World body reaffirms the value of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
North Wessex Downs AONB, along with the other 32 English Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has received reconfirmation of Category V status from the IUCN UK Committee (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Category V status is a great recognition by the worldwide community that AONBs are regarded as lead agencies in protecting the UK's landscapes.
The reconfirmation follows three years of work with the IUCN UK by the National Association of AONBs consisting of input to developing IUCN's guidance on categorisation (The Putting Nature on the Map Project), open forum discussion and the drawing up of a Statement of Compliance, supported by evidence from across the AONB Family. This statement was accepted by the IUCN panel in June.
North Wessex Downs, along with each individual AONB partnership, provided further evidence to demonstrate that we meet the high standards demanded by the IUCN.
Howard Davies, Chief Executive of the National Association of AONBs said: "This is the culmination of three years' work. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty make a significant impact to conserving the UK's biodiversity and the reaffirmation of their Category V status is a great recognition that AONBs remain the UK's Landscapes for Life."
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Unprecedented solar farm project 'strikes at the heart of our stunning landscape'
Plans before Swindon Borough Council for a photovoltaic (PV) solar energy farm, described as the largest known proposed PV scheme in the UK - bigger than a typical village and covering an area of more than 100 football pitches - would undoubtedly strike at the heart of our stunning and fragile landscape.
The scale of the development at 80.5 ha in area is larger than the nearby village of Chiseldon, population around 2,600. The site will be particularly visible from the Ridgeway National Trail, described as the country's oldest road, Barbury Castle Iron Age hill fort and Swindon Borough Council's own Barbury Castle Country Park and the surrounding rights of way.
With 150,000 proposed ground-mounted PV arrays producing around 41MW, the project's supporters say it will be a major contributor to renewable energy resources.
But officers of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) have called the proposed development unprecedented and likely to cause significant harm to the character and appearance of the AONB.
The AONB Unit has written asking the Secretary of State to intervene if the plan gets the go-ahead from Swindon councillors. Specifically it has requested the application should be "called in" due to its size, location in an AONB contrary to national policy, Swindon Borough Council's own planning policy and the Council's own interest in the application.
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AONBs are key to local investment
A report which has just been submitted to Government claims that the work being undertaken by the North Wessex Downs AONB and the 32 other English AONB Partnerships is of growing relevance to national and local policy objectives.
The report says that AONB Units, which are mandated by Government to protect and enhance cherished landscapes like the North Wessex Downs, are well suited to applying for and managing large externally funded projects, allowing Partnerships to 'punch well above their weight'.
In the North Wessex Downs, for instance, the Local Action Group has now awarded £1.4m to 64 different projects - to farmers, foresters, small businesses and rural communities. Combined with match funding, it means that it has facilitated a total investment in the area of more than £3 million since the Programme began in 2009.
The report is a wide-reaching review of all the UK's AONB partnerships and contains extensive in-depth analysis of the way they operate and benefit their local communities.
In the report's overall conclusions, it says that concepts such as sustainable development, the ecosystems approach and the environment as an economic driver and determinant of health and wellbeing, all of which are core tenets of the AONB purpose, has meant that the work of AONB Partnerships is of mainstream interest to many partners in a way that would not have been the case 10 years ago.
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Your chance to comment on our Five-Year Plan
The North Wessex Downs AONB Management Plan presents objectives and policies that help conserve and enhance our nationally important landscape. The Plan also contains priorities that the North Wessex Downs team intends to lead or carry out with others. The Partnership is currently putting together our plan for the period 2014-19.
Here's how to ensure the future of this important and special landscape:
Following an informal consultation, held in May and June, a number of experts have reviewed various aspects and made suggestions for changes. A consultation draft for comments can be found at the link below:
Management Plan Consultation PDF
An online survey has been set up, which contains questions relating to the content; the delivery plan; the structure and presentation; and any other amendments that people would like to suggest. It would be helpful if comments or suggestions were related to the relevant page, section or an example.
You can access the consultation survey by following this link.
The North Wessex Downs team will also be undertaking consultation sessions at each Local Authority and relevant public events during September.
Details of the public consultation events can be found here.
The consultation will close at 12 noon on Tuesday 29th October 2013.
Icons Travelling Exhibition stops off at Shaw House, Newbury
Our celebrated original collection of ten paintings in watercolour and gouache of Icons of the North Wessex Downs by Oxfordshire artist Anna Dillon are now on display at Shaw House, Newbury until the end of September. They have just completed a one-month display at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.
It is the first time that this unique series of stylised works of art have been on public display in Berkshire. They will then go on display in Marlborough and Hungerford this autumn.
They were commissioned by the North Wessex Downs AONB to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the organisation last year.
Anna Dillon was born in Berkshire in 1972 and grew up in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire near Avebury, The Uffington White Horse Hill and The Ridgeway.
She says of her work: "The unique and ancient countryside of the British Isles and Ireland continually inspires me to paint vibrant and colourful landscapes."
Sustainable Development Fund open for grant applicants
The North Wessex Downs Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) is now in its seventh successful year following the introduction of these funds nationally to all Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England and Wales. In that time we have helped to inject £1.4 million into the local economy.
The SDF scheme is funded by Defra and was launched in 2005. We have supported a wide variety of schemes (See summary on website for further details) by providing grants to organisations, businesses, community groups and individuals, all wishing to explore and develop practical projects that conserve and enhance the local environment, develop local economic activity or promote local produce and products.
More information about the Sustainable Development Fund is available from the AONB Office. Please contact Oliver Cripps who will be happy to talk to you regarding your project ideas on 01488 685 440, or Email: email@example.com
Berkshire Recorders Day: A Shared Vision For Biodiversity
The Berkshire Local Nature Partnership (LNP) and Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC) are running a joint venture conference at the Oracle, Thames Valley Business Park in Reading on biodiversity. The date of the event is 28 September from 0900 to 1630.
The LNP will be organising key note speakers and workshops/discussion and TVERC will be providing a more local perspective to the day. Presentations/speakers include:
- Berkshire & South Buckinghamshire Bat Group talking about what the group have been doing and plan to do going forward.
- Wokingham District Veteran Tree Association will be talking about veteran tree surveys focusing on how the survey material has been used for to bring about changes in attitude and practice regarding veteran trees.
- Berkshire Mammal Group will give a presentation about the group, its aims and work to date.
- TVERC will provide an update on what has been recorded in Berkshire over the last year and what happens to the records we receive.
You can register interest at www.BerkshireLNP.org - Booking is essential.
Help for Hedgehogs
Ecologists based at the University of Reading are conducting a project examining the possible impact of road networks on hedgehog populations. It is estimated that hedgehog populations have declined by approximately 20% in the last 20 years, although some wildlife organizations claim their demise is much more severe than that.
The Reading researchers believe that one factor contributing to this decline is the fragmentation effect of major roads on hedgehog populations, i.e. hedgehogs avoid crossing these major roads, leading to populations becoming more and more isolated from one another, which potentially makes them more vulnerable to other factors.
The ecologists are looking to obtain genetic samples from hedgehogs in a zone approximately 10 miles north and south of the M4 between Bristol and Reading. One source is the bodies of hedgehogs that have been killed on the roads. People are urged to report any sightings they have of dead hedgehogs so that the Reading team can collect the remains and take a small tissue sample for their analyses.
To report any sightings, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Top 101 listing for Uffington White Horse
The historic Uffington White Horse and White Horse Hill has been named by VisitEngland as one of the 101 Top Places to Visit Before you go Abroad, commenting that a walk in this historic landscape is a mystical and atmospheric experience
You can walk to the Uffington White Horse and Dragon Hill from the National Trust's Ashdown House, or vice versa. It is only a few miles along the ancient track of the Ridgeway, past the long barrow at Waylands Smithy.
It's a wonderful part of the North Wessex Down to take in sweeping views of the chalk hills and it is undoubtedly a fabulously atmospheric site with the ramparts of Uffington Iron Age Castle looming above and the sweep of the Manger below.
It is said that on the night of the seventh moon the ancient chalk figure of the Uffington White Horse comes alive and goes down to the manger to graze!
Visitor numbers to the English countryside are increasing
A new report from Natural England reveals that the English adult population made approximately 2.85 billion visits to the outdoors between March 2102 and February 2013.
The 4th annual monitoring report contains a wealth of information about visits made to the natural environment - where we travel from, where we visit, what we do when we're out there, and how experiencing the natural environment impacts on our behaviour, attitudes and general wellbeing.
Since the first annual report was published, the proportion of people taking at least one visit to the outdoors in the previous week for health and exercise has increased significantly from 34 per cent in 2009 to 44 per cent in 2013. Respondents to the survey also consistently agreed that being out in the natural environment made them feel 'calm and relaxed' or 'refreshed and revitalised'.
The survey shows that green spaces near home are an important part of modern life. Visits tend to be taken close to where people live, with two thirds of visitors travelling within two miles of their home. The survey shows that 92 per cent of people 'agree' that having green spaces close to where they live is important.
The evidence from this report is being used by Public Health England to help local authorities identify priorities for greening their communities which will, in turn, improve people's health and wellbeing.
More details at Natural England Visitor Numbers PDF
Our Land partner profile
In every issue of our E-Bulletin we provide a brief profile on one of the businesses that participate in the Our Land sustainable tourism programme.
Bushcraft courses in Marlborough, Savernake forest
In 2008 Andy Noble formed Natures Craft after spending much of his life fascinated by the outdoors and nature and, in particular, bushcraft and wilderness living skills which Andy has spent many years studying and practicing. Saddened to see the demise in these skills Natures Craft was set up to help keep alive, and share, the skills and knowledge that would have originally been passed down generation to generation. They demonstrate through hands on practical experiences how these skills and crafts still play an important role in our modern-day lives.
The Natures Craft courses, set in a 500 acre estate and within 40 acres of mature ancient semi-natural woodland just on the doorstep of Savernake forest, offer a range of training and experiences in Bushcraft, Woodsmanship and Wilderness Living that cover fundamental skills for beginners through to more advanced techniques for the more experienced.
Whether it be the thrill of succeeding at fire by friction, the joys of foraging and cooking wild foods, the pleasure of carving and creating tools and utensils, or simply the sensations of peace gained by just sitting and watching wild life, there is something for everyone.
The woods have an abundance of wildlife including Roe and Muntjac deer, badgers, foxes, hares, rabbits, owls, buzzards, woodpeckers and many other wild creatures all of which can be heard and seen.
Some dates for your diary
Memo to Our Land businesses. Keep your web pages updated
Our Land businesses need to ensure they are keeping their details up to date, because when a selection of businesses were featured by Our Land nationally in July, two were showing landscape painting courses and guided Ridgeway Walks, which had already taken place.
Our Land members should link to www.our-land.co.uk/copy/our-land-upgrades to update or add to their details.
The North Wessex Downs AONB Team:
Julie Baldwin, Partnership Co-ordinator
Oliver Cripps, acting Assistant Director
Dawn Hamblin, Leader Programme Manager
Andrew Lord, Planning Advisor
Diane White, North Wessex Farmland Birds Advisor
Henry Oliver, Director
Ken Westall, Communications Officer (maternity cover)