Category Archives: landscape management

HEDGELAYING SKILLS REWARDED

The important work of Exmoor’s hedgelayers has once again been recognised and rewarded through the Exmoor Hedge Competition.

Peter Smith received first place and the ‘Mary Stacey Trophy’ (locally made using beech wood from a laid Exmoor hedge), which was kindly donated by the late Mrs Stacey of Foxhanger Farm, Brompton Regis.  As winner, Peter is also invited to join the judges in deciding the winners of next year’s competition.

Well-laid hedges store more carbon, harbour more wildlife and provide a range of environmental benefits that far outstrip any other method of boundary management. They are also key to the National Park’s landscape, wildlife and farming history and provide employment for numerous skilled craftspeople during the winter months.

In recognition of this valuable work, Exmoor National Park Authority launched the Exmoor Hedge Competition in partnership with the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups, together with the generous support and sponsorship of the Exmoor Trust.

Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, and Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, presented the prizes of up to £200 to the winning hedgelayers. First Place in the Open Class was Peter Smith, who laid the hedge for Timothy and Sally Stevens of Summerings Farm, near Wheddon Cross. Second prize went to Gary Atkins, who laid one of the hedges belonging to Shiamala Comer at Ashott Barton Farm, Exford. In third place was a hedge belonging to Robert Kilvington of Parsonage Farm, Hawkridge, whose hedge was laid by Adam Tarr of Lower Hunstone.

Heather Harley, Conservation Officer (Farming & Land Management) for Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We’re extremely grateful to the Exmoor Trust and the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups for supporting this competition. This traditional skill is so important to the wildlife and landscape of the National Park and an integral part of the rural community.

“Agri-environment support for hedge management has changed dramatically over recent years and the future of hedge management on Exmoor is not certain. I hope that this competition goes a little way to promote the work of these craftspeople.”

Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, said: “The Exmoor Trust is very pleased to continue to sponsor the Exmoor Hedge Competition and to support this very important rural skill.  Exmoor would not look like it does today if it were not for these skilled hedge-layers. With uncertain times ahead for agriculture, management of the land and hedgerows becomes ever more important.”

Those looking to develop their hedge-laying skills may be interested in the one-day introductory courses being offered in the Quantocks this autumn, organised by Somerset Hedge Group (£25 per person). See www.fwagsw.org.uk/Pages/Events/Category/events-and-workshops.

For more information about the competition, grants for hedge management or farming and wildlife advice, contact Heather on 01398 322277 or hjharley@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

HEDGE-LAYING SKILLS PUT TO THE TEST

Just over a week left to enter your hedge!

A competition to award the region’s most skilled hedge-layers is being run once again by Exmoor National Park Authority, following generous sponsorship from the Exmoor Trust for another year.

Work carried out during the autumn and winter months each year results in a considerable transformation along many lanes and field edges, as once-shady, outgrown hedges are cut and laid. This traditional management is crucial in order to rejuvenate the hedgerows, which are iconic features of Exmoor’s farming history and important habitats for a diverse range of wildlife. The work relies on traditional skills that date back centuries and provides employment for numerous people on Exmoor during the winter months.

Heather Harley, a Conservation Officer for Exmoor National Park, said: “Thick, bushy hedgerows are an enduring feature of the Exmoor landscape and can be wonderful habitats for wildlife, providing corridors of shelter and food for all sorts of insects, birds and small mammals. But if not properly managed, the hedgebanks can deteriorate over time as shrubs and trees mature, often resulting in a thin, gappy line, susceptible to the elements.

“This award was set up to recognise the highly skilled hedge-laying work that farmers, land managers and contractors do for the benefit of the wildlife and landscape of the National Park, and we wish all entrants the very best of luck this year.”

Susan May, Chairman of the Exmoor Trust, said: “Exmoor’s beech hedges are a fundamental part of the fabric of the moor and the Exmoor Trust is very happy to sponsor the prizes for this competition again this year. Several hedges have been laid over the past few months and the skills shown are to be applauded – so do enter the competition”.

To be eligible, all or part of the farm must be within Exmoor National Park and the hedge must have been laid during the winter of 2018/19. There are two classes, ‘Open’ and ‘Novice’, and the winner of each class will receive £200, 2nd place £100 and £50 will go to the 3rd place. The judges include members of the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups, who are experienced West Country hedge-layers themselves. The previous year’s Open Class winners are also invited to join the judging panel.

The deadline is 24 May 2019 and entries must be submitted together with at least one photo of the completed hedge, and, if possible, a photo of the hedge before work took place with whoever carried out the work. For further information or an entry form please ring Exmoor National Park Authority on 01398 323665 or email hjharley@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk.

Photo caption: Last year’s winning hedge at Cloggs Farm, which was laid by Mark Jackson.

MINISTER SEEKS OUT PROJECTS CHANGING NATIONAL PARKS FOR THE BETTER

National Parks charity, Campaign for National Parks, has joined forces with the Government’s Year of Green Action to seek out the very best projects making a difference in the National Parks.

Winning projects will receive either a £1,500 or £2,000 boost in recognition of their work safeguarding the most beloved landscapes in the country in the first ever joint Park Protector and Year of Green Action Awards.

Minister for National Parks, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, said: “National Parks are incredibly important and it is essential that we celebrate the people who work hard to protect these special landscapes for all of us, and future generations, to enjoy.

“These awards are open to anyone making a difference to the future of these fantastic natural spaces.”

Nominations are open until Friday 31 May. Nominated projects must be seeking to connect people with the environment, conserve or enhance the biodiversity or a heritage site, improve access to the Parks, or protect an area in a National Park. Nominate here.

A project restoring a bog habitat for rare wetland species won last year’s Award. They were presented with their award by actress Caroline Quentin and journalist Julian Glover at a Parliamentary reception. This year Campaign for National Parks will also be celebrating 70 years since the 1949 Act of Parliament established the National Parks – something the organisation has led the fight for.

Andrew Hall of Campaign for National Parks said: “In past years we’ve had projects applying that cover everything from teaching kids salmon fishing in the North York Moors, mass volunteering in Snowdonia and using traditional skills to conserve the New Forest. This is a fantastic opportunity and we are delighted to work with Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust and DEFRA to make this happen this year.”

“If you are dedicated to connecting people and nature and caring for our cherished National Parks, then I urge you to apply. You have nothing to lose but the National Parks that you love have everything to gain,” commented Lord Gardiner.

The annual Award is generously supported by Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust and is also supported by Breedon Group.

PHOTO by Andrew Wheatley from our forthcoming summer issue of Exmoor Magazine, which is out mid May.

CAMPAIGN FOR NATIONAL PARKS URGES SOLUTIONS TO BIG CHALLENGES

The following is a press release from Campaign for National Parks

Campaign for National Parks has welcomed the Government’s call for evidence for the review of England’s designated landscapes, which was launched on Saturday 20 October. The review, which will report 70 years after the 1949 Act that established National Parks, looks at all aspects of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

Julian Glover, who recently addressed Campaign for National Parks’ annual parliamentary reception, is leading the review. In his speech he noted that, “We’ve done well but we can do even better” and called for “interesting and bold ideas” in response to the challenges facing National Parks.

Campaign for National Parks urges everyone to participate in the consultation and submit their ideas to the panel. The charity, which was created in the 1930s to campaign for the creation of the Parks, wants to see the Parks become better protected, made even more beautiful and enjoyed by everyone.

Fiona Howie, chief executive of Campaign for National Parks, said: “Around 100 million people visit the National Parks each year to enjoy breath-taking views, nature and adventure. But the Parks are also home to rural communities. At times this inevitably causes tensions.

“We believe the National Parks are a fantastic success story but we welcome the chance to consider how to make them even better. We want to see the review take on the challenge of making the Parks better for wildlife and more accessible for everyone.”

Earlier this year Campaign for National Parks criticised the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee for failing to exclude building nuclear waste facilities in the National Parks, helped successfully campaign against inappropriate zip wires in the Lake District and are currently campaigning against a destructive bypass in the South Downs.

“The National Parks were founded for the benefit of the people of England and Wales and are now famous across the world. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to improve them for everyone to enjoy. We welcome Julian’s call for bold ideas that will make a difference and achieve meaningful change so that England’s best landscapes are fit for the next 70 years,” concluded Fiona.

PHOTO: by Andrew Wheatley, from a previous issue of Exmoor Magazine.

AWARD FOR EXMOOR’S WOODLANDS

Exmoor National Park has won a prestigious Royal Forestry Society (RFS) Excellence in Forestry Award for its sustainable approach to woodland management and involvement of community groups*. It complements a new Government accord announced last week that aims to expand and enhance woodland in National Parks**.

Moor Wood near Minehead is being slowly transformed by the National Park’s woodlands team using a technique called Continuous Cover Forestry, which harnesses the ability of woodlands to naturally regenerate.

The small temporary gaps created when carefully selected trees are felled  provides a stable habitat for a variety of woodland species, such as birds, butterflies and fungi, whilst allowing commercially viable amounts of timber to be harvested sustainably. This avoids the need for large-scale felling, which takes several decades to regenerate and generally involves uniform plantations that are more vulnerable to environmental pressures.

Graeme McVittie, Senior Woodland Conservation Officer for Exmoor National Park, said: “It’s great to get this kind of recognition for the work we’re doing to make Exmoor’s woodlands more resilient in the face of modern day threats from pests, disease and climate change. We’ve witnessed the loss of elm and larch in our woodlands, and are now losing horse chestnut and ash. Storms and drought have caused further damage and other diseases threaten our oaks and sweet chestnut. So it’s vital that we do all we can to prepare these places for the future.”

The Certificate of Merit was also awarded for the National Park’s commitment to creating opportunities for local communities enjoy and benefit from Exmoor’s woodlands.

Woodcombe Community Woodland is a project initiated by Forum 21, an environmental group in West Somerset.  It leases an area of woodland from the National Park to produce seasoned firewood to help local people in fuel poverty, with the help of local volunteers.
Graham Boswell who leads the project for Forum 21, said: “It’s great to see our idea for a community woodland brought to life through our ongoing partnership with the National Park. The next few years will be crucial in terms of developing a workforce with the necessary woodland skills, but we’re all up for the challenge and excited by the potential benefits for the whole community.”

Rob Wilson-North, Head of Conservation and Access at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “Exmoor’s diverse woodlands are truly special, providing a rich haven for nature, from some of the country’s rarest birds, butterflies and bats, to seldom seen lichens, liverworts and mosses. But they’re also an important part of the local economy, providing timber and recreational opportunities, along with a host of public benefits, including educational opportunities, carbon storage and flood alleviation. Balancing these priorities isn’t always easy, but this award is a sure sign we’re on the right track.”

Presenting the Awards, RFS President Andrew Woods, said: “The Excellence in Forestry Awards have once again revealed a rich seam of excellence in woodland management – from some of the most prestigious estates in the country to some of the smallest of woodlands. As landowners and woodland managers look to an uncertain future with increasing climate and environmental challenges, these are all woodlands we can learn from.

“It is also uplifting to see the fantastic work that is being carried out among communities to encourage forestry and woodland skills. These projects tap into the enthusiasm of those who will be planning, planting and managing our woodlands in the future as well as looking at how timber can be used in construction for generations to come and deserve the recognition they receive.”

EXMOOR LAUNCHES NEW PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Exmoor National Park’s future vision for the next five years was launched today, welcomed by Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Defra Minister for National Parks, in a video address at the Exmoor National Park Authority and Exmoor Society’s joint Spring Conference held in Dulverton Town Hall.

Exmoor National Park’s 2018-2023 Partnership Plan* has been led by Exmoor National Park Authority, with input from around 80 partners, landowners, local communities, organisations and businesses, through a rigorous programme of workshops and meetings. Opinions were also sought through a public survey and key evidence on the Park’s special qualities gathered through the State of the Park Report.

Under the core themes of ‘People, Place, Prosperity’, the Plan sets out key strategies needed to ensure Exmoor’s diverse and beautiful landscapes remain rich in wildlife and history, and that people everywhere have the opportunity to enjoy its special qualities. It also highlights the need to foster a vibrant local economy for Exmoor’s communities by providing new routes for innovation and entrepreneurship, and for increasing rural productivity.

Key priorities include a commitment to maintaining Exmoor as a working living landscape, with farming at its core. Increasing rural productivity through targeted land management schemes, and support to help new and young farmers diversify their farming income and develop rural skills form a vital part of the strategy. This interaction between people and nature has persisted for centuries and is crucial to maintaining the rich array of wildlife and habitats found on Exmoor today.

Increasing opportunities for people to enjoy and get involved in maintaining Exmoor as one of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK is also a mainstay of the Plan. Exmoor’s first rate rights of way network is a shining example of this, with an impressive 96 per cent of routes classed as open and easy to use – the highest of all National Parks.

Work to encourage more people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to enjoy the Park will also continue, following a rise in the number of young people visiting, including over 6,500 students last year alone, and continuing support for local schools through the Authority’s Learning Partners Scheme.

Ensuring local communities thrive through a vibrant local economy is another key ambition. While visitor numbers have been steady over the last five years, the length of time people stay in the park is up by 35 per cent. The report highlights the positive impact this is on the local economy, with the Exmoor tourism industry currently valued at around £115 million.

Challenges for the Park are also addressed, including how best to restore Exmoor’s renowned purple heather moors, which rely on careful management by Exmoor’s hill farmers, along with the Authority and other partners.

In the video address to conference delegates, Lord Gardiner said: “I am delighted to support the launch of the Exmoor National Park Partnership Plan. It sets out an exciting agenda for the next five years.”

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “This Plan is for all those who care about Exmoor: the place, its communities and the benefits the National Park provides to the nation. By providing a framework for working together, we hope it will mean people can continue to be inspired by its extraordinary beauty and sense of place, while supporting those who rely on it for their livelihood to reap the many benefits that National Park status can bring.”

Robin Milton, Chairman of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We are extremely grateful to our many partners for sharing their views and to the more than 900 people who responded to our public opinion survey, showing just how cherished Exmoor is by so many. At this time of substantial political change and uncertainty, we hope this will allow us to capitalise on this unique chance to help shape Exmoor for future generations, whilst continuing to enrich the local economy and landscapes.”

QUANTOCKS IN LINE FOR LOTTERY SUPPORT

A £1.9 million grant to Quantock Hills ‘Reimagining the Manor’ Scheme has been given initial support¹ by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its Landscape Partnership (LP) programme², it was announced yesterday.

The scheme, developed by the Quantock Hills AONB Team in partnership with South West Heritage Trust, Friends of Quantock and others, aims to inspire the local communities to learn from the centuries of landscape development on the Quantock Hills and undertake a wide range of projects providing resilience and protection of the landscape into the future.

The Quantock Hills are a special place. Their designation in 1956 as England’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was not only for their particular qualities as a natural environment, but also for their remarkable story of human interaction with nature reaching back many thousands of years.   The Quantock Hills landscape is based on a ring of historic estates. These estates have ensured a holistic landscape-scale approach to land management. However, a number of these estates are experiencing changes such as breaking up into smaller farm units, leading to an increasingly fragmented approach to land management.

The ‘Reimagining the Manor’ scheme is made up of over 26 separate projects which aim to work together to

Inspire – engage people in understanding the landscape, its cultural influence and work with communities to understand the pressures and opportunities into the future.

Live – undertake physical works to conserve and enhance the landscape and heritage assets of the Quantock Hills.

Learn – increase knowledge of the Quantock Hills and the role of the estates in the formation of its landscapes.

The scheme will increase interpretation of the Quantock Hills, including historic figures such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Andrew Crosse by linking with local schools, leading walks and village events. Also there will be training available for young people, landowners and local communities in the skills required to enhance the landscape and manage land and assets into the future. There will be a focus on those features that make up the special qualities of the Quantock Hills area such as orchards, hedgerows and parkland trees as well as follies and other built features. Other exciting projects will engage the local communities in capturing the traditions and memories of the Quantock area, as well as training in undertaking heritage investigations to increase knowledge of the pre-historic landscape and how it has changed over time, shaping the landscape we see today.

Iain Porter Project Officer at the Quantock Hills AONB said, “This is the start of a very exciting journey for the Quantock Hills AONB and the surrounding communities, a big thank you to the National Lottery Players for making it all possible. We can’t wait to get the ball rolling with the Reimagining the Manor project. The Quantocks are a living and working landscape and always have been. Although the way we live and manage the land is constantly changing, with this project we want to give people the inspiration, knowledge and skills to move forward but continue to enhance this special landscape and historic environment for future generations to enjoy and love.”

Drew Bennellick, HLF Head of Landscape and Natural Heritage, said: “Across the UK people are increasingly realising that nature is in trouble and it’s time to take a more proactive approach. Schemes like these provide a creative solution to helping people reconnect with landscapes and the environment, to implement solutions at a truly landscape-scale and tackle issues such as soil loss and flooding by supporting partnerships and coalitions of the willing.”

A development grant of £91,300 has been awarded by HLF to enable the Quantock Hills AONB service and others to develop its plans and seek final approval for the full grant amount of £1.9million at a later date.

Photo by Adam Gerrard

QUANTOCKS COUNTRYSIDE TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

Landowners and people living on the Quantock Hills are being offered the chance to widen their skills in how to manage the special and protected landscape.

A series of workshops (the first of which takes place on Monday 7 November) is being arranged this autumn and winter focused on how to manage the land – the hills and surrounding vales – while retaining its distinct character.

The funding has come from West Somerset Council while the project is delivered by the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Service.

The workshops will look at crops in arable farming, orchard planning, planting and management and managing woodland. The sessions are open to landowners, farmers, students and local communities within the Quantock Hills and surrounding vales of Sedgemoor and West Somerset.

Iain Porter, from the Quantock Hills AONB Service, said, “This is a great opportunity for local land managers and communities to learn additional skills that will help them protect this distinctive landscape into the future. Along with other funding and grants available we can see the real positive benefits for landscape and up skilling of our local communities.”

Cllr Karen Mills, Economic Regeneration Lead at West Somerset Council, said: “The workshops cover a range of quite technical subjects in farming and land management. Whilst those already working within the landscape will find them useful for brushing up on their know-how, local communities and those thinking of starting a career in a land-based industry will also find them of interest.

“As well as being part of the local farming industry, our landscapes are an economic driver for tourism. It is essential therefore that local people are able to gain access to the appropriate training to manage their businesses whilst protecting the environment that we all cherish.”

The next workshop takes place on Monday 7 November:

Quantock Resilience Project – Cover Crop Event

Rhode Farm, Bridgwater TA5 2AD
Monday 7 November 2016, 10am (4hrs – FREE)

Guest Speaker Jo Oborn, Resource Protection Specialist

A practical workshop looking at the benefits of cover crop and their role in resource protection, through the reduction of soil erosion and the improvement of soil structure and organic matter.  There will be a presentation followed by a farm walk to look at the us eof cover crop on Rhode Farm.

BOOKING ESSENTIAL CALL 01823 660684 or email info@fwagsw.org.uk

There will also be further workshops on:

  • Farm Resilience – animal health – date to be confirmed
  • Woodlands & Forestry – resilience and management 7 February 2017
  • Orchards – planning, planting & maintenance 25 February 2017

For more information or to book places visit: www.quantockhills.com/events/view