The leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron MP has shown a keen interest in work that is being undertaken to help conserve the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Mr.Cameron made a visit on Friday 24th October to an AONB conservation training site in his constituency of Witney.

During his visit to Milton Downs Farm near Burford in West Oxfordshire, David Cameron was shown how the organisation that exists to conserve and enhance the Cotswolds AONB, the Cotswolds Conservation Board is working to encourage the development of rural skills in the area, in this case drystone walling.

Spokesperson for the Cotswolds Conservation Board, Claire Cunningham said:

"The board was delighted to be able to show David Cameron how great efforts are being made in the Cotswolds to ensure that the rural skill of drystone walling is maintained.

He had the opportunity to meet young drystone walling students who are training on a course that is run by the board in partnership with Abingdon and Witney College.

Many of the drystone walls in the Cotswolds need to be repaired and we know that rural skills are in decline in the AONB, so there is a real need for the board to support and foster drystone walling skills."

The trainees that David Cameron met learnt to wall at Milton Downs Farm and qualified with a nationally recognised LANTRA drystone walling certificate. Eleven students have just started on a new course that will run until March 2009. This is the fourth course that the board has run in partnership with Abingdon and Witney College and so far 25 students have gained LANTRA level two drystone walling qualifications. .

The student placements on the course are sponsored by the Cotswolds Conservation Board through a Leader + grant fund awarded by West Oxfordshire District Council.

This is part of a range of rural skills work operated by the board. In September and November there are annual drystone walling and hedgelaying competitions, attracting competitors from across the country. Throughout the year there are weekend walling and hedgelaying training courses for the general public.

Click here to find out more about conservation work in the Cotswolds