Chair’s blog – March 2021

 In National Landscape updates
Bruce Payne, management group chair

Bruce Payne, management group chair

We’ve arrived in 2021 and the way ahead for all of us is looking a lot brighter, although it will take some time for our communities to recover from the dreadful year we have all experienced. Recovery is undoubtedly a key word for the time ahead not least for the natural environment that is so important for the health and wellbeing of us all.

The first Blackdown Hills AONB partnership management group meeting of the year (on 4 March) was a very lively and information-rich session covering a range of topics.

Some were quite heavy duty, for example dealing with carbon and climate change issues and nature recovery plans. It was mentioned in the meeting that we risk getting bound up in a lot of jargon and need to be careful how we communicate what such issues mean in plain language. To this end we have started a piece of work that draws a lot of the threads together both to explain terminology and demonstrate how all the threads link to each other and our overarching management plan and business plans. Whilst we already enjoy many interactions with Blackdown Hills AONB communities, we feel that this piece of work will help people to better understand our work and highlight ways in which we can work together even more than we already do.

It’s not all about big stuff though and at the meeting we were pleased to see presentations of some smaller, focussed projects. The Neroche Woodlanders’ Old Wood, New Growth project demonstrated how a group of volunteers progressed from chainsaw training to felling and then using the wood to build raised beds with deer fencing to create a tree nursery. Such an impressive cycle of activity.
Another project, lead by Somerset Wildlife Trust, to enhance the habitat in Dommett Wood for dormice showed not only the improvement for dormice habitat but also how the project improved access for visitors.

On the volunteering front I’ve signed up to do a spot of adder surveying but if you’re not too keen on snakes there will be plenty of other opportunities as we see restrictions on our movements become more relaxed. So if you have some time on your hands and would enjoy some outdoor activity please keep an eye out for opportunities on our volunteering page.

This year it will be 30 years since the Blackdown Hills became designated as an AONB. We’ll be taking the opportunity to look back at some of the fantastic achievements over the years and also recommending ways in which we can all enjoy this special place.

I hope that as we see restrictions ease and we’re all out and about more that we may have the opportunity to cross paths during the year.

Aerial photo of farm fields Blackdown Hills AONB in Somerset

Blackdown Hills AONB in Somerset

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