Communities care for the Blackdowns
To help it look after the Somerset ridge, the Quantock Hills AONB Service has just launched an easy-to-answer questionnaire asking local people whether they agree with their future plans to protect the upland area that was beloved by people like poets Coleridge and Wordsworth.
AONB manager Chris Edwards said: "The next five years are really important for protecting this beautiful area as financial pressures and changes in the planning laws may put this natural beauty at risk."
Thanking people who had contributed to a first round consultation staged in April, Mr Edwards said: "The plan has now been drafted in response to those comments and we want to know if you think we have got it right."
The AONB team is asking local people and others with an interest in the hills to go online and fill in the survey.
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"The Quantock Hills are protected as an AONB and are cared for by a wide partnership of organisations and people all working to look after the natural beauty of the area," Mr Edwards explained. "A five-year management plan guides this work, setting out objectives and action points. Following the consultation in April a new plan has now been drafted which will set the agenda for work to protect and enhance the Quantock Hills."
Meanwhile, a new fund for the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has been launched with a generous donation from a successful local business. The Blackdown Hills Countryside Fund has been set up to ensure that the landscape remains special for generations to come. Individuals, organisations and businesses can donate to build up funds which will be awarded to nature and heritage projects in local communities.
The first donation of £250 came from Kingfisher Packaging, based on the edge of the Blackdown Hills near Wellington. The company has for several years hosted a flock of willow sheep that welcome visitors to the area. Recently, the sheep were repaired by artists Stefan Jennings and Sophie Courtiour with the help of volunteers from Sampford Arundel WI. Kingfisher Packaging's managing partner George Martin was so delighted with the volunteers' hard work that he decided to mark the occasion by making the very first donation to the Blackdown Hills Countryside Fund.
He said: "Kingfisher Packaging is very much rooted in the area and we're happy that the willow sheep are here, marking the gateway to the Blackdown Hills. The volunteers have done a brilliant job smartening them up, and we wanted to follow their example and put something back. The Blackdown Hills is such a beautiful area and I'm delighted our donation will be supporting projects that will look after it for the future."
Like all donations made before April 2015, the company's gesture has been immediately increased by 50 per cent, funded by a government scheme. Gift Aid further increases donations by 25 per cent. As the fund builds up, a panel of representatives from local communities and the Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership will make awards to local projects. The purpose of these grants will be to support the beauty and communities of the Blackdown Hills.