Quantock Hills AONB threatened by County Council cuts
by the Friends of Quantock
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in Somerset are facing swingeing cuts in funding in the latest Somerset County Council budget proposals. Despite an overall cut of some 6% in council spending, the budget for AONBs is to be reduced by almost 90% from £45,000 to £5,000. The impact on the Quantock Hills is even worse, as SCC proposes to cut its contribution from £21.5k to a derisory £1.65k. As Local Authority contributions are needed to draw down the Defra grant in the ratio of 1 to 3, the implications could mean a fall in the AONBs budget of up to £80k. Furthermore, the District Council funding partners are likely to follow the county’s lead and reduce their grants to the Quantocks as well with similar knock on effects.
It is deplorable that the County Council totally fails to recognise that the high quality of the county’s environment attracts individuals and businesses to Somerset to live and work and is the main asset of the tourist industry. Protected landscapes, like the Quantock Hills AONB, are what makes Somerset’s countryside so special and are an important element in the high quality of life of residents here, contributing significantly to their physical and mental wellbeing. Visit the Quantocks and you will see many people from Taunton, Bridgwater, surrounding villages and beyond using this very special landscape – walking, riding, cycling or just enjoying the spectacular views. The AONB team helps them all get the very best from their visits, but they need adequate resources to continue this work. Funding for AONBs is modest and excellent value for money - for every pound invested by the County Council the Quantocks Hills AONB brings in at least £15 from other sources, this is why the proposed cuts are not only inequitable, but make no economic sense. A county like Somerset needs to invest in its environment; it’s a key to its prosperity and to the wellbeing of its people.
Alan Hughes, Chairman of Friends of Quantock said: ‘The Quantock Hills AONB is one of the jewels in Somerset’s landscape, contributing to the distinctive character of the county and much enjoyed and valued by local people. If the hills are to remain beautiful, a place where we can all escape the pressures of modern life to enjoy stunning views, rich wildlife and links to our past, we must be prepared to invest in its management. I would urge our county councillors to reconsider these draconian cuts in the AONB’s budget. This is a most precious place, we must treasure it and look after it.’
Campbell Rooms in need of Urgent Help
After welcoming thousands of visitors over the past 25 years, we now face closure. Not for lack of popularity, success or funds, but for lack of volunteers.
If you live within range of Aley, Over Stowey, we need you to save us. You don’t need any connection to the Scouts, just a few spare hours each month and a desire to see us stay open for the next 25 years. We need occasional and regular volunteers to help maintain the centre, and people to join our management committee too.
If you might be able to help, or know someone else who might, please phone or email us now (see the ‘contact us’ page). Unless enough of you do, the Campbell Room may have close at the end of 2014.
For more information about the Campbell Rooms see: www.campbellroom.org.uk
Contains Art is an exciting new venue in Watchet providing artists' studios, a space for exhibitions and events and a networking centre for West Somerset's creative industries.
Three shipping containers, sited on Watchet's East Quay overlooking Watchet Harbour Marina are being turned into a home for four artists studios and a project space. The containers will be undergoing refitting out and refurbishment over May- June 2013.
The project, which grew out of Creatives Club and the Making the Links in West Somerset project, is being overseen by Creatives Club.
Entries are wanted for their first exhibition, Open Art Postcard Exhibition. If you are creative and fancy showing your work at our exhibition and donating the sale of your postcard to help raise funds for this new community Arts Centre why not create a card and pop it in the post.
For more details about the project see www.containsart.co.uk
See our diary for exhibition location.
Nether Stowey Library -
100 Word Story Competition
The Friends of Nether Stowey Library 100-word Story Competition will be run again in the summer holidays this year.
As before, there will be cash prizes in three age groups, and in addition, free DVD-hire vouchers. Entry is free, and there is no restriction on where entrants live, topics, or how many stories are submitted by an entrant.
Entry forms, which also set out the Rules, will be available soon from Libraries across Somerset. They must be returned to Nether Stowey Library with entries by Saturday 31 August.
Story Boxes on the
Monday 3rd June and the final of the 6 story boxes will be installed for the summer of 2013 along the Coleridge Way. The concept is simple, find one, read the story so far, add a paragraph or drawing but no more, then leave for the next walker. Return as often as you want but you cannot add more unless someone else has put their mark in the book. Books will be exhibited as part of Somerset Art Week in September as well as Coleridge Cottage later in the year.
Two of the books have been started by guest Authors Jackie Morris, (Author Illustrator) and Taffy Thomas (UK's first Storyteller laureate), and endorsed by Rosemary Middleton, a direct descendant of Coleridge himself.
The Zing Somerset App was launched in March 2013 to aid the people of Somerset in starting and sustaining physical activity. It’s a great way to record your weekly activity and gives motivation to continue.
Have your say on how the Quantocks are mangaged
The Quantock Rangers are asking you to have your say about how they look after the Quantock AONB.
"Due to funding cuts, resources are now very tight and it is important that we concentrate on the right areas of work. We need you to tell us what you think is most important. Your answers will help us produce a new Management Plan for April 2014."
To take their survey, and be entered into a prize draw, visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QuantockHills
Cycle Route between Cotford St Luke & Bishops Lydeard and Taunton
Local environmental group Quantock Eco has formed a special Committee to take forward the plans for a cycle path between Cotford St Luke & Bishops Lydeard and Taunton.
As we all know, there is plenty of scope for recreational cyling on the Quantocks, but those trying to commute by bicycle are often faced with unfriendly main roads. We do hope this project proves a success, and that more like it can follow.
It is worth remembering that illegally driving vehicles off road is an offence on the Quantock Hills, as recent prosecutions have demonstrated.
For more details see the Quantock Rangers' web site.
Friends of Quantock take over custodianship of Halsway Hill & Over Stowey Custom Common
Following the controversy surrounding Somerset County Council's sale of land on the Quantock Hills the Friends of Quantock, a registered charity that was established in 1949, has recently taken over the management of Halsway Hill and Over Stowey Custom common.
The Friends of Quantock will hold these areas as custodians in perpetuity on behalf of the people of Somerset and visitors. The challenge now is to raise approximately £5000 per year for running costs.
How can you help?
Simply by becoming a member of The Friends of Quantock, annual membership is just £12 per year per household, or you could make a donation. Memebership form available here.
Or by buying this book by Peter Haggett.
Professor Peter Haggett CBE, a Friends of Quantock member, who was born, bred and schooled in Somerset. A former Cambridge don and Bristol University professor, he has returned to his roots to write this affectionate biography of a deeply fascinating but often overlooked corner of England’s rich and varied countryside.
Professor Haggett has kindly offered to donate the profits from this book to the Friends of Quantock towards their appeal.
For more details about the Friends of Quantock see friendsofquantock.com
Going, Going, Gone!
David Huxtable Sells
5th April 2012
by Simon Youé
At a press conference today, councillor David Huxtable announced that Somerset County Council has completed the sale of Great Wood to the Forestry Commission. The very same body that the government wanted to dispose of last year.
Councillor Huxtable further announced that negotiations to sell further parts of the Quantock Hills are in progress.
Although the Forestry Commission is, currently, a body to be trusted with stewardship of such a precious asset, the fact of the matter remains that there is still uncertainty as to their own future. This in turn leaves the future of this much loved, and probably the most used part of the Quantocks, a hostage to fortune.
Councillor Huxtable stated that, "The terms of the sale that we have, we think protects the land.". However, when I pushed him, more than once, to be explicit about what terms in the sale he was referring to, he did not appear able to give a direct answer.
Great Wood has been sold by one public body to another, currently, public body for the sum of £250,000 - before expenses. In the overall picture of the Council finances this is a very small sum. In fact the only reason that just one man was able to take the decision to sell is because the totality of the land on the Quantock Hills has been declared a 'minor asset' by SCC.
Make your mind up! Either the sale of this land will go a long way towards saving our schools, roads and bus services - or it is a minor asset. You just can't have it both ways!
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