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AONB Staff Newsletter December 2019

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

As 2019 draws to a close, we wish all AONB teams and staff a very merry Christmas and very best wishes for 2020. It was always going to be a momentous year in AONB history as we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, but events really overtook us and 2019 managed to exceed all expectations.

As a network, we have really achieved so much. The Taking the Lead programme has created a real change in the level of collaboration across the network – we are keen that this momentum continues and are looking for ways to continue to support this, but what has been most impressive is the way that AONB staff members have run with this change in culture and pockets of collaboration seem to be popping up all around – long may it continue, we are already seeing the benefits of a stronger network. In July we visited Colchester for an inspiring Landscapes for Life conference. Many thanks to the team at Suffolk Coast and Heaths and Dedham Vale AONBs for making us so welcome and for doing such a wonderful job of organising a really successful conference. We closed the conference with the Colchester Declaration for Nature – to protect what remains and recover what has been lost.

In September things really ramped up; as the Taking the Lead communications group revitalised Landscapes for Life week by commissioning Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to create a new poem which perfectly encapsulated how so many of us feel about our special landscapes – a wildly ambitious idea which really paid off. The National Moment on Saturday 21 September was such a positive celebration of the UK’s designated landscapes that Julian Glover was inspired to join in by bringing forward the publication of his review to coincide with it.

Now after the hiatus of the election, it’s looking like we have the same Defra team as was in place before the vote was called in October, at least in the short to medium term. Theresa Villiers only last night identified delivering on the recommendations of the Glover Review as a priority for the department during 2020. This is brilliant news, however the coalition of conservation NGOs of which the NAAONB is a part will continue to push for this to become a reality.

We have achieved so much as a network in 2019, and we have an awful lot to look forward to in 2020.

For now, on behalf of all the team at the National Association, I hope you have a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas, and thank you for all your hard work over the course of 2019.

Howard and the team

As ever, if you have any projects you’d like to spread the word about, please get in touch. 

In this issue:

Colchester Declaration
Inclusion and Diversity
The Laurel Prize
Farming for the Nation
Landscapes for Life week 2020


Colchester Declaration

Since jointly making the Colchester Declaration in July, a group of Lead Officers from AONBs across the UK have been working together to design what the declaration means in practice and how we as a network can go about delivering on the targets. We were pleased to see that the Glover Review called on designated landscapes to lead the fights against climate change and nature loss, and having already made the Colchester Declaration, we were already making progress in this area.

Inclusion and diversity
A priority for AONBs in 2020 and going forward is to ensure that our visitor profile, staff teams and boards are much more representative of the population of the UK that funds us. The keynote speaker at November’s AONB chair’s conference was Maxwell Ayamba, an environment journalist and activist originally from Ghana. Maxwell moved to the UK around 20 years ago and on coming here was struck at the distance people have with nature. He grew up in a small village in amongst nature and felt that other first generation immigrants to the UK may also feel this distance, and second, third etc generation immigrants may never have experienced nature first hand. He set up the group ‘100 Black Men Walking for Health’ when he moved to Sheffield, to help people experience the health and wellbeing benefits of being in nature (this has since become the inspiration for a play ‘Black Men Walking’ which has toured up and down the UK).  He has since set up the Sheffield Environmental Movement.

AONB chairs were invited during the conference to come up with their best thinking on how to drive up inclusion in AONBs in a long term and meaningful way. The outputs of the workshops should be available soon. Communications officers have been discussing how best to support this work during their dial in meetings. If your AONB has some good examples of working with excluded groups: people from BAMER backgrounds, people with disabilities or people from deprived areas who may find it difficult to visit an AONB, please do share any learning.

Simon Armitage’s Laurel Prize

The Poet Laureate Simon Armitage recently launched a new poetry prize – the Laurel Prize for published collections of 40 pages or more with an environmental theme. After our successful work with him on Fugitives, we made contact with him to explore whether we could work in partnership to create a poet in residence opportunity for the winner. He was very keen to work with us again. 19 AONBs have crowdfunded £200 each which will fund some substantial work. The Poetry School, which administers the prize on Simon’s behalf is working with the Wye Valley River festival to provide a poetry workshop at the 2020 festival and we’ll be exploring how the relationship can develop to the benefit of all our AONBs. The first Laurel Prize winner will be announced at the end of May 2020 and funding for the prize is secure for ten years.

Farming for the Nation

As outlined in the last newsletter, twelve AONBs are conducting tests and trials to validate the proposals we set out in the document Farming for the Nation, our collective response to identifying a post Brexit mechanism to support farmers and landowners, demonstrating the added value that AONB designation can bring, including improving access, incentivising nature friendly farming initiatives and maximising ecosystems services benefits. Communications officers from the twelve AONBs involved in the tests will be working together early in the new year to design a unified approach to communications so that the work has a consistent look and feel. This will demonstrate our capabilities in delivering a variety of different approaches in very different landscapes to create a strong portfolio making the case for AONB management plans being central to any future land management scheme.

Landscapes for Life week 2020

The communications officers have agreed that the theme for Landscapes for Life week 2020, which will run from 19-27 September, is #YourCountryside. This will support the inclusion work we are doing as a network. We would like to hold another national moment at 2pm on the first Saturday of the week, so if you are planning to run a late summer event, it would be amazing if you could arrange it for Saturday 19 September and keep the #YourCountryside theme in mind in your planning.

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