates, as pictures above.
The second part of the project saw the design of eight trail leaflets so that walkers can learn about local heritage and places of interest as they explore the trails. The improved paths, signage and the leaflets have inspired more people to explore the area, especially during the COVID-19 restrictions.
The leaflets were printed and distributed and are also available from the Corsham Walking Festival website
- Corsham to Biddestone Peacock Trail
- Corsham to Box Peacock Trail
- Corsham to Colerne Peacock Trail
- Biddestone Heritage Trail
- Box Heritage Trail
- Colerne Heritage Trail
- Corsham ‘Blue’ Heritage Trail
- Corsham ‘Red Heritage Trail
Where summer winds will whisper among the trees
The newly planted community orchard at Sustainable Woodstock, which looked great even on a very wet and windy day! © James Webb
Sustainable Woodstock in Oxfordshire received a Caring for the Cotswolds grant to enhance their site for the local community and wildlife. A permissive path was secured, allowing walkers to pass through and enjoy the site, away from the busy A44. Walkers can now connect to the Oxfordshire Way from Woodstock and either head west in to the Blenheim Estate or on to Stonesfield or east towards Wooton, and vice versa.
The site is a mosaic of woodland and meadows, complete with a community orchard. Native bluebells have been planted in the wooded areas and wildflowers in the meadows. Bird boxes and reptile refuges have been installed across the site and are already attracting a host of furry, feathered and scaly residents!
Two picnic benches were also installed so that visitors and residents can sit and enjoy the site. An added benefit, the benches were made by RAW; a charity that works with people with learning disabilities, mental health problems or those from a disadvantaged background.