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AONB Staff Newsletter July 2020

It's been a few months since our last newsletter, and what a few months... Lockdown has had so many impacts across the world, and of course across our AONBs. Springtime has never had such a big audience. Taking traffic off our roads and shutting down industry for a few weeks seems to have made the birds sing louder. Closed shops and limited movement has given more people than ever the opportunity to access the green spaces on their doorsteps. The deluge of new visitors to AONBs after lockdown was partially lifted demonstrates the renewed enthusiasm for natural spaces, but this has brought problems of overcrowding and anti-social behaviour in some areas, and widespread littering. We wouldn't be the AONB family if we didn't see the positives though and we hope that for many of these new visitors, this will be the beginning of a long-term relationship with nature, based on respecting, protecting and enjoying. 

We know that many AONB staff have continued to work hard for their areas while also being redeployed by their employing authorities to help with the Covid response locally. We'd like to salute you all for this important work, and to pay tribute to everyone who has adjusted to the oddness of working from home, balancing homeschooling duties, volunteering and caring for loved ones who may be more vulnerable. 

As lockdown continues to be relaxed, we hope for a 'new normal' that will enable a wider range of people to have a much better work life balance, and to access the green spaces that we know do so much for our mental and physical wellbeing as well as for our rural economies and the wealth of the nation. 

We'll be sending another newsletter in a week or two as we have more stories to share. If you have content you'd like to send us for inclusion, please get in touch via or

In this issue:

All staff survey for future collaboration project 
Defra's Environmental Land Management Scheme
London Prize to Transform the Future
A Slice of Peat Pie
Bowland's Landmark Trees 
Dorset AONB celebrates Stepping into Nature win
Improving the Stour Valley for visitors
Heralds of Spring in Tamar Valley


All staff survey to shape future collaboration project - please complete! 
Today, the National Association for AONBs needs your input to better support your work.
To develop a new programme of collaborative activities for all AONB staff, we want to make sure we capture your needs and expectations and understand the constraints you are faced with when it comes to collaboration with colleagues in other AONBs. Starting this work now is a real opportunity for us to plan how to build back better after the Covid crisis and investigate new ways of working.
Collaboration can be as small as accessing a shared directory of documents, or as large as developing a project with colleagues from other AONBs, with all kinds of different levels in between, and definitely some we’ve never thought of.  We want to hear from as many AONB staff as possible then we can ensure the next steps for this project meet the needs of any and all AONB staff. If you don’t currently have the time to collaborate or it’s not something you’ve thought of doing before, we really want to hear from you. Ideally we’d like everyone to respond.
We have designed a short survey to collect this information. This survey is an absolutely essential element for us to get this programme right. The more answers we get, the better this collaborative programme will be tailored to your needs as AONB staff forming a network of strong potential, which we seek to enhance.
Please follow this link to the survey: and respond by Friday 17 July close of play. It is entirely anonymous.
If colleagues have joined your team since April 2019, they might not be in our database. Please make sure you pass this on so they don’t miss the chance!

Thank you, we’re counting on you!

Defra’s Environmental Land Management Scheme
The new system for payments to farmers and landowners, the Environmental Land Management scheme, is in its early stages of Tests and Trials (T&T). 12 AONBs are working together to run the only collaborative T&T out of a total of 44 projects managed by Defra, and it is the only one that is taking place across multiple areas of England.
Despite the effects of lockdown, the projects are progressing well and initial findings are providing good foundations for the remainder of the project. The Test and Trial phase is scheduled to finish in June 2021, and will be followed by a pilot scheme. Rollout of the new system will start in 2024. There will be a full update on soon, so keep an eye out for further information.

Additionally, the consultation on the ELM policy document has now been reopened, and responses are invited before 31 July. A joint response on behalf of AONBs will be sent, but please ensure that your local contacts are made aware that they can respond too.

The Prize to Transform The Future
London was formally declared the world's first National Park City in 2019. The Prize to Transform The Future is being organised by the National Park City and the regional National Parks and AONBs, supported by Ordnance Survey. It was launched in April as a call to anyone with a vision for a `greener, healthier, wilder and low carbon London Region'. Visualisations could be maps, sketches, video, paintings, fabric or words, as long as the thinking could be applied to the whole region. The Prize itself is a platform to influence, shape and transform the future. It is an opportunity to inspire action and create a positive legacy. To find out more please email

A Slice of Peat Pie

How to bring peat restoration to a wider audience? That was the question facing the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership project and, thanks to local arts organisation, In-Situ, a very tasty answer has been found!

In-Situ's Kerry Morrison has teamed up with chef, Andrew Dean, to produce a local dish with a spicy twist, which not only tastes great but also helps to explain this important upland habitat in a very novel way.

Find out more on page 86 of the latest Discover Bowland guide

Landmark trees 

Many of Bowland’s beautiful old trees are nearing the end of their lives and in order to safeguard the unique character of the Bowland landscape, Champion Bowland and the Forest of Bowland AONB Partnership have embarked on a project to ensure that successor trees are ready.

The Landmark Trees project aims to identify trees which are at risk of being lost through disease, storms or old age.  Local businesses will then be invited to raise funds through visitor giving in order to sponsor the planting and maintenance of a tree in their community.

Through work with the Ancient Tree Forum, volunteers are being trained to survey local veteran trees, not only helping us to understand where they are within the AONB but also to identify which trees may be candidates for the Landmark Trees initiative.

Stepping into Nature’ celebrates win to help people live happier and healthier
The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team have been awarded more than £380,000 to expand their health and wellbeing project, ‘Stepping into Nature’. Supported by the National Lottery Community Fund, the project aims to help older people live happier and healthier lives by connecting with nature.
Over the past 3 years the Stepping into Nature project has created opportunities for people to get closer to nature, particularly for older adults, including those living with dementia and their care partners in the Dorset AONB area. Now, thanks to the new funding, the project can reach more people living in the North and East of Dorset.

To date, Stepping into Nature has helped over 1000 people find new places to go, learn new skills and meet like-minded people. The project's current offer includes wellbeing walks among woodlands, reedbeds and coastal settings as well as singing, crafting and history based activities. The activities are dementia friendly, generally low cost and are at an introductory level so no experience, knowledge or skill is required.

Activities are currently on hold due to Covid, but the team is looking forward to stepping back out into nature as soon as possible.
To find out more about the project and activities available please visit
Improving the Stour Valley for visitors
The characteristic lowland English landscape of the Stour Valley, on the Suffolk-Essex border from Haverhill to Manningtree, is a special landscape with huge potential to increase visitors, especially overnight stays, both during and out of the traditional tourism season. 
Funded by LEADER: The Rural Development Programme for England, and hosted by the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) team, the ‘Improving the Stour Valley for Visitors’ project aims to promote the valley as a visitor destination, through a wide range of activity.
This activity includes; delivering several different events aimed at attracting visitors into the area, delivering digital marketing campaigns, producing a series of podcasts, creating sixteen new leaflets including walking guides, food trails and directories of visitor services and attractions, and producing and touring a film that celebrates the art-themed heritage and visitor offer in the valley. The project is working in close partnership with two key local organisations, The River Stour Festival – who promote events throughout the valley, and The Wool Towns Association – who promote tourism in the Essex and Suffolk Wool Towns, that lie in the Stour Valley hinterland.
As well using these techniques to entice visitors into the valley, the project is also working with a network of local business to build a more co-ordinated approach to visitor management and promotion. Through a series of digital communications, visitor development business meetings, and business networking forum events, the project is encouraging local businesses to work in partnership together, to promote the whole valley as a visitor destination.
The success of the project will be measured by the an ‘Economic Impact of Tourism’ report, which is commissioned every other year by the Dedham Vale AONB.
Heralds of Spring – Celebrating the historic daffodils of the Tamar Valley AONB
During the spring the Tamar Valley hedgebanks and woodlands explode into a riot of colour, as daffodils bloom, making a striking impact on the landscape.
These are very special daffodils representing a unique botanical collection in the landscape and over 100 heritage varieties have been discovered by trained volunteer surveyors across the Tamar Valley AONB as part of the Heralds of Spring project*. They also represent the strong heritage and cultural legacy of the market gardening industry, one of the key factors determining the Tamar Valley’s sense of place and the heritage of its communities. The project has helped to capture these stories and raise awareness of these beautiful flowers that mean so much to people across the Tamar Valley and beyond. Find out more about the project including the daffodil events that launch the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Tamar Valley AONB.
*Heralds of Spring was initially funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Sharing Heritage programme and the Tamar Valley AONB and delivered by Tamar Grow Local. The project is in its fourth season and now supported by Tamar TLC, a registered charity that supports projects in the Tamar Valley.
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