The Bowland Award, a hen harrier sculpture in bronze, is awarded annually for the best project, best practice or outstanding contribution to the wellbeing of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Representatives from the shortlisted organisations gave short presentations sharing about their projects and work. The nominees and their presentations are detailed below:
Nominee: RSPB staff and volunteers in the Forest of Bowland AONB
Reason for nomination: RSPB have been active in the Forest of Bowland AONB for 33 years, with both their AONB-wide work for wading birds, and also operating specifically on the United Utilities estate to support the precious and fragile hen harrier population.
As the logo of the AONB, the hen harrier has a particularly special place in the heart of Bowland. RSPB’s current Bowland Project Officer, Jude Lane (and previously Pete Wilson), works tirelessly each year with a dedicated network of volunteers and seasonal staff identifying, monitoring and protecting potential nest sites to ensure that these magnificent birds of prey have the best possible chance of continuing to breed. After two uniquely unsuccessful years, hen harriers are breeding in Bowland once more this year, the 50th anniversary year for the AONB. Even now, Jude and her team of 20 volunteers are manning a 24/7 scheme to protect these two nests – two of the only three nests in England this year – with assistance from Natural England’s Stephen Murphy.
Other rare birds also regularly monitored by RSPB staff and volunteers on the United Utilities Bowland estate include ring ouzel, merlin and peregrine, and the Bowland-wide Wader project has run a successful lapwing survey over 8 years with the support of over 150 volunteers.
The AONB–wide RSPB Wader Project, led by Gav Thomas, works with landowners and managers by supporting them through the agri-environment application process but also in delivering works such as scrape digging and rush management. Gav runs ‘farmer awareness’ days showing farmers the latest techniques, and he has become a trusted adviser locally with many farmers relying on his support and encouragement. He also works closely with the AONB Unit and ensures that his work is linked in with our various initiatives including sustainable tourism, farm educational visits, Hay Time and disability access.
Sharing, Learning, Inspiring
Between 2009 and 2012, field teachers from RSPB’s Leighton Moss reserve visited every primary school in the Forest of Bowland, with SDF support. Each of the 27 schools received three in-school visits and one field trip, inspiring pupils and teachers alike about the unique mix of habitats and wildlife that make Bowland such a special place.
Between them, RSPB staff and volunteers regularly give talks to a variety of community groups, lead guided walks, and attend local events such as the Hodder Valley Show, inspiring whole communities about their work and encouraging people to get out and experience the wonderful wildlife of Bowland for themselves.
The RSPB staff and volunteers are completely dedicated to their cause, and to ensuring the AONB remains a safe haven for all of these iconic birds: they are our heroes!
Nominee: Altogether Archaeology – North Pennines
Reason for nomination: Altogether Archaeology is a community archaeology project created by the North Pennines AONB Partnership. Largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, it has over 500 registered volunteers who complete a range of important projects each year, with appropriate levels of professional supervision and training. Most volunteers had absolutely no experience when they signed up, but many now have extensive experience in archaeological fieldwork skills, and some have even set up their own groups to undertake further work in their local areas.
The project also includes the setting up of an online ‘virtual museum’, highlighting a range of archaeological finds from the AONB. In addition to project fieldwork, there are many celebratory events, including walks and conferences, so people who may not wish to get muddy on an excavation can still participate. A fundamental aim of the project is that local people should become active creators of their own heritage, rather than simply passive consumers of a heritage presented to them by ‘experts’.
Project fieldwork is designed around ten separate but interlinked modules, ranging from ‘Early Farmers’ through ‘the Maiden Way Roman Road’ and ‘Medieval Forests and Parks’ to more recent ‘industrial archaeology’. Fieldwork is designed to include new and exciting experiences for the volunteers, and where appropriate makes use of state-of-the-art modern technology. The results, ranging from fascinating to spectacular, are forcing us to completely reconsider many aspects of the previously little-studied historic environment of the North Pennines. A few highlights so far include:
- Extensive landscape surveys in the Allen Valleys and Upper Teesdale, resulting in the discovery of hundreds of previously unknown sites of prehistoric, Roman and medieval date.
- The rediscovery through excavation of Westgate Castle, the Bishop of Durham’s 12th century hunting lodge in Weardale.
- The discovery of a 7th century Anglo-Saxon stone cross and early medieval chapel at Frosterley, Weardale.
- The excavation of a supposed Roman signal station on Appleby golf course that turned out to be a 4,000 year old Bronze Age ceremonial and burial site.
- The surprise discovery of unique and largely intact machinery in the floor of a building at Killhope lead mine museum.
- The annual ‘molehill survey’ at Epiacum Roman Fort, Alston (as featured on Radio 4’s Today Programme and BBC’s The One Show), resulting in the discovery of hundreds of Roman finds dug up for us by the moles.
Much has been achieved, but there is still much, much more to do!
Nominee: Councillor William (Bill) Jefferson M.B.E.
Reason for nomination: Long and Distinguished Public Service as Chairman of the Solway Coast AONB JAC and the Lake District National Park Board.
Following a highly successful career in the British Foreign Service as Heed of the British Council in Middle Eastern and European countries Bill retired to his home area of the Solway in the mid 1990’s. Almost immediately he put his wealth of knowledge to work on behalf of the community being elected to Silloth Town Council where he still serves and to Allerdale Borough Council where he is their elected representative on the Lake District NPA.
Bill was elected as the first and only chair of the Solway Coast JAC in 2003 and since then has provided much input, wisdom and his own stamp on the business and the philosophy surrounding its many successes and wide ranging outputs. He is a people person and as such he provides much support to the staff and their welfare. In 2008 he was elected as Chair of the Lake District National Park Authority and remains in the driving seat after 6 years of solid service.
During the recession Bill steered both organisations through austerity measures, re-organisations and has defended many difficult decisions in the press, radio and on television with accuracy, passion and authority. I believe Bill is the only person in history to hold the lead role within two Landscape designations at the same time; this in itself is justification for celebration.
The Solway Coast AONB is 50 years old this year and as such we feel collectively that we are worth recognition as one of the smallest AONB’s which always punches well above its weight. Bill takes a major role in our work and shares that with the exhausting contribution he makes to the wellbeing of the National Park.
Finally, Bill is passionate about Cumbria and its landscape and he finds every opportunity to shout about it, from speaking at local events to representing the National Parks and AONB’s at Government level. I can think of no other person who has achieved so much in retirement for the good of the English Landscape and as such is a worthy recipient of what is the highest accolade the NAAONB’s can bestow on an individual.
Nominee: Chilterns Commons Project
Reason for nomination: The Chilterns Commons Project is restoring endangered habitats and repairing historic features whilst fostering greater awareness and involvement of local people. It has contributed to the successful revitalisation of community interest in over 20 commons and trained hundreds of volunteers in a range of essential skills.
There are 200 commons covering over 2,000 hectares of common land in the Chilterns. They are important for wildlife, recreation, amenity, archaeology, industrial heritage and general amenity. They have been at the heart of our communities since medieval times, but have been in decline for a century and many have been abandoned with little or no active management. By inspiring and enabling people to care for the commons, the Project is successfully reconnecting communities across the AONB with their commons and rights.
This four year £500,000 project, which runs until July 2015, is supported by a grant of £400,000 from the HLF and 19 other partners. Led by the Chilterns Conservation Board, it is a partnership of voluntary groups, landowners and local heritage experts. It has its own officer and 300 volunteers.
Major achievements of the Chilterns Commons Project to date include:
- Practical habitat enhancement work on 13 commons.
- Restoration of historic features on four commons, two Scheduled Monuments.
- Over 30 nine training courses have been held for nearly 600 participants
- Specialist training and advice has been provided on subjects ranging from how to record oral histories to surveying dormice and using a flora key.
- Education projects with Year 4 children in two primary schools.
- Support for over 50 public events
- A living history day attracted 1400 visitors.
- New information boards and new promoted walks across commons.
- Advisory service to landowners with more commons entered into agri-environment and woodland grant schemes.
- Creation of new friends groups.
- Regular site visits and networking opportunities for volunteers which benefit groups tackling similar issues.
- Web pages, newsletters and leaflets published.
- 90% of training course and events have been over-subscribed.
For more details on the project and examples of its work: www.chilternsaonb.org/commons