New Year Update From Quantock Hills AONB Manager, Iain Porter
It has been a busy first 9 months since taking on the AONB Manager's role. There have been significant developments nationally with proposals to change the duty and purposes of AONBs, change the name of AONBs, updates to the national grant funding to AONBs and a significant number of consultations. While it is great to see Government developing strategies and taking forward legislation for nature recovery, climate action and local communities this is also leading to more reactive action required from AONB Partnerships. Such an example is the provision of the Capital Access Grant, which was only confirmed last month and needs to be delivered and spent by the end of March. Thankfully the AONB Service and partners have a number of potential projects ready to go but it still requires staff resources to be moved around to ensure timely delivery.
On the ground delivery by the team has moved from engagement and visitor management in the summer through to more habitat management work with some interesting projects, such as Hayman’s Pond in Holford Combe (or Butterfly Combe), making a real impact on the ground. The monitoring work led by the AONB Service continues with Pied Flycatcher, butterfly and bat surveys providing some useful trend data for the Quantock Hills. Our Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) Team have been working with farmers and land managers developing projects that will deliver for nature recovery, climate and landscape, including running a series of farmer events.
I have been really impressed with delivery by the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme Team over the past year. The Partnership, which is hosted by the AONB Service, has delivered a massive number of exciting events, delivered a significant dig at Crowcombe Court and is also adding to our understanding with a number of surveys, such as the bats surveys on the fringing areas of the AONB or beetle surveys at Alfoxton, returning some great finds.
As we start 2023 the team are really keen to provide more opportunity for partners and stakeholders to engage with the work that we do. We are looking to run more public events, across a wider range of topics, to explore the potential for a farming cluster group and to provide more engagement events for partners to look at key topics, such as climate resilience or nature recovery. It is going to be a busy year with some great work and projects happening with partners such as Friends of Quantock and for me personally I cannot wait for the lighter evenings and warmer weather to start our bat monitoring programme again!