The Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership has been working with landowners, conservation organisations, neighbouring AONBs, community interest groups and other stakeholders to create a Nature Recovery Plan for the area. This includes the Blackdown Hills State of Nature Report, visualisations and several working documents to address the biodiversity emergency.

Start Date: 01/07/2019 End Date: 01/07/2024

The Colchester Declaration

In 2019, Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership, along with Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) across the country, signed up to the Colchester Declaration. This is an ambitious plan to recover nature in and beyond protected landscapes, build climate resilience and enhance engagement with people.

The Colchester Declaration frames our urgent initial response to the climate and ecological emergency recognised by authorities throughout the UK. While clearly requiring some planning, it is focussed on delivering action for habitats and biodiversity at significant scale in the shortest possible time. Realising this ambition will require additional resources, forging new partnerships and cementing strong alliances with partners.

This builds on successful nature recovery solutions already delivered through AONB partnerships and will help deliver the goals in the Landscapes Review and the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

Blackdown Hills Nature Recovery Plan

Yarcombe fields and hedgerows

Yarcombe fields and hedgerows. Photo Liam Marsh

The Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership has produced a Nature Recovery Plan to address the biodiversity emergency and fulfil our contribution to the Colchester Declaration.

The Nature Recovery Plan is a working plan composed of a suite of documents, maps and images:

  • Blackdown Hills State of Nature report (Geckoella, June 2021) and strategic alignment with other plans and strategies.
  • Nature Recovery Plan visualisations (Phil Collins, April 2021) [pdf download] showing the direction of travel proposed for a nature rich and resilient, mostly farmed Blackdown Hills landscape.
  • Nature recovery areas
  • Monitoring and evaluation plan

The process is live and iterative due to the ongoing data collection and the continuing nature recovery processes that the Blackdown Hills Nature Recovery Plan will tie into, inform and help shape. These include Devon’s Nature Recovery map and Somerset’s Nature Recovery Network map, the national Nature Recovery Network and emerging local nature recovery strategies.

The Blackdown Hills Nature Recovery Plan adds value to the Blackdown Hills AONB Management Plan (2019-24) and will be incorporated into the AONB Management Plan at its next review period (starting in 2022). Blackdown Hills AONB Management Plan sets out a 20 year vision for the AONB and sets high level themes, objectives, policies and delivery actions for the five year period.

Co-creation of the Nature Recovery Plan

Drosera Rotunda Common Sundew

Drosera Rotunda Common Sundew

In 2021, the AONB Partnership held three workshops with a mix of landowners, conservation organisations, neighbouring AONBs, community interest groups and other stakeholders. The aim was to engage partners and inspire and inform positive action to conserve what remains and reinstate what’s been lost.

As a result of these workshops, a collective view was formed about what the priority measures for nature recovery (and delivery of other public goods & services) should be:

  1. Measures to slow the flow of flood water off the land, through nature based solutions including tree planting, natural regeneration, leaky dams, additional water storage, hedgerow restoration, improvement of soil infiltration.
  2. Measures to conserve soil, enhance soil quality and prevent the loss of sediment and phosphates to watercourses, by reducing soil compaction, preventing soil erosion, and increasing soil organic carbon.
  3. Conservation of existing springline mire, wet and dry heath, species-rich grassland, and prevention of loss of these habitats to scrub invasion, drainage, cultivation, inorganic fertiliser or herbicide application.
  4. Retention of long-standing permanent pasture, because of its high soil carbon content, undisturbed soil profiles, and botanical, fungal and invertebrate communities.
  5. Restoration or creation of new wildlife habitats such as ponds and wetlands, mires, species-rich grassland, hedgerows and broadleaved woodland.
  6. Measures to improve public understanding of farming and the environment in the Blackdown Hills, and community involvement in countryside management.

Nature recovery areas

The Nature Recovery Area Plan (Saunders & Maben, Sept ’21) for the Blackdown Hills AONB serves as the delivery plan for the wider Blackdown Hills Nature Recovery Plan, building on the Blackdown Hills State of Nature report  and Nature Recovery visualisations .

The 14 nature recovery areas identified in this plan deliberately cover the entire AONB. This all-encompassing approach has been taken in order to create a holistic agenda for nature recovery, recognising the importance of measures which can be taken across the farmed and forested landscape.

Monitoring and evaluation

A monitoring and evaluation plan is being produced collaboratively with the other Somerset AONBs and is a work in progress.

Species

Dormouse sitting on a branch

Dormouse Dommett Wood. Photo: Somerset Wildlife Trust

Following a process agreed nationally within the AONB network, a suite of champion species of conservation concern has been identified and discussed with partners and national species champion organisations. We are also working collaboratively with other AONBs to take local, regional and national actions for species that are linked to the AONB’s special qualities (such as springline mires) or that indicate the health of a well-connected landscape:

  • Greater and lesser horseshoe bat; Bechstein’s bat
  • Hazel dormouse
  • White clawed crayfish.
  • Brown hairstreak butterfly
  • Springline mire mosaic invertebrates including marsh fritillary, small pearl-bordered fritillary, double line moth, narrow bordered bee hawkmoth
  • Beaver.

National pilot schemes

Across the country, five pilot schemes have been established through the Colchester Declaration to demonstrate approaches, one of which is in the Axe catchment.

How to get involved

More information

Explore the Blackdown Hills AONB State of Nature story map

State of Nature for the Blackdown Hills report 2021 [pdf]

Nature Recovery Plan consultation workshop slides [pdf]

Nature recovery area workshop slides [pdf]

Longhorn cattle standing in front of a tree

Longhorn cattle in Blackdown Hills AONB

Start typing and press Enter to search