Near record-levels for voluntary wardens
Last year was another successful year for the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens who clocked up a near-record 45,249 hours in their work to conserve, enhance and increase understanding and enjoyment of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), despite it being the wettest winter ever known.
Over 320 active wardens, who form the voluntary arm of the Cotswolds Conservation Board, regularly carry out a wide range of activities which, in 2013/14, was estimated to be worth at least £283,000. Despite the wet weather earlier this year, the wardens managed to surpass last year’s total hours of 41,973 and came very close to breaking their 2011/12 record of 46,960 hours.
Much of the wardens’ time was spent on undertaking a variety of practical conservation and enhancement work, whilst organising and leading guided walks, attending shows and working with schools continued to remain an integral aspect of their work.
Voluntary Wardens’ conservation activities during 2013/14 included:
- Over 31,000 sq m of woodland was coppiced and 108,000 sq m cleared
- 40 flower-rich limestone grassland sites were improved and cleared of invasive species of plant.
- 1376 new trees planted, 754 hedge trees and shrubs planted, and nearly 1000 metres of hedgerow laid
- Over 300 metres of streams and ditches cleared
- 800 metres of dry stone walls repaired or rebuilt
- 2200 metres of fencing erected
Wardens also helped to facilitate easier access to the Cotswolds countryside by installing or repairing 145 gates and 130 waymark or finger posts; constructing 260 steps in banks and 28 bridges, patrolling over 3000 miles of paths across different parishes, and clearing 39,000 metres of footpaths and bridleways.
Last year, the popular guided walks programme saw 4100 people take part in 275 walks, researched and led by wardens. Through a range of educational activities organised by some of the wardens, many of whom are former teachers, 921 schoolchildren from 14 schools were encouraged out of the classroom and into the countryside to explore and learn about their natural environment. They worked with schools across the Cotswolds on activities such as fossil hunting, ‘wild days’ and farm visits.
Head Warden John Bartram said: "It has been another very productive year and thanks must go to all our wardens who have once again shown huge enthusiasm, professionalism and a wide range of skills and expertise. Whether it involves building a dry stone wall, maintaining a footpath or enthusing children in nature, our ever-resourceful wardens always rise to the challenge and help make many significant and tangible contributions to the activities of the Conservation Board throughout the Cotswolds AONB.”
More volunteers are needed for the Avon, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire areas of the Cotswolds. If anyone living in these areas would like to join the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens, and help play their part in looking after the AONB, they can find out how to join by visiting: www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk/cotswoldswardens.
Notes to editors:
- There are currently 360 Cotswold Voluntary Wardens, of whom 323 are active wardens who, since 1966, have been dedicating thousands of hours of practical conservation work every year across the AONB, as well as leading an annual programme of guided walks and undertaking a range of promotional and educational work.
- The Cotswolds was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966 in recognition of its rich, diverse and high quality landscape. www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk
- The Cotswolds AONB is looked after by the Cotswolds Conservation Board – an independent organisation established in 2004 which has 37 members - 15 nominated by local authorities, 8 by parish councils and 14 appointed by the Secretary of State.
- The Cotswolds is the second largest protected landscape in England after the Lake District National Park and represents 10% of the total AONB area in the UK. 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.
- Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), along with National Parks, are considered to be the most special landscapes in the country and belong to an international family of protected areas. There are 38 AONBs in England and Wales, and a further eight in Northern Ireland. For further details, visit: www.landscapesforlife.org.uk. For details of the 15 National Parks in England and Wales visit: www.nationalparks.gov.uk