Over 130 people gathered at Sheepdrove Organic Farm for our Annual Forum on 11th October. Our theme was Nature Recovery and our programme set the nature crisis in a global context before focussing on nature conservation projects taking place in the North Wessex Downs currently.

People sitting in a conference hall looking towards a speaker and display screensAfter an introduction from Partnership Chair Sarah Nichols, Henry Oliver, Director, reviewed the work of the AONB team over the last year and introduced our Nature Recovery Plan. Howard Davies, independent environmental advisor, member of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and former CEO of the National Association for AONBs, then explored how nature recovery in the North Wessex Downs AONB fits into the national and international context. Simon Smith, Nature Recovery Lead for Cotswolds National Landscape spoke of tackling nature recovery on a landscape scale and explained how the Big Chalk partnership is laying the foundations to do just that.

The coffee break was followed by presentations introducing four projects, all happening within the landscape of the North Wessex Downs, but which each take a different approach to nature conservation.

People stood chatting to each other in a large foyerDr Robin Buxton, farmer and former Chair of the Earth Trust and Wild Oxfordshire, along with Sophie Cunnington, Project Officer for the Yellow Wagtail Partnership introduced the wagtail project which takes a systems-focussed approach to change. Simon Smart of Black Sheep Countryside Management and Facilitator of the Pewsey Downs Farmer Group spoke of the nature-friendly farming that that group is undertaking. This was followed by a presentation about the community-led project, Andover Trees United, from Wendy Davies, Founder and Trustee. Matt Pitts, Meadows Specialist from Plantlife, then explained how their juniper restoration project was taking a species-led approach to nature recovery.

A group of people standing in a grassy field Discussion and networking amongst the delegates continued over lunch after which field visits took place – with walks and trailer rides to various parts of the Sheepdrove estate as well as the opportunity to hear from BBOWT about their experience of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and ‘green finance’.

PDFs of the presented slides during the morning programme are available to download below.

We would like to thank all our speakers, walk leaders and our hosts:
All the team at Sheepdrove Organic Farm and the Kindersley family
Nick Adams
Dr Robin Buxton
Sophie Cunnington
Howard Davies
Wendy Davis
Claire Ivey
Matt Morrison-Clarke
Gill Perkins
Matt Pitts
Steve Proud
Simon Smart
Simon Smith
Lawrence Woodward