Conference 2016 Speakers

Tuesday 28th June – Thursday 30th June 2016
Lilleshall National Sports and Conferencing Centre, Shropshire


Speaker Profiles

Howard Davies
National Association for AONBs – Chief Executive

Howard Davies was appointed Chief Executive of the National Association for AONBs in 2010. Prior to this he was Director of Wildlife Trusts Wales, coming into this role with experience gained in the Countryside Council for Wales, local authorities and the charitable and private sectors.

Howard worked as Senior Warden for the Clwydian Range AONB from 1991 to 2002 and during this period was involved in the early development of the National Association for AONBs. He has been an active supporter of the AONB designation since then.

Howard has a degree in Biology and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas
National Assembly for Wales
Baron Elis-Thomas, PC is a Welsh politician, representing the Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency in the National Assembly for Wales.

Born in Carmarthen, Wales, he was raised in Ceredigion and the Conwy Valley. He represented Merioneth, then Meirionnydd Nant Conwy constituencies as Member of Parliament from 1974 to 1992 and was the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales from its inception in 1999 to 2011.

He is a member of the House of Lords, a former leader of Plaid Cymru, and, since 2004, a privy counsellor.


Dr Ruth Hall CB FRCP FRCPCH FFPH
Natural Resources Wales – Board Member
With a professional background in medicine and public health, Dr Ruth Hall was Chief Medical Officer for Wales (1997 – 2005).

Previously a non-executive director of the Environment Agency, she is now a Board member of Natural Resources Wales and chairs Wales’s National Access Forum.

She serves on the National Trust and Canal & River Trust Councils; and is a Governor of the Public Policy Institute Wales hosted by Cardiff University.

She co-Chairs the Mid Wales Healthcare Collaborative and has acted as public health Advisor to NICE and OFWAT.

She holds a visiting Chair at the University of the West of England.


Rory Stewart MP
Defra – Under Secretary of State
Rory Stewart is the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Penrith and The Border, a constituency in Northern Cumbria.

He was briefly in the army, before serving in the diplomatic service, running a charity in Afghanistan, and teaching at Harvard University.

Rory was selected in an open primary to be the Conservative candidate for the Penrith and The Border constituency, and was elected in May 2010. He has been a member of the UK parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary group on Local Democracy, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mountain Rescue, and Treasurer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Upland Farming. In May 2014, he was elected Chair of the Defence Select Committee by his parliamentary colleagues.

He tours his Northern Lakeland constituency on foot whenever possible, and has focused on broadband and mobile technology; on defence and military intervention internationally; on rural and upland farming policy; and on devolving power to local communities across Britain.


Chris Lea
Welsh Government – Deputy Director of Land, Nature, Forestry Division
Chris Lea is Deputy Director of Land, Nature and Forestry Division within the Welsh Government. Chris has a degree in agricultural economics and a post graduate diploma in rural land management. Chris is a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and is on their Countryside policy panel. After working for a number of agencies Chris moved to work in policy development in the Welsh Government delivering to a number of Ministers across a range of policy areas associated with natural resources, the economy and the environment.


Gavin Atkins
Mind – Head of Community Programmes and Grants
Gavin Atkins oversees a team that administers large scale projects with Mind’s network of 140 local Minds and the wider voluntary sector.

One of these projects, Ecominds, was supported by £10 million of Big Lottery funding between 2008 and 2013, funding 130 projects across England accessed by over 12,000 people doing gardening, farming, food growing, exercise, art and craft, or environmental conservation work.

Since Ecominds, Mind has remained involved in the relationship between the natural environment and mental health, including working with the University of Essex on the Natural England commissioned review of nature based interventions in mental health.


Hannah Elton-Wall
Artspace – General Manager
Artspace Cinderford is a community arts and education charity based in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Artspace provide arts activities for people of any age or ability and specialise in working creatively with groups of adults and children with higher levels of need. Artspace co- ordinate and deliver mindSCAPE, a Wye Valley AONB Partnership project.

Funded by the Big Lottery, the four year project aims to reconnect people with dementia and their carers to the landscape. Other project partners include; The Forestry Commission, Dementia Adventure and the Forest of Dean District Council.


Martin Roberts
Sadsville – Author
Martin Roberts is one of the UK’s most respected Property, Travel and Lifestyle TV presenters and journalists. For over 14 years he has presented the popular property auction show “Homes under the Hammer” on BBC1, now in its 21st series. He has also regularly appeared on BBC Radio, ITV, CNN and SKY TV. Martin recently started his own radio show Gazumped on talk radio covering all aspects of the property world the show is aired on Saturdays from 11.00am to 1.00pm with a repeat of the show on Sunday from 5.00pm to 7.00pm.

Martin has been an Ambassador for the NSPCC for many years and has supported many of their events. In 2015 Martin wrote a children’s book called Sadsville as part of his Children’s book series the Villes. His latest book is a whimsical story but it includes a page that promotes Childline, this is in support of the NSPCC’s Speak Out, Stay Safe Schools Programme.

Martin has been actively promoting the book raising sponsorship to enable children aged 9 and 10 years to receive the book for free. The book has already been launched in Bath & North East Somerset, Somerset, Bristol and Wiltshire. Enough sponsorship was raised in Bath & NES and the book is now being distributed to all the local schools. It is hoped that with enough sponsorship the book will be given for free to all schools in every LEA across the UK.


Dr Caroline Jessel
NHS England South East – Lead for the South Regional and Sustainability Network
Dr Caroline Jessel has been a GP for 30 years in Kent and has always had a strong interest in the relationship between the environment and health.

As Lead for Clinical Transformation and Outcomes, she is responsible for facilitating NHS and related organisations in Kent, Surrey and Sussex to develop safe, sustainable and effective services which are designed to meet present and future needs.

She is a member of the Kent Surrey and Sussex Clinical Senate Council and supports the Strategic Clinical Networks in the region. She is co-chair of the Kent Nature Partnership and a Trustee of Kent Wildlife Trust.

She is very interested in the challenges of creatively addressing root causes of both physical and mental health difficulties.

As a mother, and now a grandmother of six, she has always enjoyed being with children and has a strong interest in children’s health and wellbeing.

She is the chair and founder of a charity in Kent, Dandelion Time, www.dandeliontime.org.uk which has an innovative approach to helping children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, making therapeutic use of the natural environment.


Kate Wood
Activate Performing Arts – Executive and Artistic Director
Kate Wood is the Executive Director of Activate Performing Arts, the organisation that produces, promotes and develops dance, theatre and outdoor arts across Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole.

Kate has managed Activate for over eight years, as it moved from a dance agency to take on theatre and outdoor arts, managing a wide portfolio of development work ranging from dance and health, youth programmes, inclusive arts practice; support to artists, promoters and producers.

Kate is currently a Board member of Quest, the new organisation focused on developing outdoor arts in the SW region, as well as Chair of the Dorset Theatre Promoters Consortium. She is also involved in regional developments in dance and theatre through the networks: Pavilion Dance South West and Theatre South West and was one of the founding Board Members of the Regional Infrastructure for Social Enterprise (RISE) and Creative Dorset, part of Dorset Loves Arts.


Dr Denise Hewlett
University of Winchester – Principal Researcher for the Broadly Engaging with Tranquillity Project
Dr Denise Hewlett is the Principal Researcher for the Broadly Engaging with Tranquillity Project. The project is hosted by the University of Winchester (UoW), funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC) and is progressed in partnership with the team of the Dorset AONB Partnership and with Dorset County Council. She is a Senior Fellow in Research & Knowledge Exchange at the UoW and is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Her key interests concern community engagement in planning and management processes of rural protected areas.

She is an active member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).