Chair’s update – April 2022

 In National Landscape updates

It’s been a while since I have been pinned down to pen a blog for the newsletter. I could have used my usual excuse that the newsletter is so information-rich that any of my ramblings would not add much value. However, it is only fair that I offer a bit of an update on my activities if only to let you know that I’m keeping current with all of the amazing work being delivered in the Blackdown Hills and beyond.

Looking through my journal for the past several months, I’m reminded that I have been involved, to some extent, in nearly all of the activities covered in the most recent newsletter. In each, I continue to be delighted to work with groups of very knowledgeable and enthusiastic people. I am sure that those of you who have been fortunate to participate in some of our activities and forums would echo this view.

Over the winter most of my interactions have been conducted online. This has been fine but on the few occasions when there have been face-to-face interactions it points up the added value of the ad hoc conversations that can give you the real buzz. My most recent in-person meeting was a good example of this; it was the Connecting the Culm project steering group of which I’m a member. We met at Killerton House. The formal part of the meeting was livelier for being together and we took the opportunity to add on a visit to part of the estate where some nature-based solutions work is in progress, just so invigorating.

With this fresh in my mind, I am keener than ever for our next AONB partnership management group meeting in June to be in person. I’m pleased to hear from members of the group that there is an appetite for this to happen. Perhaps some of you may take the opportunity to join us. It would be great to see you, so look out for details nearer the time.

Inclusion and diversity are high on my agenda and topics of national interest for all Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This was prominent in the landscapes (Glover) review published in 2019 which included proposals to increase the inclusivity and diversity of all the work of AONBs (and National Parks), from governance through to engagement and delivery. In light of this, we commissioned a piece of work to apply these proposals to the Blackdown Hills area along with the surrounding settlements that interface and connect to the AONB. The initial assessment of our position was recently presented to the AONB partnership management group and will be followed up with a plan to address both short- and long-term actions. I hope that through this work we will identify opportunities for us to build on some of the excellent work in this area already being achieved by initiatives such as the Neroche Woodlanders.

I have recently been working with several other AONB chairs to prepare a statement of our commitment to climate action. Climate change mitigation and adaptation will, in part, be delivered by AONB teams – for example, our Connecting the Culm work – but these teams are small and cannot do everything. AONB partnerships bring many stakeholders together, and this capacity must be harnessed. These stakeholders extend their reach and activities beyond AONB partnerships, thus multiplying this capacity and placing AONBs as trusted partners. In parallel, AONB teams and partnerships must continue to support land managers and communities within AONBs to take their own action. This statement of commitment from AONB chairs is evidence that AONBs teams and partnerships are ready to act. It is also a call for more support from the national Government to help them achieve their ambition.

If you do not already receive it, I recommend you subscribe to the Blackdown Hills AONB newsletter. I hope that it will inspire you to be out and about in the Blackdown Hills in whatever capacity, especially now that spring seems to be well underway.

Bruce Payne, Blackdown Hills AONB Chair, standing next to a sign which reads Bruce's pond

Bruce Payne, standing next to Bruce’s pond!

Finally, I thought I would share this photo with you. Much to the amusement of my family and me, we came across this pond. It is on the Canonteign Estate, in Devon, which includes the highest waterfall in the South West. If only there was a similarly named location in the Blackdown Hills!


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