Supporting community projects
Blackdown Hills Sustainable Development Fund
In 2005/06 Blackdown Hills AONB successfully bid for its first award from the then Countryside Agency, now Natural England, to launch the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF). The aim was to support local projects to bring social, environmental and economic benefits to the area. Projects continue to be funded via the Sustainable Development Fund to this day, with grants of up to £2,000.
The Fund is open to private, voluntary and community groups, along with individuals and businesses who have been able to demonstrate their project has a clear benefit for the wider community. Grants have been used for practical work, feasibility studies, research projects and training.
The Sustainable Development Fund has supported a variety of heritage projects, studies of the AONBs landscape, capturing oral histories and even funding a book documenting the history of the Northern Blackdown Hills. The fund has also helped fund school composting, outdoor classrooms, equipment for community shops, local information points, forest experiences for families, and conservation activities.
Last year, thanks to Sustainable Development Fund grants Otterhead Forest School installed new raised beds. Stockland Turbaries created illustrated information panels to help people learn about the area’s history and wildlife. Longmead Environmental Action volunteers in Hemyock were able to access professional ecological advice and improve the health of their nature pond. At Ferne Animal Sanctuary water voles were reintroduced and work took place to make the habitat more suitable for this endangered species.
Blackdown Hills Challenge Fund
In 2020, Blackdown Hills launched a new Challenge Fund to run alongside the Sustainable Development Fund, with grants of up to £5,000 to support projects to address climate change and the biodiversity crisis and help people to learn about and appreciate the value of habitats and species.
Last year’s Challenge Fund projects had a particular focus on increasing biodiversity, while also helping members of the local community connect with the nature around them.
Somerset Wildlife Trust carried out work to improve its Dommett Wood nature reserve for dormice. The work quickly paid off, with three dormice being spotted while improvements were being made!
Neroche Woodlanders established a small tree nursery and kitchen garden so that volunteers and participants from disadvantaged groups can be closely involved in growing broadleaved saplings to help restock the woodland at Young Wood.
Devon Wildlife Trust continued their work supporting England’s first wild breeding population of beavers for 400 years. The Challenge Fund grant helped them raise public awareness through volunteering, training, information materials and web pages. They also installed cameras to record fascinating footage of the beavers at work!
Underway Meade – a local community and wildlife site based in Combe St Nicholas – established a sensory garden for outdoor play and the exploration of local wildlife.
This coming year, a new set of projects will be continuing to support biodiversity and help us prepare us for the climate challenges ahead.