North Wessex Downs AONB, Units 3-4, Denford Manor, Lower Denford, Hungerford, RG17 0UN
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The North Wessex Downs AONB worked with Community Council for Berkshire to host a seminar to explore possibilities for creating rural affordable housing schemes in the AONB. The event received funding of £1,052.43.
Henry Oliver, set the context of development in a protected landscape, followed by presentations by Kenneth McDiarmid from Englefield Estates and Mark Maclay from the Country Land & Business Association. “This was a great opportunity for landowners to get their point of view across,” said Mark Maclay.
Helen Kelly, Rural Housing Specialist from the Department of Communities and Local Government, and Sara Cunningham from the National Housing Federation went on to discuss the recent proposals in the Localism Bill.
Arlene Kersley, of CCB explains: “It encouraged real dialogue between landowners, housing providers and local authorities’ housing and planning officers”.
For further information please visit our Development section
Aldbourne received an SDF Grant of £2,200.00 to produce their community plan, providing a vision for the future of the village and the surrounding countryside.
Peter Keaney of the community plan steering group said; “In a nutshell, the whole community will benefit,as this is not a Plan aimed at certain sectors or age groups, or individuals.
The consultations have already brought many people together to discuss the solving of problems such as traffic, youth activity, housing needs, litter, and street lighting.”
The Plan can be downloaded from the Aldbourne Community website.
Wiltshire Botanical Society undertook surveys of important sites identified in the recent AONB Arable Biodiversity Strategy, helped by an SDF grant of £400.00.
This activity also helped to monitor important species and habitats as part of the Wiltshire and Swindon Local Biodiversity Action Plans.
According to Tim Kaye, of WBS “Arable plants represent the most critically endangered of our countries flora and possibly the least studied. In order to target conservation measures effectively the accurate recording of cornfield annuals is necessary. Cornflower, Night flowered catchfly and Rye Brome were probably the highlights”
Visit the Wiltshire Botanical Society website for further information.
‘Breathe Barbury’, a Community Interest Company was given £3,100.00 towards developing a business plan for operating the new visitor centre proposed at Barbury Castle.
The North Wessex Downs AONB has been working with Swindon Borough Council and Breathe Barbury on plans for the new facility.
Project Coordinator Mark Spreckley said “Breathe Barbury is extremely grateful to the North Wessex Downs AONB not only for their funding, but for the guidance and support they have given us”.
Hampshire FWAG received a grant of £2120 to build 20 nest boxes and train volunteers to check and maintain them.
The boxes are to be located on agricultural land in the Bourne Valley, to encourage existing populations along the Test to spread. Most recently 34 local landowners attended a presentation by Barn Owl expert Colin Shawyer and demonstration of boxes being installed.
The connectivity of habitat is of utmost importance for the survival of the Barn Owl, and by working together, the landowners in The Bourne Valley can greatly contribute towards the success of future populations.
A grant was given towards the cost of producing the Beedon Parish Plan, which was based on responses from 86% of the community. The consultation also had a high degree of involvement by young people.
Ann Bell, of Beedon Parish Council explains;
“We had some projects that we felt everybody in the village could partake in - a new recreation ground, more recycling, the village hall to refurbish, the church where we'd like to have some toilet facilities.
We want to encourage more people to get out into the countryside, there are lots of footpaths around here and we'd like to make sure people get out and know where they are”.
The Plan can be downloaded at the Beedon Parish Council website.
The SDF provided a grant for creating Beedon Parish Council to create a new allotments site.
Dick Russell of the Parish Council explained how the community are right behind the project; “Allotment sites are often distant from the community they serve and not easy to access. This site is very close to the centre of the village, a short way down a track used by walkers, and will therefore become a centre of village interest not only for those with plots but for friends and family as well. There is already discussion of surplus produce being made available at the monthly village market, and of an annual horticultural show.”
In February, the SDF coordinator, Oliver Cripps joined plot holders to plant 250 m of native broadleaf hedge secure behind purpose built deer fencing.
Visit the Beenham Parish Council website for further details.
Hampshire Country Learning received a grant to enable several hundred key stage two children from the North Wessex Downs area to visit local working farms, in order to experience how and where their food is grown and how the countryside is managed to ensure that it is sustainable.
The project enabled children to experience the many different activities taking place within the countryside communities of the North Wessex Downs and understand the importance of farming for ensuring the future of this unique countryside.
Joanna Brown of Hampshire Country Learning said; “The children were able to meet the people who do these jobs everyday and learn directly from them. Improving communication between urban and rural communities will encourage a greater appreciation of the unique qualities of the NWDAONB”.
A leaflet was created exploring the influence of chalk geology around East Garston using the new North Wessex Downs AONB walks template.
This walk through the Berkshire Downs gives an opportunity to explore how the chalk downland of this part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) developed.
Much of the chalk outcrop forms an elevated gentle, southerly dipping plateau, dissected by a network of dry valleys. In places on the Downs, areas of chalk grassland with characteristic plants such as orchids, thyme and harebell still survive.
Lesley Dunlop, of BGC said “the leaflets are fantastic and it is hoped that this template will save time and money for groups and be more identifiable as walks in the North Wessex Downs AONB”
The leaflet can be downloaded from our Walks section, or visit Berkshire Geoconservation Group for further information.
A grant was provided to East Woodhay Parish Council to construct a boardwalk along a popular right of way near Woolton Hill in Hampshire.
On a sunny afternoon on the 26th March over 80 people of all ages, including a large number of children met up to walk along the new boardwalk and see the blaze of golden daffodils.
Hanne Teece, of East Woodhay Parish Council said; “We keep hearing favourable comments, especially from the older people who say they can now safely walk along it, and one elderly lady was heard to say that the best thing was you could now go down there in your normal shoes and no longer had to put on all the wet weather gear!!
You can find a walk that includes the boardwalk in the Walks section of our website.
A grant was awarded to help the Fairfield Garden Allotment Association improve their facilities.
Repairs were made to fencing and a creative solution was found for providing water, using rainfall runoff stored in recycled containers.
The Town and Manor of Hungerford sought a grant to help provide interpretation and train volunteer wardens at the Freemans Marsh SSSI on the western edge of Hungerford.
The site includes BAP habitats, chalk stream, marsh and wild flower meadows supporting rare species now scarce in southern England.
However due to the attractiveness of the area and close proximity to Hungerford, the area is under considerable pressure from users. Sally Wallington, Ecological Advisor to the project stated; “Freemans Marsh is one of the best ecologically rich areas in the Kennet Valley. The T&M has to balance conflicting needs of protecting wildlife, grazing livestock and providing open access to public”.
For further information on events and access at Freemans Marsh visit the website.
The SDF helped Frilsham to print their plan, following an extremely high response to their consultation where 67% of the community responded.
Community planning development worker for the Community Council for Berkshire, Sarah Ward, said she was really impressed at the enthusiasm of the Frilsham residents.
“ They were brimming with ideas for future projects, while also currently developing new community resources such as a monthly lunch club for older residents. The residents are very creative and they are keen to do things that will make them a vibrant and strong community”.
The Greening Campaign is an innovative idea to help motivate people to reduce their energy consumption and therefore lower their personal and community carbon footprint.
The Greening Hermitage group aim to encourage all households to put into action a number of ideas which save energy in the home and at work. These activities will be underlined by a series of events and community activities. The next step of the campaign is to evaluate its success which is done by a combination of public surveys and number of participants. From this information the annual CO2 cut for the community can be estimated.
Tim Clarke of the Greening Hermitage Group said “The reduction in consumption of fossil fuels for producing energy and goods is seen as a prime objective in the Hermitage and other greening campaigns. Building a more sustainable community for the future is the vision we all aspire to”.
£5,160.00 was awarded to the Wiltshire Heritage Museum to run a pilot bus service linking the Museum with Stonehenge, Avebury and the associated archaeological locations that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is hoped that this service will encourage the significant number of international visitors to explore the wider countryside of the North Wessex Downs AONB and reduce the pressure on these two iconic sites. The bus will also benefit local businesses and provide a link for rural residents.
The SDF coordinator assisted WHM in gaining support from local communities, including significant funding from the Amesbury Local Area Board.
Flora Locale were awarded £500 towards the costs of running a workshop for professionals and members of the community interested in restoring lowland rivers.
It provided a basic introduction to some of the issues and challenges facing the River Kennet - one of Britain's most important chalk rivers.
Two stretches of river on grazed common land 'before' and 'after' restorative work were visited. Discussion covered such topics as riverbank grazing impacts, recreational disturbance, abstraction and over-widening, impacts of artificial water bodies and considered measures that can be taken to restore the in-river and bankside habitats.
For further details visit the Flora Locale website.
Hungerford Allotment Holders Association (Ha Ha) received a grant to install a borehole at their Marsh Lane site, to provide water for plot holders.
Geoff Greenland, HaHa Secretary said; "The provision of water was viewed as a key priority by all plot holders, who previously had to bring water to site themselves. The borehole now delivers water directly to storage units thanks in no small part to NWD AONB."
The SDF coordinator worked with the Berkshire Geoconservation Group (BGC) and the communities of East Garston and Brightwalton to develop a template for publishing walks in the AONB.
A leaflet was created exploring the influence of chalk geology around East Garston and from this a template was adapted.
Lesley Dunlop, of BGC said “the leaflets are fantastic and it is hoped that this will save time and money for groups and be more identifiable as walks in the North Wessex Downs AONB”.
Please visit our Walks section for further information and to download leaflets.
The SDF supported local artists Christopher Baines and Anna Dillon in creating a new website and art workshops to celebrate the centenary of artist Paul Nash’s connection with the Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire.
In 1911, Nash wrote to a friend about his discovery of this landscape, calling it ‘a beautiful legendary country’. In 1912 Nash made his first paintings of the Clumps.
Featuring images of Nash's paintings from galleries around the world, together with archive material and photographs, the website will explore why the Wittenham Clumps became such an important subject for him and will encourage people to visit and enjoy the landscape for themselves.
Anna and Chris also hosted a series of workshops in March to encourage a new generation of artists to take inspiration from the landscape of the North Wessex Downs AONB.
For further details please visit the Paul Nash and the Wittenham Clumps website.
The Wiltshire Long Distance Walking Association received a grant of £837.00 to expand their annual ‘Downsaround’ challenge to reach a more diverse audience.
Walkers and runners aged from seven to seventy celebrated the beauty and tranquillity of the Marlborough Downs and Pewsey Vale as they took part in the Pewsey DownsAround Challenge on a sunny April day.
140 people took on the Challenge, choosing between route distances of 10, 16, 26 and 32 miles through some of the most spectacular parts of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
All four routes started from Pewsey, leading up the Giants Grave hill and along the Tan Hill Way to Gopher Wood. The shorter routes returned to Pewsey via Oare, while the longer ones continued along the Wansdyke as far as Cherhill and Avebury, coming back to Pewsey over the Marlborough Downs. Each walker’s progress was logged at six checkpoints along the route to ensure the safety of the entrants and to refresh them with food and drink.
The event was organised and run by volunteers from the Wiltshire Long Distance Walkers’ Association. Participants munched and swigged their way through 15 cakes, 15 pizzas, many packets of biscuits and over 200 litres of water.
Oliver Cripps, acting Assistant Director of the North Wessex Downs AONB, who manages the Sustainable Development Fund, said:
“We’re delighted that this year’s DownsAround was such a success, and that we were able to support it through our Sustainable Development Fund. We congratulate the Wiltshire Long Distance Walkers’ Association on all their hard work to make it happen and also everyone who took part, whether as a participant or volunteer. The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a very special place, and the Pewsey Walking Festival is exactly the sort of event that enables more people to explore and enjoy this beautiful landscape.”
EnduranceLife, an outdoor activity company have developed the ‘Trailblaze’ event – where runners will use a timing chip to record their times at checkpoints along the Ridgeway National Trail. This means that entrants can complete the course whenever suits them best, and has a far lesser impact on the trail surface than a single mass participation event.
Bob Mycock, of EnduranceLife said; “Trailblaze is a brand-new concept designed to test your limits and fire your spirit. This hand-picked portfolio of tough endurance challenges consists of a selection of stunning trails which pass through some of the world’s most demanding and inspiring landscapes”.
The SDF contributed £2,400.00 to the Trailblaze concept, which was matched by funds from the Chilterns AONB and Natural England. A further benefit is that 20% of all entry fees goes directly towards the upkeep of the Ridgeway National Trail.
THE discovery of a window frame built by a Saxon craftsman more than 1,000 years ago is putting a small church in rural Berkshire on the map.
The frame, complete with a hinged wooden panel, was found by architect Andrew Plumridge during repairs to St Andrew’s, Boxford. It proves that St Andrew’s, on the banks of the River Lambourn in Berkshire, is far older than previously suspected, and can now lay claim to having the oldest working wooden window in England.
“Both the church and village are delighted with the find, especially as we believe there are, at most, just three others in the country – and this certainly could be the oldest. It raises the status of the church and confirms other Saxon evidence around the chancel,” said Mr Plumridge.
Mike Appleton, church warden, said: “We’ve always suspected the chancel end of the church may be Saxon and the discovery of this window proves it. It’s good news for us because St Andrew’s is a small, rural parish. The church itself is a simple building and to find something like this puts us on the map.
The SDF contributed £1447.56 to the preservation of this important historical find.
The Effective Initiatives Community Interest Company visited several schools in the Marlborough Area to talk to pupils about sustainable transport. The roadshow also visited Marlborough High Street as part of Climate Day. Visitors learnt about reducing their family carbon footprint and using more active methods of travel. However the most exciting aspect of the day for many was trying out some of the electric bikes on display!
Oliver Cripps, Acting Assistant AONB said;
“The roadshow helps us to deliver a really positive message, that by making small changes to our behaviour, we can collectively have a big impact on climate change. Hopefully the pupils will pass on some of the things that they have learnt today to their families and friends”.
Kerry Saunders, organiser of Eco-week at St Johns school commented:
“A fantastic roadshow, which the students really enjoyed. A great collection of electric cycles and scooters helped get the sustainable transport message across ”.
The project was also helped by the Marlborough Climate Pledge Group, Wiltshire Council and the Effective Initiatives Company, with funding from the North Wessex Downs Sustainable Development Fund.
Marlborough Town Council received a grant of £1,175.00 to undertake an environmental study on land that they wish to create community allotments. Soil sampling, flood risk analysis and ecological surveys found that the site is suitable for this purpose.
The SDF coordinator helped Action for the River Kennet to secure £4713.11 from Biffaward, matched by SDF funding of £5125.66 and £1000 of their own funds to create access to a chalkstream restoration site in Marlborough.
A boardwalk was built with help from local volunteers and a seating area provided for local people to enjoy this valuable resource.
Visit the Action for the River Kennet website for further details.
This innovative project aims to provide a booklet of walks in the North Wessex Downs AONB that residents of Swindon and its surrounds can access by bus.
The Bus Rambles group have been awarded £2,502.50, and a small cover charge will help to expand the project to cover more routes in the future. It will also provide a good model for other large settlements in the setting of the AONB.
The ten easy routes can be reached by bus from the Swindon and North East Wiltshire area and take in some of the most spectacular landscapes in the AONB. The series was researched and written by volunteer coordinator, Sue Cassell and include the following routes:
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust led an application from a number of partners to provide funding for a peripatetic Environmental Education Officer. The SDF grant helped to purchase equipment, field guides and maps that will be used to deliver events for adults and young people in the North Wessex Downs.
Liz Allinson, of HIoWWT said; “This is an exciting and innovative project for the Trust. Access to the natural world and to the local environment is essential for young people if they are to understand human impact on ecosystems. It cannot effectively be taught in the classroom. By providing environmental education close to schools we are reducing some of the barriers that prevent schools providing such experiences for their pupils”.
For more information please contact Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.