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.
Research shows housing boom threatens future of AONBs
HOUSING applications and approvals within some of England’s 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) have risen sharply over the last five years, while the proposed scale of developments has increased too, according to a report published earlier this month.
Cranborne Chase AONB is not listed among the eight AONBs which account for more than 79% of all housing approvals within AONBs despite having dealt with 17 schemes over the period. Those eight named in the report, which was commissioned by the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONB) and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), include Cranborne Chase’s near neighbours North Wessex Downs (35 schemes) and Dorset (31), as well as Cotswolds (62), High Weald (58), Cornwall (35), Chilterns (23), South Devon (23) and Kent Downs (22).
Richard Burden, Landscape and Planning Advisor, said: “Cranborne Chase has approvals for houses tight to our boundary near Blandford, Shaftesbury, Warminster and Wimborne, in addition to 80 within the AONB in Tisbury and similar numbers in Blandford and Shaftesbury.
“This AONB is experiencing the replacement of small houses with large ones, which is rather disappointing when the adopted AONB Management Plan and Local Planning Authorities’ (LPAs) Local Plans identify a need for affordable housing,” added Richard, who pointed out that High Weald AONB’s Planning Advisor Claire Tester’s response to a government consultation document Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places raises the issue that building homes in areas of great landscape beauty will tend to attract more buyers rather than depress prices. “Any reduction in house prices might measure not the benefit of extra supply, but the damage to the attractiveness of the area,” he added.
David Dixon and associates Neil Sinden and Tim Crabtree researched and compiled An Independent Review of Housing in England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (2012-2017) and they note “unprecedented growth” in the number of new houses approved in several AONBs as being a response to the country’s growing need for housing. Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places suggested a total annual housing need across the country of 266,000 homes. But paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that major planning permissions in AONBs should be refused, except in ‘exceptional circumstances’ and where it can be demonstrated that the particular development is in the public interest.
Despite this, the CPRE’s report highlights the “increasing concern among LPAs about refusing proposals for housing development on AONB grounds alone”. Additionally, developers are becoming increasingly confident that they can secure permission from LPAs, while AONBs are seen as attractive locations for building that attracts high returns. Appeal successes, however, did decline over the period.
“The research also found that there is a significant lag in the provision of housing, with up to 25% of the houses approved in AONBs over the five years not yet built,” said Richard Burden.
The CPRE has stated that unless the government and local authorities take action now, more beautiful landscapes will be lost forever. It has recommended that all AONBs are given the statutory right to be consulted for major development proposals in their area.
Emma Marrington, CPRE Senior Rural Policy Campaigner, said: “While CPRE advocates the building of the right homes in the right places, AONBs are not the right place. On top of this, current development in AONBs shows little evidence that what’s built will actually help solve the housing crisis, which is more to do with affordability than lack of land.”
On a positive note, the researchers found that many AONB teams, working with local communities and landscape specialists, make small scale housing schemes work alongside the delivery of the AONB ethos. “Achieving the right site selection, layout and design for housing in AONB areas is critical to delivering the high quality, locally distinctive homes that enhance landscape character in AONB areas,” runs the report.
“The purposes of AONB designation are to conserve and enhance natural beauty, and these areas are a limited and diminishing resource,” said Cranborne Chase AONB Director Linda Nunn. “Furthermore, large scale housing development fundamentally changes these nationally important landscapes.”
Project Development Officer leaves for pastures new
DAVID Blake, Cranborne Chase AONB’s Project Development Officer, is leaving the organisation after 13 years to become Estate Manager for Islay Estates, owned, like the local Fonthill Estate, by Lord Margadale.
“My connections with the area won’t cease because I will still be coming back for meetings at Fonthill,” said David, who noted that some of his most interesting work while at the AONB involved allocating Sustainable Development Fund grants, which were launched in 2005, shortly after he took on the role. “The SDF brought me into close contact with individuals and groups and meant that I had to develop expertise in a huge variety of areas, from church reordering to cider production and habitat restoration.”
David added that one of his most rewarding early projects was working with Anne Carney, Funding and Partnerships Officer, on the Parish Archive Project, funded by Heritage Lottery, which allowed parishes to collate and produce archives. It involved about 25 villages, such as Breamore and Crockerton.
“I’m also really proud of the Femto initiative that brought mobile reception to Cranborne village, as well as helping Tracy Adams [Farm Conservation Officer] achieve success with her farmland bird work,” added Dave. “The Raising Our Game project, which looked at the landscape impact of game and management, was hugely satisfying too and involved working with the late, great [former AONB Chairman] Dr Dick Potts. Organising the Wood Fair on four occasions was hard work, but we achieved a lot in doing so.
“It’s been a real privilege to work with such a close knit and supportive group of colleagues at the AONB,” said David. “They are not only hugely knowledgeable, but also great fun.”
AONB director Linda Nunn said: “I would like to thank David for all his hard work over the years. He has been instrumental in driving some incredible projects, and we will miss his expertise hugely.”
AONB Partnership seeks new Chairman
The Cranborne Chase AONB Partnership is looking to recruit 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 economy, farming, forestry, planning, rural tourism and volunteering.
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.
This is an unpaid position although an annual honorarium and reasonable mileage will be paid. The requirement 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, email: email@example.com; tel: 01725 517417.
Expressions of interest should be made by Friday 19 January 2018.
Gain an out of this world experience at stargazing events
STARGAZING in the Cranborne Chase AONB is always popular and this winter’s season is no different, the opening event at Semley Village Hall earlier this month full to capacity with night sky enthusiasts.
If you missed the Semley event, there are plenty of others in various locations in our special stargazing series, during which astronomer and Cranborne Chase AONB Dark Skies advisor Bob Mizon regales 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 join Bob and members of the Wessex Astronomical Society outside for a spectacular stargazing experience.
The series of stargazing events during 2017/2018 will be on:
• Saturday 9 December at Sixpenny Handley 1st Woodcutts Scout HQ (B3081, Sixpenny Handley, Dorset SP5 5NW)
• Thursday 18 January at Bishopstone Village Hall (Butt Lane, Bishopstone, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP5 4AA)
• Thursday 15 February at Ansty Pick Your Own (Ansty PYO & Farm Shop, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP3 5PX)
• Thursday 15 March at Sutton Veny Village Hall (High Street, Sutton Veny, Wiltshire BA12 7AP)
All 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Additionally, on Monday 19 February, renowned 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. The discussion includes planning, equipment and top tips for success. The talk will be held at Woodcutts Scout HQ, Sixpenny Handley. Tickets cost £10. To register your interest, email email@example.com.
For more information on stargazing in the Cranborne Chase AONB, log on to www.chasingstars.org.uk.
Future looks bleak for the ash according to experts
THE British landscape is likely to be changed forever as the ash tree disappears from view. This was the stark message delivered by a variety of speakers at AshScape, a six-day celebration of the ash tree before its likely demise from Chalara, ash dieback disease (ADB). The event, organised in collaboration with Cranborne Chase AONB, the Ancient Tree Forum and the Woodland Trust, took place at the Springhead Trust in October.
Edward Parker, Director of the Trust, told the audience during the conference that the ash was the unsung hero of the tree world, despite its usage in myriad industries, from farming and automotive to medicine.
Rob Wolton, a member of the Devon Ash Dieback Forum and author of the Devon Ash Dieback Development Plan, said that he was pessimistic about the effect ADB is likely to have on his own county, where the disease was first recorded in 2014 and “is now everywhere”.
“Ash is our second most frequent hedgerow tree and it is everywhere, even in our townscapes. In Torbay, for example, there are 78,000 ash trees and they are all diseased. We have 450,000 ash trees lining our roads. It will cost thousands to fell them, especially in towns. Farmers, landowners and home owners are going to bear the brunt of the disease and will have to budget for the felling.”
The good news, according to Rob, is the setting up of a landscape and ecological resilience group, which aims to promote resilient species, raise awareness of the problem and improve understanding of the ‘hot spots’ and high-risk places. “The group will be able to offer guidance on issues such as replacement species and inspection frequency,” added Rob.
Nick Johanssen, Director of the Kent AONB, said that in his area “dead trees punctuate the landscape”.
“People don’t understand until they see it,” he said. “We are facing a devastating loss.”
The Kent AONB has been instrumental in setting up the Ash Project, an Arts Council, Heritage Lottery and Kent County Council-funded arts and heritage scheme incorporating workshops, an online archive of memories and images, a conference (Imperial College London, 26-27 March 2018), an exhibition of contemporary artworks and objects to show ash usage through history (University of Kent, 18 January – mid-April), plus a county-wide plan for tree regeneration. Nick said: “We will work with anyone who will work with us. We think this shouldn’t just be a Kent Downs project, but a national project.”
Freelance ecologist Vikki Bengtsson, who works for Pro Natura in Sweden, gave cause for optimism when she noted that trees sampled in her country showed a lower mortality rate than expected.
“Not all trees are dying, but there are large numbers that are susceptible and that matches up with genetic research,” she said. “We have noted a relationship between health and girth — the larger trees seem to be less affected, which gives us hope for our oldest trees.”
Ancient tree enthusiasts enjoy rare access to Longleat’s old deer park
LONGLEAT opened its gates to more than 100 members of the Wessex Ancient Tree Forum (ATF) in October, granting rare access to the estate’s old deer park during an event partly organised by David Blake, Chairman of the Wessex ATF and Project Development Officer at the Cranborne Chase AONB.
The day was coordinated by Jim McConkie, Longleat’s Head Forester, who told the audience that Longleat has recorded more than 5,000 parkland trees, of which 1,000 are noted as veteran trees.
“This recording work is a steady and constant progress until we have visited every corner of the estate,” said Jim. “So far the view is that we have 535,000 trees, of which 20% have an age class of around the 18th century and therefore we have at least 10,700 trees of notable interest.”
Jim and his team manage both commercial forestry and amenity trees across the 10,000 acres of the Marquess of Bath’s estate and Cheddar Gorge. Forestry occupies 3,920 acres, while 925 acres of the land is ancient and semi-natural woodland.
During the day Julian Hight, who is leading the Revive Selwood Forest project, planted several seedlings close to their parent trees from which he had originally collected acorns. Gazing from Heaven’s Gate over some of what remains of Selwood Forest he told the audience about the forest’s history, and the fact that it once stretched from Bruton in the west to Warminster in the east, and north of Frome to Shaftesbury in the south. It covered an area some 10x30 miles across the Somerset/Wiltshire border.
“But Selwood, now significantly smaller than in its heyday, still boasts ancient trees from the medieval period – living links to Selwood Forest’s history – notably in the grounds of its manorial estates where they have had the time and space to survive,” said Julian.
It is hoped to run another ATF outing to Longleat in 2018.
Sutton Veny – A History goes on sale
THE book Sutton Veny - A History is now on sale. It is packed with fascinating stories of the past and the people from this village that sits within the Cranborne Chase AONB.
The book, which received a grant from the AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund, has been researched and compiled by members of the Sutton Veny History Group, led by chairman Philip Clark.
They unearthed numerous untold stories, not least the impact of World War I and II on this tiny community. But there are happier anecdotes too, including one that features Gay Donald, a racehorse owned by Philip Burt of Glebe Farm. Trained by Jim Ford, Gay Donald was entered in the 1955 Cheltenham Gold Cup as a long shot, but, much to everyone’s surprise, the horse, who was piloted by the Queen Mother’s jockey Tony Grantham, romped to victory, 10 lengths ahead of previous Gold Cup winner Four Ten.
To buy the book, visit https://suttonveny.co.uk/village-matters/sutton-veny-a-history
Wiltshire’s CPRE Best Kept Small Village was ‘streets ahead’ of the opposition
THE villagers of Tollard Royal attended a ceremony during October to mark their accolade of CPRE Best Kept Small Village in Wiltshire.
Sarah Troughton, President of the Wiltshire branch of the CPRE and Lord-Lieutenant for Wiltshire, unveiled the standard and shield which will remain in the village for 12 months. Hills Group, sponsor of the competition, donated a plaque, which was received by Tony Crane and Pat Lamb on behalf of all the villagers, and others, who continue to keep it tidy.
Tollard Royal also received the Wiltshire Council Best Kept Village 2017 winner’s plaque, which will be kept in the village as a permanent reminder of team effort. The plaque was received by Bonny Shirley and some of the team who decorate the village and church with flowers.
George McDonic, Vice President of the CPRE, who first visited Tollard Royal in 1967, said: “The village is wonderful and was streets ahead of the competition.”
Kingston Lacy’s Bankes archives being unlocked
THE Bankes Archive contains manorial, legal and estate records but also numerous personal documents, including letters, diaries, photographs and drawings, and now it is being unlocked in a Heritage Lottery funded scheme.
When Ralph Bankes died in 1981, he left 16,000 acres to the National Trust, including the family estate of Kingston Lacy, which is in the AONB. His family’s archive, made up of around 25,000 items in 800 boxes, is stored at the Dorset History Centre.
Prior to 2015 the contents of the boxes, including some documentation dating back to the 13th century, had only been partially opened and catalogued. Now a new project involving the History Centre, the National Trust at Kingston Lacy and the Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne will see the collection examined, catalogued and conserved and made accessible to the public.
Researchers have already uncovered a plethora of fascinating stories in the archives which can be viewed on https://dcc.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/bankes-archive/ and include information about Thomas Cooper, butler to two generations of the Bankes family, Kingston Lacy’s remodelling by William Bankes and Charles Barry, its Edwardian years and the time it was transformed into an American army hospital.
LEADER grants available for farm projects
DORSET’S Local Action Groups (LAGs) distribute LEADER grant funding across Dorset and they have more than £2.5million to spend in Dorset before the UK leaves the EU. Businesses and organisations can apply for grants that create jobs, help businesses to grow and benefit the wider rural economy.
Northern and Southern Dorset LAGs have already funded flagship farming projects — introducing GPS controlled systems into arable farming, monitoring and caring for dairy herds and sheep flocks — but they are now particularly keen to hear from farmers or groups of farmers looking to work collaboratively and introduce new technology across several farms.
Any application will have to demonstrate how it contributes to the growth of the businesses and preferably job creation. If you have a project idea or want to check you are in the LEADER area call or book a place at a one-to-one application surgery, the next of which is at Dorchester on 28 November.
Visit www.dorsetleader.org.uk or contact Ellie Makin, tel: 01305 225525 to find out more.
Podcast reveals stories behind World War I
SHAFTESBURY & District Historical Society member Keri Jones has created a 16 minute podcast relating to the launch of the Shaftesbury Remembers website (http://shaftesbury-remembers.goldhillmuseum.org.uk).
Hear interviews with Ann Symons, Claire Ryley and Chris Stupples as they describe the process and heartache of compiling a comprehensive record of those from Shaftesbury and surrounding villages, including some in the AONB, who served and died in World War I.
One story involves the five Bennett brothers from Tollard Royal, four of whom were killed, and others about the women left behind, several of whom got married soon after being widowed, often because they needed support to bring up their children. The trio also discuss the fact that many men weren’t sent to the Western Front at all, but to the Middle East, while others remained in Britain to run the family farm.
Hear more on the podcast at https://soundcloud.com/user-177849604/shaftesbury-remembers-report
Organisations have grant money up for grabs
SEVERAL organisations are offering grant money for a variety of projects. The National Churches Trust has a number of grant programmes open, including Community Grants. These offer between £5,000 and £25,000 towards the cost of projects that introduce facilities to enable increased community use of places of worship. The closing date for applications is 5 March 2018. See http://www.nationalchurchestrust.org/our-grants for other grant information.
Grants from the War Memorials Trust are currently available up to 75% of eligible costs with a normal maximum grant of £30,000. The War Memorials Trust seeks to help all war memorial custodians, whatever the nature and size of their memorial, by facilitating repair and conservation projects. Visit http://www.warmemorials.org/grants/
The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) which supports the conservation and re-generation of historic buildings, has two further grants available:
• Project Viability Grants – grants up to £5,000 are available to fund studies to look at potential uses for a building and at its current condition, and produce a viability report to a standard template.
• Project Development Grants – grants up to £25,000 are available to assist an organisation with covering some of the costs of developing and co-ordinating a project and taking it towards the start of work on site.
Visit http://ahfund.org.uk/grant/ for more information.
Treasures of the Chase
Iwerne Minster village pump
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 Iwerne Minster village pump
IWERNE Minster’s village pump is a well known local landmark, but 100 years ago it was even better known as it was used as a message board during World War I, largely by benevolent Iwerne estate owner James Ismay. Feeling deeply for the men who had been sent to war, he displayed newspapers every day at the pump, which he called ‘the War Office’, so that their families could keep abreast of what was happening. The pump itself is dated 1880. It boasts an open timber pumphouse with a pitched and tiled roof and a stone base. It is thought to have been built for Lord Wolverton.
Seeking myth and legend in Cranborne Chase
The 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you got news for us?
Do 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 and promote the great work undertaken by the AONB’s often unsung heroes. If you have a story to tell, please get in touch. Email: Julieharding@cranbornechase.org.uk.