Bowland Award Nominations

Sarah Jackson, Communications Portfolio Holder reviewed this years nominations for the Bowland Award 2013.

The Bowland Award 2013

The Bowland Award is presented annually for the best project, best practice or outstanding contribution to the wellbeing of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

To link with the Landscapes for Life Conference 2013 theme of water, “the best project, best practice or outstanding contribution to the wellbeing of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” which promotes the landscape scale conservation or celebration of the water environment.

Nominations are invited through the media and direct through member organisations. This year two nominations came from non NAAONB members demonstrating recognition for this Award outside the NAAONB.

This year there was an excellent geographical spread from the Solway Coast, the Wye Valley and across to the Suffolk Coast. This Award provides the platform to highlight the range of activity taking place across the country and the variety of landscapes we work in.

Download the Bowland Award 2013 Summary (PDF).

Below is a brief summary of each nomination presented in no particular order.

Shropshire Hills Rivers Project – Nominated by Adam Shipp, Environment Agency

The River Clun is one of only three rivers in England designated as a European Special Area of Conservation for freshwater pearl mussel.
The Shropshire Hills Rivers Project brings together different funding and projects to address and attempt to reverse the decline of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel within the Clun catchment. Led by Rivers Officer Mike Kelly, the project over the last 10 years has worked to protect its fragile habitat. Schools, community groups, landowners, the Rivers Trust, Natural England, Shropshire Council, and Environment Agency have been involved.

Work has included advice to farmers, land agents and contractors on subjects including managing riverside trees, legal compliance eg felling licences, invasive species and European Protected species in relation to rivers.

Practical work has been carried out including fencing to protect the riverbanks from erosion, caused in part by overgrazing, which is depositing tonnes of soil into the river every year and suffocating the juvenile mussels within the river gravels. Volunteers planted trees to stabilise the banks and replace native Alder being devastated by disease.

Deben Estuary Partnership – nominated by Trazar Astley-Reid, Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB

Set up in 2008 brings together different interest groups on the Deben Estuary, Suffolk to find local solutions to coastal and estuary change. The Deben Estuary Plan which looks at the holistic management of the estuary is led and driven by the DEP in partnership with the AONB and the Environment Agency and others.
The plan incorporates flood risk management, emergency planning, access and recreation, whilst having a strong remit on habitat management at a landscape scale.

The DEP, AONB and relevant statutory organisations formed The Saltmarsh Working Group to address the particular issue of the loss of saltmarsh on the Deben estuary. The estuary has over 40% of the remaining saltmarsh in Suffolk.
The group wanted to explore how areas of eroding saltmarsh could be managed differently, as an adaptive measure. Landowners, in particular, began to recognise the importance of saltmarsh as a natural flood defence and an aid to reducing the frequency and cost of defence maintenance
The Sutton Hoo saltmarsh project delivered in October 2010 cost £20,000 and National Trust volunteers monitoring has seen saltmarsh growth and has led to a second project planned for this September at the mouth of the estuary restoring a 22acre saltmarsh.

Brennand and Whitendale Rivers Project nominated by Forest of Bowland AONB

Since the 1880s, water has been taken from these two remote rivers in the heart of the Forest of Bowland AONB to provide drinking water to homes and businesses in Blackburn and the Ribble Valley.

Plans to change the abstraction licence provided by the Environment Agency have been developing over the past 10 years with the help of the Brennand and Whitendale Focus Group comprising interested parties, the Environment Agency and water utility company, United Utilities.

This project, completed in Spring 2013, has seen UU decommission a number of water intakes along the two rivers and refurbish those that remain. To make up the shortfall of water for homes in Blackburn, a new pipeline is being built funded by the Environment Agency and United Utilities.

A new agreement will ensure that water is only taken from the rivers when it is plentiful, so there is always enough for the river habitats to thrive. By restoring a more natural flow to these two rivers, there is a greater opportunity to enhance and protect important seasonal variations, fish movement and habitats.

Overlooking the Wye Landscape Partnership – nominated by Andrew Blake, Wye Valley AONB Partnership.

The ‘Overlooking the Wye’ Landscape Partnership Scheme invested over £3.1million into the Wye Valley between 2008 – 2012. The Scheme embraced a ‘string of pearls’ of 40 linked projects along the River Wye, all focusing on helping visitors and locals to understand, enjoy and become involved in the sustainable management of the historic environment in the Wye Valley AONB. ‘Overlooking the Wye’ took a co-ordinated and holistic approach to the landscape and heritage of the Wye Valley, focusing on five themes of Hidden Industry, River Connections, Viewpoints, Hillforts and Outreach and Interpretation.

The ‘Overlooking the Wye’ Landscape Partnership Scheme was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Scheme covered the core area within the Wye Valley AONB of approximately 100km2 (40 sq miles) extending down the River Wye from just southeast of the city of Hereford down the Wye Valley to Chepstow, incorporating parts of the counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire and straddling the border between England and Wales.
Herefordshire Council was the lead partner supported by a partnership of local, regional and national organisations and individuals led by the Wye Valley AONB Partnership
The ‘Overlooking the Wye’ Scheme has been successful in both raising the profile of the landscape and heritage of the area and empowering the participating organisations and communities. A wide range of the activities engaging local communities enabled over 27,500 people to benefit and take part in the Scheme.

Shotley Stour Footpath Renovation Group nominated by Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB

Shotley Gate is situated on the south side of the Stour Estuary, Suffolk. The area is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Special Protection Area (SPA), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Ramsar wetlands site. Shotley has low lying land and soft cliffs. The cliffs at Shotley are soft and eroding due to wave action and weathering resulting in slippage of the cliff, lowering of the beach and degradation of popular footpaths along the foreshore and part way up the cliff.

A community group Shotley Stour Footpath Renovation Group were keen to rectify this, but were unable to establish who was responsible for the problem as neither the Environment Agency nor the local authority has responsibility for what is cliff erosion in an estuarine location.
The AONB had discussions with the group and a partnership approach was taken forward with the community to develop a workable and affordable solution. The partnership included the community group, AONB, Environment Agency, Suffolk County Council, Babergh District Council, Natural England, Ports Authority, parish council.
The Group through various fund raising activities enabled phase 1&2 to be completed in Summer 2011, 260 metres of gabions graded to fit in with the landscape with an integrated access path to the rear which serves the dual purpose of reinstating a long extinct section of the circular coastal walk. The Group are now looking at Phase 3 of the project to protect the rest of the access route and have developed plans for a heritage park.

Bristol Water Metaldehyde Action Project – nominated by Sophie Edwards, Bristol Water plc

The Bristol Water Metaldehyde Action Project, Mendip Hills AONB is designed to help farmers manage the use of pesticides containing metaldehyde, a pesticide used by farmers to control slugs. Bristol Water operate the project in the Chew Valley, Blagdon, River Cam and River Frome catchments. This has involved engagement with the farming community including farmers, contractors and key stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the extent of metaldehyde use within these catchments and promote best practice advice
Metaldehyde has been detected above the UK drinking water standard in rivers and reservoirs and existing treatment processes do not effectively remove metaldehyde from water and already use vast amounts of chemical processes and energy. If levels do not fall it could lead to a complete national ban of metaldehyde based slug pellets, which would limit the slug control options farmers have available and in turn impact upon food production. Bristol Water is funding the project and working with a range of stakeholders the Environment Agency (EA), Natural England and farmers to ensure a joined up approach.
The project has promoted best practice methods of slug control, water sampling to help farmers make the link between what they are applying on the ground to what is being found in their local watercourse. Bristol Water has built relationships with the farming community to inspire involvement in this scheme and reduce the levels of metaldehyde across the catchment areas.

Chilterns Chalk Streams Project – nominated by Steve Rodrick, Chilterns Conservation Board

Chalk streams are a characteristic and important feature of the Chiltern Hills, but are globally rare. In response to threats from pollution, habitat degradation and, particularly, over-abstraction for the public water supply the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project was set up 1997. Led by the Chilterns Conservation Board, the Project is a partnership of voluntary groups, statutory agencies, local authorities and water companies.

Major achievements of the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project include:
Over £1 million invested in conservation and restoration of 9 chalk streams.
Enhancement and restoration of over 15km of chalk stream habitat.
Education projects inc Chilterns Water Festival and Award winning Education Pack.
Creation of promoted and waymarked walks along six rivers.
Reduction in abstraction for the public water supply.
Creation of local river conservation groups.
Regular volunteer work parties on 6 rivers
Water Vole Recovery Project – 97% population decline on the River Chess completely reversed in 8 years.
Riverfly monitoring groups set up and supported on 4 rivers.
Lead role in developing a catchment scale approach to river management.
Implementation of conservation projects on behalf of the Environment Agency.
Extensive riverside tree management and pollarding programme.
Restoration of water meadows.
Advisory service to landowners and angling groups – over 200 visits.

Solway Wetlands Partnership nominated by Brian Irving, Solway Coast AONB

Eight partners have come together to deliver this 3 year, £3.4m Heritage Lottery funded project: Solway Coast AONB, Natural England, EA, RSPB, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Western Lake District, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust and the Diocese of Carlisle. Despite being in the first year, the project has already delivered a series of projects with many more ongoing.

Numerous works are underway to improve accessibility and understanding for the area. The project to renovate a stone barn, into an eco-friendly ‘Solway Wetlands Centre’ at RSPB’s Campfield Marsh reserve is nearing completion.

Archaeological research is being funded as part of the project, with current excavations focused on unearthing new information about the monastic past of the Solway.

The project has worked with 250+ school children, with many visiting the reserves in the area as part of an ongoing program of curriculum based education activities. The summer events program began with a Bioblitz – this 24 hour wildlife recording event attracted over 80 people. The project has so far engaged with 800+ people, through a range of events and activities and runs mid-week volunteer days.

The network of Lowland Raised Mires are of international importance, providing a vital habitat for a range of wildlife and an important carbon store. The project has built on the good work of the RSPB, Natural England and Cumbria Wildlife Trust to restore privately owned peat bog to functioning condition i.e. peat forming & carbon sequestering.

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