Aug/Sep 2011: Latest news from the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

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The latest news from the Cotswolds Conservation Board

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Dry-stone walling competition to take place at Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park

Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park near Bourton-on-the-Water will be the venue for the tenth annual Cotswolds AONB Open Dry-stone Walling Competition on Sunday 2 October

Organised by the Board, in partnership with the Cotswolds branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain, the competition will once again see competitors vying for the prestigious walling trophy and up to £120 cash prize.

Cotswold Farm Park director and BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson said: “I am passionate about rural crafts and delighted to be hosting this year’s competition. Furthermore I am pleased, although somewhat apprehensive, to have been invited to compete in the novice section - particularly as the BBC camera crew will be present! We look forward to welcoming many competitors and their supporters to the Cotswold Farm Park for, what I am sure will be a competitive and fun day.”

Anyone wishing to enter the competition can do so by registering online at or by calling 01451 862000.

Dry-stone wallers aim for new heights

Following a successful application to the Ernest Cook Trust by the Board, a new course has been launched to help address the current shortfall in advanced dry-stone walling skills in the Cotswolds.

The £10,000 grant award has enabled the Board to establish a new 22-week course to train up wallers in the skills and techniques required to achieve the Lantra Level 3 qualification, which is essential for those wishing to go on to gain the Master Craftsman certificate.  The Board discovered that these advanced skills are only taught in one other place - the Peak District - and therefore difficult for wallers in and around the Cotswolds who want to develop their skills further.

During the course, held at Huntsman's Quarry, wallers will learn to deal with the range of situations that they can often encounter, including curved walls, walls on sloping ground, high or retaining walls and ‘lunkies’ which are holes in the wall designed for animals to pass through. These are all aspects of the skill critically important to the conservation of the Cotswolds landscape and the special features that add local character as well as the continuing development of the profession. 

For further details, contact rural skills officer, David Molloy.

Annual Hedgelaying Competition

The popular annual North Cotswolds Hedgelaying Competition will be held on Saturday 19 November at Hitchen Farm, Ford, Gloucestershire, with kind support from the National Hedgelaying Society.  The competition is free to enter in 4 classes: open, intermediate, junior & beginners, and veteran.

For further details and to register, visit the Cotswolds Rural Skills website.

Walling grants prove popular across the Cotswolds

The National Grid-funded Dry-stone Walling Grants Scheme has continued to prove very popular since its launch in June 2010 and subsequent extension to the whole of the AONB in June this year.  The total fund of £400,000 is almost fully allocated with the remainder likely to be allocated following the next meeting of the Board's Grants Sub-committee in October.

In summary, to date 55 projects have been funded leading to the repair of nearly 5km of walls.  Based on an estimate of completing 2m of wall per day, this has provided approximately 9.2 years worth of work for dry-stone wallers in the Cotswolds.

The September edition of the Countryman magazine featured an interesting article on the National Grid Gas Pipeline Project and dry-stone walls in the Cotswolds.  Click here to read the full article.



Nature Improvement Area application

On behalf of the Cotswolds Ecological Network Partnership, the Board is submitting an application to be one of the first Nature Improvement Areas in the country.

Initially formed last year as the Cotswolds Western Corridor Partnership, this group of key local conservationists were keen to realise the opportunity to create a landscape scale ‘wildlife corridor’ around the Cotswolds scarp.

Last year's publication by Sir John Lawton, ‘Making Space for Nature’, encouraged the Partnership to increase its ambition, extend its area of interest to cover the whole of the AONB and change its name to the Cotswolds Ecological Network Partnership. The Partnership’s membership has grown to 48 individuals representing all the significant local and national conservation bodies and representatives of the land managing community. Although now a bigger partnership covering a larger area, the focus on the original ‘Western Cotswolds Corridor’ now renamed the Cotswolds scarp has continued, with the Partnership agreeing to propose this area for inclusion in the first tranche of NIAs.

Understanding and enjoying

Health and the Natural Environment Workshop

The Cotswolds Conservation Board and Local Government Group (LGG) will be hosting a workshop entitled 'Health and the Natural Environment' on Tuesday 27th September at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

The Workshop will aim to:

• increase knowledge and understanding of how the natural environment can contribute to improved health and wellbeing of communities and individuals and share this amongst local authorities, commissioning groups, community organisations and other partners;
• map existing assets and interventions that promote the use of the natural environment of the Cotswolds AONB for improving health and wellbeing;
• seek out further opportunities particularly, though not exclusively, through partnership working with local authorities, primary care trusts and the emerging clinical commissioning groups;
• develop pilot schemes with local partners that would be able to demonstrate increased health and wellbeing outcomes at lower cost.
• showcase such interventions and share learning for the benefit of others.

For further details and to book your place, email

Celebrating 45 years

Birthday celebrations took place on 19 August at the Escape to the Cotswolds discovery centre, marking the 45th anniversary of the AONB.

The special day was featured on BBC Oxfordshire TV and Radio Gloucestershire, and saw visitors enjoying celebration cakes and a fun 1966 quiz. 

One of the Cotswolds AONB’s most famous residents who also turns 45 this year is Prime Minister David Cameron; he sent us the following message: “I send my best wishes to the Cotswolds AONB on their 45th birthday this August. I always consider myself very lucky to live in the Cotswolds, one of the most beautiful areas in England, and I applaud the efforts of all those who work so hard to maintain and preserve it.

Photo: Becky Jones, Helena Machova, Simon Smith and Margaret Fletcher help celebrate the Cotswolds AONB 45th birthday.


Cotswold Way Framework published

A new tool to help deliver environmental, educational, health and economic benefits for the Cotswold Way National Trail has been published.  'The Cotswold Way: A Three-Year Framework 2011-14' was developed in full consultation with partners during 2010/11 to guide the management and development of the Cotswold Way until 2014.

Owing to uncertainties surrounding future financing of National Trails in England and Wales, in particular the implications of the 2010 public sector spending review, it was agreed that the framework should take an aspirational approach, as opposed to a costed action plan, and should aim to show not just what the Cotswold Way will achieve in the uncertain financial future of the next three years, but what it could and should achieve. It is already being used to support business planning and reporting within the Cotswolds Conservation Board and Natural England, and has been designed so that partners will also be able to use it in the development of projects that benefit countryside access and understanding across the AONB.

For further details contact Cotswold Way National Trail officer James Blockley or call 01451 862018.

European Charter to be awarded at Europarc Conference

Following the recent news that the Cotswolds AONB has been awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas, representatives from the Board will officially receive the award at the Europarc Federation conference in Germany, 21-24 September.

The Charter was awarded to the Cotswolds AONB following the Board's successful application last year, which included the development of a 5-year Sustainable Tourism Strategy & Action Plan, establishing the Cotswolds AONB Sustainable Tourism Partnership, plus a 2-day visit by a Europarc verifier in April.

The conference, entitled 'Quality Counts – Benefits for Nature and People’ will offer a unique opportunity to network and share ideas with leading experts from protected areas across Europe including many other areas with Charter status.

Show stand wins award

Our wardens have once again been busy with shows this summer helping to promote the Cotswolds AONB, and even winning awards along the way!

Voluntary Wardens from Central district were delighted to be presented with ‘The Best Charity Stand’ award at the Stroud Horticultural Show in July.  This was the first time these awards had been presented. They also met Lt Col Horden, recently returned from a second tour in Afghanistan, who officially opened the show, plus warden Bob Alcock gave an interview to the local radio.  Board member Nick Holliday also visited the stand and congratulated them on their award.



Online boost

Our 2 new websites are continuing to prove popular with people seeking information about the Cotswolds AONB. contains a variety of useful information on walking, cycling, events and places to visit.  New downloadable walking routes recently added include revised ' Miles Without Stiles', 3 new walking routes in South Warwickshire, plus events and festivals are being added all the time.  Events by other organisers can easily be added by using the simple online form. This facility is available to event organisers throughout the AONB and is free of charge, offering a great way to promote events to an increasing number of people.

Bookings for rural skills courses are continuing to perform well thanks to the rural skills website for the AONB,  Having a dedicated website for courses and competitions, complete with online booking facility is a great way to showcase what's available.

We are keen to increase the range and number of courses to offer a comprehensive choice for customers.  If you offer a course that you would like to promote via our website, click here to find out more.

People and communities

Charles joins the team

Charles Robinson has been appointed to the post of farm and woodland adviser, taking over from Stuart Leaver who left in June.
Charles has a degree in countryside management from Harper Adams college and some farming and woodland management experience.
He will be taking up the 1-year post from 26th September.

Defra and Natural England visits

The Board recently welcomed Tanya Arkle, Deputy Director for Landscape & Recreation at Defra and Jim Smyllie, Natural England Executive Director, on visits to the Cotswolds to learn more about the work of the Board and see some projects on the ground.  Some of the areas they looked at included the National Grid Gas Pipeline Project, Cotswold Way National Trail, Higher Level Stewardship schemes in the Cotswolds, rural skills courses, the European Charter and the Cotswolds ecological network.

Climate Change Officer post

The Board is currently recruiting a climate change officer for a new 2-year post which is being funded through the National Grid Gas Pipeline Project.  The successful applicant will work with farmers, landowners and rural businesses to develop, promote and implement viable climate change adaption and mitigation best practice. This will include:

  • working with Cotswold farms and rural businesses to identify through an audit process the actions necessary to climate change proof their activities
  • recommending measures for local energy production and land management measures tailored to farms/businesses and compatible with AONB objectives
  • assisting farmers and businesses to access external funding to implement the recommended actions
  • administering a small grant scheme to support innovative demonstration projects related to the purpose of the post

Further details are available at

Sustainable Development Fund update

The Board's Sustainable Development Fund has, to date this year, been able to give financial support worth £40,000 to 10 projects ranging from education projects and sustainable woodland development, to renewable energy and habitat conservation.  As the fund is almost fully allocated for 2011/12, the Board is looking to boost the funds available by securing private sector sponsorship.

If you would like further information, please contact David Molloy or call 01451 862000.

Strategic management and planning

Management Plan revew

The Cotswolds AONB Management Plan 2008-13 is currently being reviewed with the aim of adopting an amended plan in March 2013.  As part of this process, a series of themed workshops have been held with a wide range of stakeholders from across the AONB.

The next workshops taking place are:

  • Access and tourism on 4 October
  • Development and transport on 19 October
  • Biodiversity on 21 October

The workshops will be held at the Board's offices in Northleach.  For further information please contact Malcolm Watt on 01451 862004.


Diary dates

Date Event Venue
Tue 27 September Health and the Natural Environment workshop Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester
Sun 2 October Dry-stone Walling Competition Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park, Naunton
Tue 4 October Access & tourism workshop (Management Plan review)
Fri 7 October Cotswold Voluntary Wardens Conference Chedworth
Wed 19 October Development & transport workshop (Management Plan review)
Fri 21 October Biodiversity workshop ( Management Plan review) Northleach
November (TBC) Forum for Partners TBC
Sat 19 November Hedgelaying Competition Hitchen Farm, Ford, Gloucestershire
Fri 2 March 2012 Annual Forum TBC