Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership, Latest News, November 2016
Shropshire Council sent this bulletin at 18-11-2016 03:07 PM GMT
Firm proposal to create a Shropshire Hills Conservation Board
Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Councils together with the AONB Partnership have made a formal request to Defra to create a Conservation Board for the Shropshire Hills AONB.
A Conservation Board is a fully independent body with a statutory basis, which would hold its own funds and employ the AONB team. The Board would have appointees from the local authorities, Parish Councils and individuals.
This structure has many advantages, including being: • A stronger, more independent voice solely for the AONB • Able to take effective action balancing local and national priorities • Better able to involve and engage local people and businesses • Able to raise funding and manage itself more efficiently • Higher profile, more resilient and cheaper to run
The need for this change is mainly due to ongoing structural changes in local government and growing pressures on the natural environment and funding availability. There is a need for more cost efficient, self-sustaining and locally empowered services.
The proposal for a Conservation Board has been developed over this year by local AONB partners, and in October received full support of both Councils at Cabinet level, but the decision to go ahead rests with Defra.
James Williamson, Chair of the AONB Partnership introduces the review:
“This is the first annual review with me as Chair of the Shropshire Hills AONB and I take great pride in reading what an amazing range of successes the team have achieved in the year. None of these things would have been possible without the incredibly dedicated team based in Craven Arms and Chirbury.
For those that have lived or worked or got recreation in the Shropshire Hills for much of their lives it is possibly all too easy to overlook the wonderful and varied landscape but I urge you all to stop and look and be thankful – I have lived here for only 6 years having moved up from the South East and a day never passes when my wife and I don’t comment on how lucky we are!”
Clearing the electrical clutter from Clee Hill Common
On a clear day, our neighbouring AONB, the Malvern Hills can be seen from Clee Hill Common. It’s a tremendous view, and one that’s just got even better. Overhead electricity lines that run along the common, and associated infrastructure have been put underground this autumn. It’s part of an ongoing £2.3 million initiative by Western Power Distribution to enhance protected landscapes. Clee Hill Common is the largest of 8 sites in the Shropshire Hills AONB which have been transformed by this scheme to date. Last year, overhead wires at Rhos Fiddle (Crossways) and Norbury were removed. Undergrounding has also taken place at Abdon Burf, Picklescott, Bucknell and Woolaston.
Before and after photographs by Western Power Distribution.
Fish counting… Clun, two, three, four, five
The River Clun has something very special living in its depths. The river is home to the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel. Its larvae live on the gills of juvenile fish for part of their life cycle, so for a healthy pearl mussel population we also need a healthy trout and salmon population. Working with partners through the WREN funded River Clun Recovery Project, Natural England and Environment Agency fisheries experts recently undertook a fish count at two locations on the River Clun. As well as numbers, species, age and size were recorded. The results were very encouraging with healthy numbers of fish counted in each 100m section surveyed. These were mostly brown trout, but other species included Atlantic salmon, minnow, stone loach, grayling, bullhead and brook lamprey. This variety and numbers indicate that a key component for the conservation of freshwater pearl mussels in the Clun catchment is in place. For more information about the project and pearl mussels in the Clun Catchment see http://www.shropshirehillsaonb.co.uk/aonb-partnership/rivers/
Heather Scott from Harper Adams University has recently joined the team on a placement for year 2 of her four-year Countryside Management FdSc degree. With a particular interest in river restoration and the connections between agriculture and conservation, Heather is working with Alison Jones and Mike Kelly on our River Clun Recovery Project two days a week. Living close to Chirbury, she also spends one day a week with the Landscape Partnership team, focusing on the farming and smallholding elements of the Scheme. We hope this experience will stand Heather in good stead for a future career in the sector.
Latest news from the Landscape Partnership Scheme
The Scheme has organised two new 12-month work-based traineeships to start in February 2017. These are great opportunities for people wanting to gain practical experience in conservation and land management. Details in the poster below.
A dedicated new charity has been established to help secure the widest possible individual, community and business support for the AONB. The ‘Shropshire Hills AONB Trust’ was registered with the Charity Commission in July as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). It has some trustees appointed by the AONB Partnership, but is independent. It will work alongside the Partnership and in due course the proposed AONB Conservation Board.
The Trust will initially focus on raising funds and distributing these through the Conservation Fund grant scheme to support projects that help to conserve and enhance the AONB. The Trust will provide the added benefits for fundraising of attracting more in donations and also maximising their value through Gift Aid. An application is being developed to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Resilient Heritage’ scheme to develop fundraising and organisational capacity for both the Trust and the Partnership’s transition to a Conservation Board.
Photograph from Cranberry Rock, Stiperstones by Philip King
A leading light for the John Muir Award in England
Our success at delivering the John Muir Award to
school children and teachers in the AONB has been recognised nationally by the John Muir Trust. In the last five years we have worked with seven schools, and 224 pupils and teachers have gained the Award. Based on our activities in the Shropshire Hills, resources are being developed to help other AONBs deliver the Award across the UK. Cath Landles also recently helped with a JMA leader training event held at Wilderhope Manor.
Named after the pioneer of the National Parks movement, the Award helps participants to discover and explore a wild place, to do something to conserve it, and to share their experience. This autumn, working with Shropshire Wildlife Trust, we have been doing Award activities with Kinlet Primary School and St George’s Primary Schoool in Shrewsbury. Their chosen wild places to explore in the AONB are Catherton Common and the Stiperstones.
“The outdoor learning that we have undertaken with the AONB over the past seven years has been invaluable. It develops children’s understanding of their local environment and the wider landscape of Britain. Being outdoors develops confidence and often engages children who may not otherwise participate fully in school. In December 2014, we were judged to be an outstanding school by Ofsted and much of their judgement reflected the extra-curricular activities which we provided, in conjunction with the AONB and the JMA.” Head teacher
Our Conservation Fund Grant Panel recently visited two of ten projects which are receiving funding this year. One project at Stanway Coppice near Wenlock Edge is working to improve woodland habitat for dormice. These endearing small mammals are particular in their needs, and like hazel coppice and thick hedges. New tree and shrub planting will help to create corridors for their movement, and renewed coppicing is improving the conditions within the woods on this family farm. Dormice are known to be present, but on the day were being shy, so the Panel only saw wood mice and shrews inhabiting their nest boxes!
Church Stretton, at the heart of the AONB, is a natural draw for walkers with the Long Mynd and Stretton Hills on the doorstep. This summer, with continued support from the AONB Partnership, the annual Walking Festival attracted over 450 visitors to the town. Volunteers take it in their stride to plan, organise and lead the Festival walks. This dedication keeps Church Stretton as a top walking destination. Thanks to volunteers the town was also the first in the West Midlands to be officially designated a ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town. If you would like to get involved with helping to promote walking in Church Stretton please contact James Russell at the Outdoor Depot, Sandford Avenue, Church Stretton or see the Walking Festival website at www.churchstrettonwalkingfestival.co.uk.
Shropshire Hills AONB is one of 46 AONBs in the UK. The AONB Partnership is hosted by Shropshire Council and funded also by
Defra, Telford & Wrekin Council and project funders.
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