Our Outstanding Landscape – now and the future
This blog post comes from Cathy Smith, Communications, Funding & Development Officer of the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project
The Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley is an outstanding place, and it has been nationally designated too, helping us recognise that it has many special qualities for us today and for future generations.
The landscape of the Stour Valley with its vibrant communities and rich agricultural history has inspired generations of artists, writers and painters. As well as these strong cultural connections, the valley has abundant wildlife living in the mosaic of habitats along the river valley. Large numbers of visitors are drawn to appreciate and enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the countryside and explore its rich historical associations.
The River Stour is the heart, and I’d say soul, of the area. The main river and its tributaries touch every part of the area, and although you can’t always see it, the water course is life giving and a rich focus of activity for people and wildlife. The Stour Valley Path is a 60-mile walking route that also runs the length of the river from source to estuary, and a hike or stroll along the route will show you all it’s many wonders. The River Stour Festival is another great example highlighting the variety of cultural and natural events and activities that enhance our experiences.
But we must also look to the future.
When Defra wrote their 25 Year Environment Plan (Jan 2018) they included an announcement of a Designated Landscape Review. This Review, of both National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), will report back to Michael Gove in 2019. 2019 is also the 70th Anniversary of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. A fitting time to look once again at how your Essex & Suffolk AONBs are delivering local priorities too.
This week (20 October 2018) Defra began its public ‘Call for Evidence’. Everyone can – and should – submit comments to Defra, via their consultation pages, see their news report: www.gov.uk/government/news/public-to-have-say-on-new-national-parks. The deadline is Tuesday 18 December 2018.
Nationally there are common themes across all the designated landscapes – including wildlife, land management, agriculture and recreation. We also have local priorities that we will take to the Review Advisory Panel about at our face-to-face, and when we submit our response to the consultation.
Here in the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley the AONB team and its Partnership is already delivering against the 25YEP, and we have a thriving agriculture sector, a healthy rural economy, beautiful landscapes and rich habitats for wildlife. Looking forward, we have pressure from infrastructure and building developments, a keen interest in further enhancing biodiversity through countryside management and the work of our wonderful volunteers, and we strongly believe that supporting our community groups with advice and grants can deliver great benefits locally.
We hope you get out as much as possible to enjoy our outstanding landscape soon and that being in the landscape will help you think about how we can all support it – conserve and enhance it – for many more generations to come!