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AONB Communications Officers Newsletter July 2019


Hello everyone, welcome to the first AONB Communications Officers’ e-newsletter. This is designed to bring together news from across the AONB network, and to flag up some of the wider issues we, as comms officers, might need to be aware of.
This first issue of the newsletter is a taster of what we might include in future, but the plan is to refine the content in collaboration with fellow communications officers.  First and foremost, the newsletter is supposed to be useful to us all, so please do give your feedback – positive and negative.
Each month we’ll share topical hashtags to support sharing of what we’re up to as a network, this will help us to get and share a picture of what the whole network is doing and also get us noticed by key partners so please do use them where you can.
If you have news, top tips or case studies to share, please get in touch. Remember that what you think is quite normal might be brand new to others, so please do share any projects you’ve recently completed, communications tools you use or useful tricks. This issue covers the use of pGIS to measure visitor feelings about sites within Arnside & Silverdale AONB. If you have a project or comms tool you’d be happy to talk about, please get in touch. And in the next issue we’ll look at how best to use Instagram so please share your top tips.

In this issue:

What’s on the horizon?

Around the AONBs

Arnside & Silverdale AONB – using technology to measure the unmeasurable

Meet the Comms Officer – Cathy Smith from Suffolk Coast and Heaths and Dedham Vale AONB

NAAONB Communications call off contract

What’s on the horizon?

The Landscapes for Life conference 2019 takes place in Colchester next week. With speeches by Michael Gove, Dame Fiona Reynolds and Julian Glover, the conference should provide some interesting food for thought, and this year conference sold out within record time. If you’re going to conference, please remember to use the tag #L4L2019 so we can share your insights and images. If you aren’t at conference, you can follow the hashtag, and look out for edited highlights and interviews with speakers on the NAAONB YouTube channel after the conference – we’ll let you know when it’s available.

At the conference, Lead Officers will be discussing the Colchester Declaration for which we’ll be using the hashtag #declaration4nature. The declaration will be a commitment by the AONB network to increase the scale and pace of our delivery to redress declines in species and habitats within the context of a wider response to climate change.  

Set against a backdrop of unprecedented concern for the future of the natural world; intergovernmental reports that the current global response to the effects of human impact on nature is insufficient; the UK Government’s ambitious targets for nature recovery and enhancement as outlined in the 25 Year Environment Plan; the Glover Review of AONBs and National Parks, and many AONB host authorities taking the step of declaring a Climate Emergency, this is a golden opportunity to set the agenda with a clear statement of intent.

The Glover Review is expected to report in the coming months. During their visits to AONBs, the Review panel has been broadly very positive about our work, but with the uncertainty created by Brexit, it’s very unclear what the Review will recommend and what weight it will carry. In the meantime, we’d like to stay on the agenda for the panel and for Defra more widely. One of the ways we can do this is to add the hashtag #YoGA or #YearofGreenAction to social media posts demonstrating the work we’re doing locally. The Year of Green Action is an initiative run by Defra, Natural England and other key partners.

Hopefully you already know about Landscapes for Life week – this is the new name for Outstanding Week – and this year it will run from Saturday 21 – Sunday 29 September, with a national ‘moment’ planned for 2pm on Saturday 21 September. The idea was developed by the AONB Communications Working Group of the Heritage Lottery Funded Future Landscapes project. The moment will give us an opportunity to demonstrate our geographic spread and collaboration across the UK and is a really simple idea – create a heart shape in the landscape, take a photo and share using the hashtag #L4L. The heart can be drawn in the sand, created out of pebbles, made using human bodies, anything you like. The theme for the week is the ‘Natural Health Service’ – tying in with the celebration of 70 years since the creation of the first AONB and National Parks (providing the mental and physical wellbeing partner to the NHS after the second world war). If you are planning an event during the week, please let us know. 

The AONBs Advocacy working group of the Future Landscapes project has provided technical information and support to enable Neil Parrish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton to table an amendment to the Agriculture Bill. The Bill provides for a range of enabling powers to ensure “stability” for farmers as the UK exits from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. It also introduces new measures to change the way in which farmers and land managers are supported in the longer term: in the future payments will only be made on the basis of the provision of public goods which are aimed at protecting and enhancing the environmental impact of food production. The Agriculture Bill is focused on sustainability, with particular emphasis on soil health, biodiversity, flood protection, plant and animal welfare, cultural heritage and public access to the countryside. There is however no explicit provision in the Bill to enhance landscape quality, and therefore inadequate read-across to the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan objective around enhancing beauty and heritage. Neil Parrish MP has asked for a rewording in the Bill to remedy this, so it reads ‘managing land or water in a way that maintains, restores or enhances landscape quality, cultural heritage or natural heritage’. We’ll keep you updated.

Around the AONBs
Isle of Wight recognised as UNESCO Biosphere
A huge congratulations to the Isle of Wight AONB which has successfully applied to become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is now the only AONB to be entirely within a Biosphere Reserve. The Isle of Wight is only the third place in England and just the 6th area in the UK to be awarded such a status. The announcement of the designation came on 19 June and marked the end of three years of work for the AONB team. Becoming an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve means the Isle of Wight is now recognised as one of the best places in the world to explore the sustainable way people interact with their natural environment. UNESCO Biosphere Reserves are unique areas of environmental significance in which communities strive to work hand in hand, innovatively and responsibly to protect and support the local environment and the world we all live in. More information here.

Ryde School celebrates the Biosphere announcement with Bob Seely MP, Jonathan Bacon (Chairman, Isle of Wight AONB), Dave Stewart (Leader of Isle of Wight Council) and Joel Bateman (Isle of Wight AONB Communications Officer)
Bowland Award 2019

The work of six AONB Partnerships will be showcased at the Landscapes for Life Conference 2019.
The projects have been nominated for the coveted Bowland Award, which recognises outstanding contributions to the work of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This year's theme is 'connecting natural beauty and nature recovery' and each of the nominations is for a project which exemplifies this approach.
The six finalists will showcase their work at conference and their peers from other AONB Partnerships and Conservation Boards will vote on the winner. 
Here's a short video of last year's winners The Wye Valley River Festival taking the award on tour to thank their partners and volunteers. 

Arnside & Silverdale AONB – using technology to measure the unmeasurable

Arnside & Silverdale AONB was approached by Natural England to pilot the pGIS (participatory GIS) project. This is a method of recording people’s favourite places and what they mean to them. The system takes the form of an online map where people can place virtual ‘pins’ and then select up to three ‘reasons’ from a dropdown list of what makes that place special to them; options included a sense of belonging, tranquillity, wildlife and views. They were then also invited to add free text to give more details about what makes the spot important to them.

150 pins were added during the trial period and the AONB now has quantitative and qualitative information and heat maps showing the places and views that are most important to local people and visitors – giving us a measure of something previously quite intangible and useful evidence for planning.

To find out more about the project, contact

Meet the comms officer
Cathy Smith – Suffolk Coast and Heaths and Dedham Vale AONBs

Each month we’ll put a face to the name of a different comms officer. If you’d like to be answering the questions next time – drop us a line!
To mark Conference's visit to Colchester next week, this month we're meeting Cathy Smith from Dedham Vale and Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONBs.


How long have you been in your current role? And what's your job title? 
I am the AONB Communications, Funding & Development Officer, for the joint team (across
Dedham Vale and Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONBs). I’ve been in my current role for about four years and have been in either/both AONBs for ten years in a variety of roles. My Communications role is 50% of my full time position, split across the two AONBs.
What are you currently working on? 
Apart from the immediate activity of supporting the National Association for AONBs conference and work on the Site Visit I am leading, the nature of the job is to work on a wide variety of activities simultaneously! Some of my job list for the past month has included:
Supporting external organisations that we have grant funded with their communications, and liaising with a fund giver re publicity of current year projects
Having an overview for the team for branding and external communications
Dealing with a photo request from a visitor related publication, and trying to keep images correctly filed
Producing some new pull-up banners
Discussions with new staff about AONB comms plus specifically to help their project development, e.g. 25th anniversary of the Stour Valley Path and looking ahead to both AONBs reaching 50 in 2020!
Maintaining relationship with local Environment journalist for daily paper, steering inclusion with AONB objectives messages
Line managing 1.5FTE team for a marketing-based LEADER project to “Improve the Stour Valley for Visitors” and supporting its business relationship building and specific activities
Maintaining the two AONB websites, checking info and news items up to date
Liaising with communities on some local visitor leaflets
Thinking ahead for an event we attend in September – the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival – so we can include it in Landscapes for Life Week, and at an event in early August. Both need planning at this stage for theme to profile and staffing.
Mentally preparing for the production of the two AONBs’ biannual newspapers that will be ‘out’ late September - examples: Dedham Vale and Stour Valley newspaper and Suffolk Coast and Heaths newspaper.
Attending steering group for the Deben peninsula visitor marketing group
Being concerned why I haven’t enough time at the moment to update some of our leaflets – we have over 50 across both AONBs – tweet more and do more with our website...
What did you do before joining your AONB?
I was a European Funding Manager for a local authority immediately before joining the Dedham Vale team, although most of my career has been in culture (including Aldeburgh Festival) and tourism (East of England Tourism Board), often in marketing related roles but also relationship building and getting sponsorship and funding for activities.
What shouldn't we miss when visiting your AONB?
In Dedham Vale I suggest doing a section of the Stour Valley Path, and I particularly like the Wormingford to Stoke By Nayland section as you can see a dragon kept in Wiston Church.
My favourite place to visit in Suffolk Coast & Heaths is Dunwich – it is a great blend of historic fascination, wonderful coast and heath walks, plus the necessary pub and café.
Is there anything you'd like to ask the network?
Apart from asking if there is a magic formula for making time to do everything?! I’m looking forward to feeling part of the AONB Family at Conference and for activity around the Landscapes for Life Week in September. One of the Taking the Lead groups has also been looking at peer learning and job shadowing, and I think that could be interesting for learning some best practice.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
At this time of year I am a sea swimmer, and pop into the North Sea for a dip before work…


NAAONB Communications call-off contract

A couple of months ago, the NAAONB put out a request for someone to work on communications and advocacy. I was lucky enough to get the contract - I’m Ruth Ainsworth of Arnside & Silverdale AONB. I’m thrilled to have the chance to collaborate with fellow Communications Officers throughout the AONB Network as well as the NAAONB team. I started speaking to Communications Officers last week and hope to have contacted everyone soon to get a better understanding of current priorities throughout our AONBs and how I can support colleagues as well as facilitating collaboration. I’ve worked two days a week at Arnside & Silverdale AONB for the past four and a half years, and the National Association contract is also roughly two days a week so I’ll be doing the two roles side by side. My previous roles included communications manager for the NHS Programme for IT across London, then freelance communications manager roles in NHS Trusts in South London and Essex, before I moved back up North about nine years ago.

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