• 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.


LogoGain an out of this world experience at stargazing events

LOVE gazing at the stars on a clear night? Now you can do so with the experts pointing out some of the hundreds of spectacular constellations in the pristine night skies above the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at a series of special Stargazing Events.

Astronomer and Cranborne Chase AONB Dark Skies advisor Bob Mizon will regale the audience with stories of the astronomical wonders above their heads, while the AONB’s director Linda Nunn will detail developments concerning the Cranborne Chase AONB’s bid for prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve status. Afterwards, the audience will 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 as follows:

Stars•    Friday 20 October at New Remembrance Hall, Charlton (The Remembrance Field, Charlton, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 0PL)
•    Monday 13 November at Semley Village Hall (Semley, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 9AS)
•    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. Bookings must be made in advance, tel: 01725 517417, or email: info@cranbornechase.org.uk.

  • 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 on Monday 19 February at Woodcutts Scout Hut. The discussion includes planning, equipment and top tips for success. Timings and cost for the evening will be updated shortly. To register your interest, email info@cranbornechase.org.uk. For more information on stargazing in the Cranborne Chase AONB, log on to www.chasingstars.org.uk

PosterRare access granted to Longleat’s old deer park for Ancient Tree Forum walk

LONGLEAT isn’t just famous for its lions - it also boasts some of the grandest ancient oak trees in the British Isles. The Wessex Ancient Tree Forum (ATF) has been granted rare access to the old deer park – an area not usually open to the general public – and is hosting a walk on Friday 20 October which will take in Longleat’s many ancient and veteran trees from the Medieval period. These are survivors of the ancient Selwood Forest that bordered the estate. In fact, Longleat boasts the only remaining part of the original forest of Selwood.

As well as a fascinating walk around the old deer park – for which there is no charge, but booking is essential - the day will also include the planting of three saplings grown from ancient heritage oaks close to their parent trees as part of the Reviving Selwood Forest project.

The walk will be led by David Blake, Chairman of Wessex ATF and Project Development Officer at Cranborne Chase AONB, Julian Hight, a local tree expert who is leading the Reviving Selwood Forest project, and Jim McConkie, Longleat Estate’s Head Forester.

The day commences at 10am for a 10.30am start, with the walk concluding at approximately 4pm. Anyone attending must bring their own refreshments and wear suitable outdoor clothing and footwear.

For more information, log on to http://www.ancienttreeforum.co.uk/events/atf-wessex-visit-to-longleat/ To book a place, email: hilary.abbott@nationaltrust.org.uk.

AshSpringhead Trust raises awareness of the remarkable ash

SRINGHEAD Trust’s AshScape Project conference, which takes place next week (10-15 October), boasts a vast array of fascinating speakers who will take audiences on a journey of discovery about the ash tree. Their aim is to raise awareness of the remarkable roles these trees have played in the development of European society since the Bronze Age, and the likely effects of an ash ‘Armageddon’ in which around 90% of Europe’s ash trees could perish as a result of the spreading fungal infection, Chalara, ash dieback disease.

The Springhead AshScape Project, organised in collaboration with Cranborne Chase AONB, the Ancient Tree Forum and the Woodland Trust, is being partly funded through the AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund. It will be the only conference of its kind in the UK this year.

The project commences with an ash themed photographic and art exhibition (Tuesday 10 October), with a two-day conference taking place on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 October. Speakers include Vikki Bengtsson, who will speak about the effects of ash dieback in Scandinavia, Buglife’s Dr Sarah Henshall, who will discuss the effects of ash dieback on dependent species, Edward Parker, whose talk will be entitled ‘Ash trees uses and myths from Bronze Age until today’, and Tim Rowlands, who will reveal the progress on breeding genetic resistant ash trees.

The full programme is as follows:

Friday 13 October

10.30am - 4pm  Talks on the mythology and utility of ash, the effect of ash dieback in hedgerows, a Scandinavian perspective on ash tree loss, the Kent AONB ash art and public awareness project and the collection of genetic material in the search for dieback-resistant strains of European ash.
Saturday 14 October

10.30am - 4pm   Talks on the mythology of the ash by a storyteller, on ash dieback resistance, plant and invertebrate species affected by ash dieback, and the medicinal importance of ash trees and their possible future role in the treatment of Parkinson’s and obesity.

Sunday 15 October

11am - 5pm Springhead Open Garden and Grand Musical Finale (three performances)

Visitors can explore the gardens and attend Heartwood, an outdoor choral processional work, composed by Karen Wimhurst, based on the Norse Tree of Life Yggdrasil. Three performances will be staged between 11am-3pm. In addition, Professor Adrian Newton of Bournemouth University will offer visitors the chance to don headphones and listen to the internal workings (the heartbeat) of a living veteran ash tree that will be ‘wired for sound’.

Additionally, there will be a field trip to view ash trees at Lyscombe and Highdon SSSI in Dorset AONB and the opportunity to take part in an innovative tree recording project using a single iPhone in Cranborne Chase AONB. This project will continue after the events at Springhead.

“The human race’s relationship with the ash goes back at least to Ancient Greece and its uses in transport, farming and medicine are well documented. We want to take a very close look at this tree before it is too late,” said Edward Parker, an authority on trees who has also written several books. “During our celebration we will be looking at what will replace the ash tree and what choices we have when managing ash woodlands, among myriad other things. It’s a complex picture, which is why we need to come together to discuss what will happen.”

For more information on the Springhead AshScape Project and to book tickets, log on to http://www.springheadtrust.org.uk.

CrayfishGroundbreaking crayfish plague research undertaken for the first time on major British river system

A PhD student from the University of Derby has been testing for evidence of native white claw crayfish, North American signal crayfish and crayfish plague on stretches of the River Allen in Dorset, where it is believed that the plague struck three years ago, possibly wiping out the once healthy native Austropotamobius pallipes population.

The River Allen Crayfish Project, which has been made possible thanks to a £1,500 grant from the Cranborne Chase AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund, marks the first time that such extensive research employing Environmental DNA (eDNA) has been used to locate crayfish and the plague on a major river system. The researcher, Chris Troth, is using a test that was developed in Norway to search for traces of Oomycete fungus (Aphanomyces astaci) which has been decimating non-American crayfish populations up and down the country.

Mr Troth, who is undertaking his PhD within Derby University’s College of Life and Natural Sciences, has collected river samples from various points on the Allen, including at Dean’s Court, Knobcrook, Honeybrook Farm, Hinton Parva and Witchampton, and these are now at his university laboratory awaiting analysis.
“This is the first time I’ve tested water from a major river system,” says Mr Troth. “I’m doing two different types of test. One involves using a simple £20 sampler kit similar to the one employed by researchers at the University of Kent to test for the presence of great crested newts, while the other involves the filtration of river water on site using a portable peristaltic pump. Research shows that this method could extract higher levels of eDNA.”

The project began 18 months ago and postgraduate student Quentin Mauvisseau assisted Mr Troth with water sampling from the River Allen, as did Angus Menzies, a volunteer with Dorset Wildlife Trust who has been co-ordinating the project along with partner organisations Dorset County Council, the Environment Agency, the National Trust and Salmon and Trout Conservation

“Ideally we would like to find native white claw crayfish here, but we fear that they were wiped out three years ago,” says Dr Menzies. “As for introducing native crayfish back into the River Allen if no plague is found, this question has not been addressed in this project. The work so far, though, wouldn’t have happened without the grant from the AONB’s SDF fund and we’re deeply grateful to them.”

According to Mr Troth, crayfish plague can remain in water for long periods. “We’re looking into how long it stays in the river environment,” he says. “We will also be able to tell how many – if any – crayfish are actually in the water by analysing the quantity of eDNA.”

Taste the Chase cancelled

CRANBORNE Chase AONB has been forced to cancel its food and drink fair, Taste The Chase, scheduled to have taken place at The Nadder Centre on Thursday 5 October.

“We are extremely disappointed that we have had to call time on this year’s Taste the Chase,” said AONB director Linda Nunn. “The concept of bringing together all the amazing food and drink producers within our beautiful region is an inspired one.

“Every one of the producers who had signed up to bring their wonderful food or drink to the Nadder Centre in October make and sell high quality products that we would have been proud to have at our exhibition. Please visit them on our website at http://www.ccwwdaonb.org.uk/interactive-map-toplevel/food-drink/.”

PipelineWessex Water’s focus on environment schemes leads to strong ties with AONB

WESSEX Water hosted an opening ceremony for its new pipeline during September at Sturminster Marshall pumping station, which was attended by Cranborne Chase AONB staff, including Farm Conservation Officer Tracy Adams.

Between 2013 and spring 2017 Tracy worked with more than 20 landowners along the route of the new Wessex Water pipeline, which cuts through parts of the AONB, advising on farmland bird habitats as part of her farm conservation role. Wessex Water contributed to Tracy’s part-time salary.

“We undertook a variety of improvements based on the differing landscapes the pipeline went through,” explained Tracy. “Four ponds were restored, new hedgerows created and farmland bird habitat was made using winter seed mixes. A number of new barn owl and kestrel nesting boxes were also erected throughout the Wylye Valley. These were funded by Wessex Water through the Imber Conservation Group.

“The work didn’t cover huge swathes of land, but it was particularly useful for smaller landowners who may not have been eligible for grants.”

Pumping stationTo improve the environment and wildlife in areas affected by its pipeline, Wessex Water also launched its Grid Community Award Scheme, which has funded a number projects run by community organisations, charities, schools and local groups.

“I’m not sure that many people are aware that Wessex Water has funded a significant number of environmental schemes over a considerable period,” said Tracy. “As for the pipeline, its impact on the landscape has all but gone from view. It’s amazing how quickly it disappeared.”

Richard Burden, the AONB’s Landscape and Planning Advisor, who also attended the opening ceremony, said: “The attention to detail in the design stage to ensure that the pipeline and the reservoirs and pumping stations integrated with the landscape was key to the success of this project.”

Deverills FestivalCello and piano duo coming to Kingston Deverill

THE final event in the popular Deverills Performing Arts 2017 series will see  Guy Johnston (cello) & Tom Poster (piano) performing at Kingston Deverill Church on 18 November at 7.30pm.

Guy Johnston and Tom Poster perform together regularly. Guy, the BBC Young Musician of 2000 and recipient of a Classical Brit Award, is one of the most exciting and versatile British cellists of his generation, while Tom is internationally recognised as a pianist of outstanding artistry.

Richard Munro, who organises the festival with Julia Williams, said: “Our idea has been to bring theatre, music and dance to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to see it – top quality performances in historic settings. We hope everyone has enjoyed the events as much as we have.

“We have been incredibly grateful to receive the grant from the Cranborne Chase AONB Sustainable Development Fund which has enabled us to widen our cultural offering. Our aim is to be seen as a beacon of culture in the area.”

For more information log on to www.deverillsfestival.com.

PartridgeGWCT encourages landowners to count partridges

GAMEKEEPERS, farmers and landowners are being urged to get involved in a project which helps to conserve a much-loved bird.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has run the voluntary Partridge Count Scheme (PCS) since 1933 to collect information on the annual abundance and breeding success of grey partridges.

Counts on small farms to large estates offer a valuable insight into how well partridges breed, survive and benefit from habitat and management provision.

Over the years, grey partridge numbers have been affected by wet summers, low chick survival and problems with low winter survival rates.

As the autumn counts get underway, GWCT scientist Neville Kingdon, who collates the results each year, noted that every bird that is recorded is vital.

“To get a national recovery, we need a national response,” he stressed. “It’s the time of the year when crops are being cut and we can see birds, so it’s the perfect time for landowners to get out on their land and take part in the count. We’re not just interested in big numbers. Every count matters, and it can often be enjoyed as an activity with the family.”

To take part, complete this online form https://www.gwct.org.uk/research/long-term-monitoring/partridge-count-scheme/join/

For more information, email: partridgecountscheme@gwct.org.uk.

•    The Dick Potts Legacy Fund, set up following the death of the former Cranborne Chase AONB chairman, has raised £13,000 to date. The fund has been established in the name of the former Director-General of the GWCT with the aim of supporting the next generation of ecologists. 

booksSutton Veny prepares for book launch

THE book Sutton Veny - A History will be launched in Sutton Veny Village Hall on Saturday 25 November. The event, which will be attended by Dr Andrew Murrison MP, will commence at 6pm.

The book, which received a grant from Cranborne Chase AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund, has been researched and compiled by members of the Sutton Veny History Group, led by chairman Philip Clark. “We lifted the lid and came across lots of interesting stuff, such as the German aircraft which crashed in the Deverills, but not before one of the crew had bailed out over Sutton Veny,” said Philip

Copies of the book will be for sale and light refreshments will be available on the launch night.

ChurchEbbesbourne Wake bells set for 20th birthday celebration

FOR more than 50 years, between 1945 and 1997, the bells of Ebbesbourne Wake were silent. However, thanks to the hard work of a small but stalwart group, the bells were retuned and rehung 20 years ago, in ample time to train ringers to welcome in the new Millennium, which they did at midnight on 31 December 1999.

To celebrate this achievement two decades on, the Ebbesbourne Wake band of ringers are inviting people to tea at the church on Saturday 21 October at 3-4.30pm.

The Bell Tower will be open during the event.

MapTreasures of the Chase

Larmer Tree Gardens

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 Larmer Tree Gardens

LARMER Tree Gardens in Tollard Royal are recognised by English Heritage as a garden of national importance. They were opened by General Augustus Pitt Rivers (originally called Augustus Lane Fox) after he inherited the Rushmore Estate in 1880. General Pitt Rivers became part of the focus of the AONB’s Foundations of Archaeology (FOA) project due to his redefining of archaeological investigation in the 19th Century.

LarmerClearly a busy man, he combined this ‘hobby’ with building up Larmer Tree and just two decades after he had taken on the estate, his pleasure grounds were attracting more than 44,000 visitors every year. The general not only created a unique layout with separate areas known as quarters, but he had tennis courts, a golf course, racecourse and theatre constructed. Plays were performed here and poetry recited. Renowned novelist Thomas Hardy was a visitor during the 1890s. He would no doubt have seen the open air dancing and marvelled at how beautiful the gardens were when they were illuminated at night.

Sadly the gates closed permanently following Pitt Rivers’ death in 1900. Over the next 90 years they fell into a state of disrepair until 1991 when the general’s great grandson Michael Pitt Rivers began a programme of restoration. Within four years the gardens were once again hosting members of the public and, in 1999, shortly before Michael’s death, he planted a new Larmer Tree — legend has it that there was a ‘landmark tree’ on this site from the 10th Century.

For more information on Larmer Tree Gardens, log on to http://www.larmertree.co.uk.

  • Even though the FOA is no longer formally funded, the AONB will be offering opportunities for involvement with archaeology and history in the future. 

PaperHave 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 the more people will come and visit. If you have a story to tell, please get in touch. Email: JulieHarding@cranbornechase.org.uk.