Landscape Partnership Schemes are always fun to be involved with, whether as a volunteer, a member of staff, or just someone taking part. But that’s not a reason to spend such a large amount of money. There are 3 main reasons why the Quantock Hills AONB and its partners have created the Scheme;
One is the changing pressures on the agricultural and estate landscape. More intensive agriculture is having an impact on lanes and hedges at the same time as traditional practices, such as the common grazing, face an uncertain future. Some of the big estates that have dominated the Quantock scene since the medieval period have started to break up or separate off the house and parkland from the working landscape. In the short term Brexit will mean big changes in the farming economy, while longer term climate change looms over everything. How can we ensure that the best of the past is conserved as part of a vibrant and economically viable future? Understanding the past and targeted support for key landscape features now will help chart a better course.
The second is the rising visitor pressure on the most popular honeypot sites on the Hills. Recently, there has been a very significant increase in demand for outdoor recreation since the pandemic hit which has brought these pressures into even sharper focus, and in the longer term the growth in the population of the nearby towns can only increase visitor numbers further. We aim to spread the load more widely and sustainably.
Finally we are very aware that there are some of the most disadvantaged communities in England living in the nearby towns. The Covid lockdown has highlighted inequalities in access to the health and wellbeing benefits of the natural environment. We have a programme of activities and events both in home communities and on the hills to allow everyone the opportunity to get involved and enjoy the Hills.
Objectives for the Landscape Partnership Scheme
• Protect and restore the distinctive features of the Quantock landscape. Develop and deliver projects and initiatives that undertake physical works across the area to conserve the natural and historic heritage.
• Better manage the access pressures on the Hills by promoting access opportunities in the farmland fringe and by allowing a closer relationship between urban and rural communities to develop. Develop and deliver projects and initiatives that increase the physical and virtual access to the Quantock Hills landscape.
• Make the health and wellbeing benefits of recreation in the Quantock Hills more available to disadvantaged individuals and groups most in need of greater access to nature. Develop and deliver projects and initiatives that overcome the barriers to access that prevent people from experiencing nature, and empower them to enjoy and understand the natural world in their home communities as well as in the Quantock Hills.
• Take a longer-term view of likely future changes – including, but not limited to, climate change – to build a consensus about the future for the Hills. Deliver projects that bring people together in a common view about the direction of travel for the next half century or so, and use that consensus to undertake projects that embrace new opportunities and mitigate any unavoidable adverse impacts.
• Increase knowledge of the Manorial development, historic parkland landscape, deer parks, early gardens and the link between large estates and the current landscape. Working with landowners and historic research organisations / groups to research and collate information on the manorial estates and their features.
• Increase knowledge and appreciation of the farmland fringe, including the vernacular architecture, to engender a sense of ownership and involvement among the local community. Undertake community engagement, stage events, and create volunteering opportunities to raise awareness of the special nature of the Quantock Hills and the historic role of the estates and farming. Inspire communities and visitors to learn more about this fascinating landscape and become involved in its management and enhancement.
• Increase knowledge and understanding of the influence of the Quantock Hills landscape on the Romantic movement and how this has changed how we think about nature today. Develop and deliver projects which use the Romantic poetry movement as a catalyst for exploring individuals’ own relationships with the landscape.
• Increase the capacity and skills of the volunteer base working in the area, and give more, and more diverse, people opportunities to contribute. Develop and deliver projects that bring new volunteers to existing programmes (such as the AONB and National Trust) but which also help to create new independent community-based initiatives. Reach out to potential new audiences for volunteering.