Keeping rural skills alive in the Cotswolds

This year's rural skills programme, organised by the Cotswolds Conservation Board, features its largest ever range of traditional skills courses.

Weekend courses in dry-stone walling, hedgelaying, green woodworking and Cotswold slate roofing are being offered from April through to January 2011 in a range of locations across the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Aimed primarily at beginners, the courses aim to keep traditional skills alive in the Cotswolds by developing the skills needed to maintain the unique, rural features of the AONB such as dry-stone walls and hedgerows. These features are not only an important part of the Cotswolds landscape, but also provide habitats for many key species, including Cotswold Pennycress, the small, rare snail Lauria sempronii, bumblebees and the Yellowhammer.

Green woodworking courses help to raise awareness of the importance of effective woodland management through coppicing and encourage people to look more closely at woodlands to identify the products that can be derived from them. These courses are offered in association with Cotswold Woodland Crafts and teach the basic skills of cleaving, trimming, shaving and turning on a pole-lathe, as well as learning the safe use of many tools such as the billhook, bow saw and cleaving axe. Students will be able to have a go at making a wide range of items such as a rolling pin, stool, dibber and honey drizzler. Those with some experience of woodworking can undertake a more advanced project of their own choice.

In addition to the programme of courses, annual competitions are held in dry-stone walling and hedgelaying to help develop, improve and celebrate these time-honoured skills.

The Cotswolds Conservation Board's Rural Skills & Grants Officer, David Molloy said:
"Traditional skills in the countryside are at risk of being lost forever with technology advancing at an ever-increasing rate. By offering a range of courses in rural skills, we are helping to keep alive traditional techniques that have been used for hundreds of years while raising awareness of the need for conserving our natural boundaries and woodlands."

To view the 2010 programme of rural skills courses, the programme leaflet can be downloaded from the Cotswolds Conservation Board's website

Notes to editors:

• Further details including programme and downloadable leaflet can be viewed here.

Cotswolds AONB fact file

• The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is looked after by the Cotswolds Conservation Board – an independent organisation with 37 members, 15 nominated by local authorities, 8 by parish councils and 14 appointed by Government.

• The Government has designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks as our finest countryside and they are recognised as being of national importance.

• With its rolling hills and valleys the Cotswolds is the third largest protected landscape in England and Wales after the Lake District and Snowdonia. 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 Cotswolds AONB is the largest of the family of 47 AONBs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information and high res images:

Nicola Greaves
Information & Interpretation Officer
Cotswolds Conservation Board
Fosse Way
Gloucestershire GL54 3JH
T: 01451 862003