• Cranborne Chase AONB, Shears Building, Stone Lane Industrial Estate, Wimborne, BH21 1HB  Tel: 01725 517417

Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is one of the nation’s finest landscapes. At 981 square kilometres it is the sixth largest of 46 AONBs in the country. The immense historic and biodiversity riches in this nationally protected area are held in high esteem by local communities and visitors alike


AONB-funded space workshops meet with children’s approval

SpaceSPACE Detectives, a company which runs workshops designed to reveal the wonders of space, has been delivering the message to school children in the Cranborne Chase AONB since the New Year.

The initiative, which has been funded by the AONB, also included a visit by Bob Mizon and his Starlab mobile planetarium at Semley School.

Hindon Primary School was one of four schools that was visited by Jo Richardson, who runs Space Detectives. She shared her knowledge of the night sky with KS1 and KS2 children, as well as getting them to make constellations with marsh mallows and uncooked pasta, while everyone had a go looking through the virtual reality goggles.

Maeve, a member of Kestrel Class, said: “This morning has been really fun. I used to be scared of space, but now I’m not.”

PlanetariumAt Semley School, which booked workshops all day for children across the age spectrum, headmistress Julia Stokes said: “Even though space doesn’t fit in with our class topics this year, it’s educational. The children see it as fun. The older ones really enjoyed the hands on experiments. In fact, the workshops have been so successful that we are planning to have Jo back again next year.”

Educating the younger generation forms a part of the AONB’s bid to achieve International Dark Sky Reserve Status.

“We couldn’t be more delighted at how well received Jo’s workshops have been received,” said AONB Director Linda Nunn.

Bob Mizon, a former teacher, has been operating his planetarium for 22 years. It can be booked by emailing bob.mizon@yahoo.co.uk; tel: 01202 887084.

Great history or wildlife project idea? The LP may have funding for YOU!

MapTHE Cranborne Chase & Chalke Valley Landscape Partnership (LP), a five-year Heritage Lottery funded scheme aimed at supporting activities which conserve or enhance the cultural and natural heritage of the area, or helping people to understand and appreciate its special qualities, aims to support myriad history and wildlife projects. It is now waiting to hear from people within the Partnership area (see map) with great ideas.

So whether a community would like to enrich the flora along its verges, restore a village pond, develop a star-gazing point or set up a hedgehog survey, the Landscape Partnership team would love to hear from them. Alternatively, perhaps they would like to celebrate local mysteries or legends, or capture oral history from their community’s more senior craftspeople, or tell the story of their church and churchyard in greater detail than it has ever been told before. Equally they should get in touch.

Projects will be assessed on a first come, first served basis, so ideas need to be submitted without delay.

“We aim to have hundreds of pounds available for grant pots to fund projects within the LP area and get these exciting ideas off the ground. We can also offer help from a wide variety of experts,” said Roger Goulding, LP Development Officer. “We would like to encourage people to contact us with any ideas they have that can enhance the history or wildlife offering in their area.”

PondThe LP scheme is also planning some exciting large-scale projects and is looking for people to engage with these. The projects include dramatic re-enactments; supporting landowners with wildlife and heritage improvements; following in the footsteps of the archaeological pioneers; woodland clusters; improving the River Ebble; and celebrating local artists and traditional local crafts.

“Whether you want to learn about archaeology or develop your conservation skills, we have these kind of volunteer opportunities available and many more across the whole Landscape Partnership area,” continued Roger. “Ultimately I want people to get in touch. We can match people to projects and we will also look at every idea that comes our way. I’m available to visit communities to talk about any potential projects they may have. I know there are many fledgling ideas out there that just need that vital cash injection – and that’s where we can help.”

LogoProject ideas will be put forward as part of the Stage 2 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in September/October and, if successful, this ambitious and exciting Landscape Partnership Scheme will launch in April 2019.

For more information, contact Roger Goulding, Landscape Partnership Development Officer; tel: 01725 517417; email: rogergoulding@cranbornechase.org.uk. A map of the Cranborne Chase & Chalke Valley Landscape Partnership area can also be found at http://www.cccvlps.org.uk/

Roger is also interested in hearing from car drivers in the LP area who would be available for leaflet distribution.

Winter stargazing is an out of this world experience 

Knowlton moonTHE Cranborne Chase AONB still has two more events to come in its poplar series of stargazing evenings.

Each event consists of the AONB’s Dark Skies advisor Bob Mizon regaling the audience with stories of the astronomical wonders above their heads, while the AONB’s director Linda Nunn details developments concerning the AONB’s bid for prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve status. Afterwards, the audience joins Bob and members of the Wessex Astronomical Society outside for a spectacular stargazing experience.

The stargazing events will be on:

  • Thursday 15 February at Ansty Pick Your Own (Ansty PYO & Farm Shop, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP3 5PX) THIS IS NOW FULLY BOOKED BUT CONTACT US IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO GO ON THE RESERVES LIST
  • Thursday 15 March at Sutton Veny Village Hall (High Street, Sutton Veny, Wiltshire BA12 7AP)

Events commence at 7pm and last for around two to two-and-a-half hours, depending on weather conditions. The cost for adults is £5 each (cash or cheque on the night/includes a free tea or coffee), with no charge for children. Please book in advance, tel: 01725 517417, or email: info@cranbornechase.org.uk.

Learn how to take incredible night sky images at evening workshop

Knowlton moonRENOWNED night sky photographer Nigel Ball will be hosting a talk on the techniques used to capture fantastic night images and star trails using a standard digital SLR on Monday 19 February. The discussion includes planning, equipment and top tips for success.

For the talk cameras are not required, but, weather permitting, there will be a short practical session outside. For this a camera/lens combination that is capable of being used in manual mode will be needed. The talk will be held at Woodcutts Scout HQ, Sixpenny Handley.

Tickets cost £10. Prebooking is essential. Either email info@cranbornechase.org.uk; or tel: 01725 517417.

This event is now fully booked, but contact us if you would like to go on the reserves list.

For more information on stargazing in the Cranborne Chase AONB, log on to www.chasingstars.org.uk.

AONB Partnership seeks new chairman

ChairmanTHE Cranborne Chase AONB Partnership is looking to appoint an independent Chairman.

An enthusiastic individual is being sought who will be able to chair the Partnership with knowledge and/or experience and, most importantly, a genuine interest in some of the following: landscape, the natural and historic environment, rural communities and the economy, farming, forestry, planning, rural tourism and volunteering. The Partnership is also looking to appoint a Vice Chairman.

The AONB Partnership Board (made up of 18 national and local organisations, including the nine local authorities involved) guides implementation of the AONB Management Plan 2014-19 through a small AONB team in conjunction with the various organisations that have responsibilities, duties or an interest in the area. The AONB Partnership and team are involved in numerous initiatives covering a wide range of topics.

The position of Chairman is unpaid, although an annual honorarium and reasonable mileage will be paid. The requirement of the Chairman is to chair two Partnership Board meetings a year, the biennial AONB Forum and to champion the work of the AONB Partnership and team. The AONB Partnership structure is also under review and the new Chairman will have the opportunity to input into that process.

In the first instance, contact the AONB Director, Linda Nunn, for an information pack and/or an informal discussion on the role of Chairman and Vice Chairman, email: lindanunn@cranbornechase.org.uk; tel: 01725 517417.

Expressions of interest should be made by Monday 26 February 2018.

Annual Planning and Transportation Seminar — Dark Night Skies: the facts you really need to know

LogoACHIEVING tangible benefits from dark night skies will be the message delivered at the latest planning seminar organised by the Cranborne Chase AONB.

A quintet of inspirational and distinguished speakers will reveal why dark night skies are vital for human and animal wellbeing, how a darker environment can lead to boundless benefits; while the audience will also find out how they can help the AONB to achieve prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve status for the benefit of all.

Speakers include Professor Martin Morgan-Taylor, Associate Professor Leicester De Montfort Law School and Vice President International Dark Sky Association 2011-2013; Duncan Wise, Visitor Development & Marketing Manager Northumberland National Park Authority; Malcolm Mackness, former Director of Lighting Consultancy & Design Services Ltd in Coventry; Bob Mizon, UK Coordinator, British Astronomical Association Commission Campaign for Dark Skies; and Sean Beer, Senior Academic in the Faculty of Management, Department of Tourism and Hospitality.  

The event, held on Tuesday 20 March at Dinton Village Hall, is being aimed at policy and development management planners, landscape architects, tourism and biodiversity officers, lighting engineers and community health officers in public service and commercial consultancy, together with developers and their agents, health practitioners, community members and local and parish councillors.

The seminar runs from 9.30am to 4.15pm. Tickets cost £48 (includes VAT) and include lunch and refreshments provided by local caterer Mary Yorke. Booking is essential.

To register your interest, email Shirley Merrick: shirleymerrick@cranbornechase.org.uk.

Protected landscape employs new mini mascot

LambTHE Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has found itself a new mini mascot – a Poll Dorset cross lamb – for 2018.

Born on 7 January, about two months earlier than the rest of his potential field companions, the lamb was rejected by his mother and has been raised in the warm kitchen of his owner, AONB director Linda Nunn.

“That he arrived so early was a slight miscalculation on my part. The aim is for all my 100 ewes to lamb in March or April,” said Linda. “However, this lamb took to the bottle really well and has been no trouble at all, although I always know when it’s feeding time as he lets me know.”

The lamb is currently nameless, so the AONB is asking younger readers to help them christen him. There is just one stipulation, however – any name must begin with the letter G like all of Linda’s lambs born in 2018. The winner, who will be chosen by the AONB team, will receive a cuddly sheep who bears a close resemblance to the real mini mascot as well as a boy’s name.

Entrants should be 10 years old or under. Name suggestions should be emailed to info@cranbornechase.org.uk. The closing date is 12 March 2018. The winner will be notified via email.

And in case anyone is wondering, the Hart remains the AONB’s main mascot for 2018 and beyond!

'Lost Jekyll/Mawson garden within the AONB undergoes restoration

GardenA GARDEN within the Cranborne Chase AONB that was once planted by the renowned horticulturalist and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) is undergoing an extensive programme of restoration.

Boveridge House, in Cranborne, now Aurora Boveridge College, which is run by the Aurora Group as a further education college for young people with special educational needs, boasts around 16 acres of 20th century formal gardens that were once designed by Thomas Mawson, the most celebrated landscape architect of the Edwardian era.

The property’s then owner, Charles Gordon, commissioned Gertrude Jekyll to develop some planting plans and these were implemented in the 1920s. Aurora Boveridge College has undergone significant redevelopment and recently appointed a new head gardener, Tim Bandy, a former horticulture teacher, to work with the college students to carry out the renovations and restore Gertrude’s planting areas to their former glory.

“There are a lot of different planting schemes here from the 1920s,” said Tim. “The idea is to initially do a lot of basic clearing as many of the areas have become overgrown and weeds have taken over. That will take a few months. I’m also in the process of trying to access Gertrude Jekyll’s original plans, some of which are at the University of California, to see if we can reinstate any plants that have been lost over the years.”

Tim envisages that the garden restoration, which will also include a large walled area, will be completed within two to three years, after which it is planned to open it to the public during college holidays.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be working on a garden created by such notable early 20th century designers,” he added. “Most of Gertrude Jekyll’s gardens are well known, but this one had been virtually lost. It is in very few books. It’s a great honour to be restoring it to how it once looked, but just as important is that our students are involved in this important work. They are really getting so much from the gardens already.”

Middleton Down to get makeovers

FlowersMIDDLETON Down, a Wiltshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve within the Cranborne Chase AONB, will be a hive of activity at times during 2018 as Salisbury Wildlife Group will be undertaking various conservation tasks, including scrub control and ragwort pulling.

“Middleton Down is a spectacular chalk downland nature reserve. In the summer it’s a blaze of meadow flowers, butterflies and bees,” says Salisbury Wildlife Group’s volunteer leader Alex Howson. “In February volunteers attending will have the chance to join up with others from the Salisbury Wildlife Group to clear encroaching scrub and give the flowers room to show off later in the season. Later in the year clearing ragwort gives an excellent excuse to spend a few hours on a beautiful nature reserve.”

The conservation events at Middleton Down will be held at on the following dates:

  • Sunday 18 February, 10am-3pm – scrub control
  • Thursday 17 June, 10am-3pm – ragwort pulling
  • Sunday 21 June, 10am-3pm – ragwort pulling

No previous conservation experience is necessary. Salisbury Wildlife Group provides tea, coffee and biscuits. Meet at 10am in All Saints Church car park in Broad Chalk for all events. Grid reference: SU 040-253; nearest post code SP5 5EJ.

As a result of the work at Middleton Down and other wildlife sites around Salisbury and South Wiltshire, the trust is looking to expand its band of volunteers. If you are interested contact Mike d'Apice; tel: 01980 863529. You can also find the group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/salisburywildlifegroup/

Shire Rack walk promises to shine a light on intriguing elements of the past

FOOTPATHTHE County Boundary Research Group will be leading a walk along Shire Rack, Dorset's longest border path, on Wednesday 6 June.

Fascinating facts relating to the history of the boundary will be pointed out during the walk. Learn about legends, historical intrigue and the hidden gems of the area.

The boundary is undulating and uneven in places and unsuitable for wheelchair users. A pair of walking boots is recommended. 

Booking is essential and is on a first come, first served basis, with numbers strictly limited — so early booking is recommended. Email: shirleymerrick@cranbornechase.org.uk to book your place.

Pleasure ride on Cranborne Chase

HorseENJOY a rare and unique opportunity to take part in a horse ride across the stunning private estates of Ashcombe, Rushmore and Chettle on the ARC Pleasure Ride which takes place on Sunday 29 April.

All keen riders will be able to enjoy a fabulous days riding across the glorious Cranborne Chase AONB in areas that are normally off limits to riders. There will be three routes to suite all abilities.

  • 5k route for anyone wanting a short ride which is also suitable for lead rein. Members of Wilton Riding for the Disabled will also be taking part
  • 18k route taking in much of the Cranborne Chase AONB
  • 25k route with the opportunity to see the three historic houses of Ashcombe, Rushmore and Chettle House

The majority of the routes will be off road. All gates and road crossing will have marshals in attendance. Entries open on 12 February and close on 20 April. For more information see http://www.arcride.co.uk/entries/

Blandford Town Museum hosts identification surgeries for historic finds

BadgeBLANDFORD Town Museum is hosting identification surgeries on Thursday 29 March, Thursday 26 July and Thursday 29 November, from 10.30am-1pm. The Finds Liaison Officer and other members of Dorset County Council’s Historic Environmental team will be on hand to advise members of the public on any objects they have found in their gardens or fields or while out and about in Dorset. Relevant finds include coins, buckles, brooches and tools, plus pottery, tiles and worked stone. For more information, visit www.blandfordtownmuseum.org.

Get set for Great Spring Clean

RubbishWILTSHIRE Council is supporting this year’s Great British Spring Clean and is calling on communities to get involved by organising a litter pick during the weekend of 2, 3 and 4 March. To get started groups can contact their local community engagement manager to register their event.

Visit www.wiltshire.gov.uk/council-democracy-area-boards; email: areaboards@wiltshire.gov.uk; tel: 01225 713775/718685.

Heart of Wessex LAG has money for projects

MoneyRURAL businesses and organisations across south and east Somerset and south Wiltshire are being encouraged to apply for EU grants designed to support the local economy.

The Heart of Wessex Local Action Group (LAG) was awarded £1.74m through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to invest in projects that directly support the rural economy in the LAG area. With more than £800,000 worth of projects already successfully approved, applicants are encouraged to apply quickly. Current guidance from Defra states that all contracts must be awarded by 31 March 2019, with all project spend completed and claimed by 31st December 2019.

Eligible applicants are businesses, farmers, foresters and community groups across the Heart of Wessex LAG with grants starting from £5,000 up to £100,000 with the LEADER programme designed to promote business growth and job creation in rural communities.

Further information on projects that have recently been awarded a grant funding agreement be found on the Heart of Wessex website (www.heartofwessex.co.uk/approved-projects).

For more information and how to apply for a grant, visit www.heartofwessex.co.uk. Or contact Sarah, tel: 07826 907361.

LAG funding available for Dorset projects

PoundDO you need funding for projects in the Northern Dorset Local Action Group (LAG) area in any of the following categories?

Support to increase farm productivity

Support for micro and small businesses and farm diversification

Support for rural tourism

Provision of rural services

Support for cultural and heritage activity

Support for increasing forestry productivity

If your project is based in the Northern Dorset LAG area (click the map https://dorsetleader.org.uk/about/ to check) why not attend a one-to-one surgery to discuss project ideas and expressions of interest in preparation?

Booking is essential and the events take place on the following dates:

13 February at The Slade Centre, Gillingham

27 February at the Eastbury Hotel, Sherborne

15 March at the Verwood Hub 26 March at County Hall, Dorchester

9 April at Wareham Library

24 April at Beaminster Town Hall

Contact Ellie to book, tel: 01305 225525; email: e.makin@dorsetcc.gov.uk.

Somerset’s Local Access Forum needs you

RidingARE you a walker, cyclist, horse rider or vehicle driver who enjoys getting out and about in Somerset’s beautiful countryside? If you use the county’s extensive rights of way network, you might be interested in joining Somerset’s Local Access Forum.

The Forum acts as an advisory body which offers views and suggestions on improvements to access for all users. The Forum meets twice a year to discuss a formal agenda — the next meeting is on 17 May, with the closing date for applications at the end of February — but throughout the year members have the opportunity to contribute to a number of consultations from organisations such as Natural England, Defra and Somerset County Council.

For further information, visit www.somerset.gov.uk/get-involved/community/somerset-local-access-forum; contact the SLAF’s Secretary, Emma Parsons, tel: 01823 356264; email: SLAF@somerset.gov.uk.

Help our wildlife during the hungry gap

Starling washingAS the winter progresses, we are reaching the most important time of the year to help our wildlife with food and water, writes Nick Adams, wildlife advisor at Lower Pertwood Farm. It is a time known as the hungry gap.

This is a period at the end of the winter, roughly from the end of January until the end of April when the previous year’s wild food supplies are running out.

At the same time, wildlife are gearing up for the breeding season. They require more food to be in tip-top breeding condition and some of the birds will also have to undertake a migration before they can breed. Therefore, this is a very important time to be helping them out.

Many farmers who have been keeping fields in an over winter stubble to give the wildlife some food and cover through an Environmental Stewardship scheme are allowed to plough these up after 14 February — which means these species are also on the lookout for an extra food supply. This means you can get new bird species coming into your garden to look for food.

This year you could get brambling or even hawfinch, both species having arrived in the UK in higher than average numbers due to a lack of food for them in mainland Europe. Siskin, tree sparrow and lesser redpoll are more likely  to show up at this time of year too.

To help the birds consider doing the following:

  • Continue to feed the birds until the end of April at least, even if the numbers seem relatively low at the moment.
  • Wherever possible supply fresh water every day.
  • If you are concerned by the levels of mess under your feeder, consider ‘no-mess’ options like sunflower hearts and peanuts.
  • Wherever possible replace the feeders, washing the ones being removed rather than filling up the same ones, this will reduce the potential for diseases.

Farmers – if you are cleaning out your grain stores, consider putting the sweepings into the wild bird covers you have for the birds to boost the available food.


Treasures of the Chase

MapKingston Lacy

Every month we bring you treasures from Cranborne Chase from Angela Rawson’s picture of the AONB’s many fascinating landmarks. This month we look at Kingston Lacy

FEBRUARY is the perfect time to visit Kingston Lacy as its one-and-a-half mile snowdrop walk is in full bloom.

Sir Roger Pratt designed the stunning Italian-inspired country mansion which was built between 1663 and 1665 by Ralph Bankes, whose powerful and flamboyant family only relinquished ownership in 1982, when it was passed over to the National Trust.

The house contains paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Titan and Brueghel and the largest private collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the UK. The garden, which is registered as being of special historic interest, boasts a seven-acre Japanese garden created in the early 1900s, as well as a Fernery and Victorian Kitchen Garden.

Seeking myth and legend in Cranborne Chase

SkyTHE team at Cranborne Chase is seeking stories of myth and legend within the AONB. Does your village have a ghostly highwayman or is your local pub said to be haunted? If so please tell us about it. The best myths and legends will eventually appear on our website. Please send your stories to julieharding@cranbornechase.org.uk.

Calling all Cranborne Chase characters

CharacterDO you have a traditional craft skill, are you still connected to a traditional ways of life or do you have fascinating ancestors? If so we would love to hear from you. This is for an oral history project to celebrate the AONB’s links with the past. Interviews may not start until 2019, but we would love to hear from you as soon as possible. Contact: julieharding@cranbornechase.org.uk.

Have you got news for us?

PaperDo you live within the Cranborne Chase AONB and have a story that you would like to promote to the wider community? We would love to hear about your events, projects, thriving rural businesses, etc, which we may not only publicise in this monthly E-newsletter, but also on our website and to the wider press if the story merits it. The more wonderful newsworthy items we can relate, the more we will raise our profile. If you have a story to tell, please get in touch. Email: JulieHarding@cranbornechase.org.uk.