Wye Valley AONB Farming Awards 2016 is up for Grabs

- Posted Tuesday 14 June 2016 by Nikki

Now in its ninth year, the popular Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Farming Awards competition 2016 is open.

The AONB Unit is seeking nominations from farms that make an outstanding contribution, in any shape or form, to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the Wye Valley AONB.  Farms in or adjacent to the Wye Valley AONB are eligible to enter with the possibility of winning some serious cash.

Last year’s winners Ann and Jim Herbert from Lewstone Farm, Whitchurch in Herefordshire demonstrated their contribution to the Wye Valley landscape with their educational visit provision alongside their free range egg production and environmental work.

With a first prize of £400, plus cash prizes for runners-up, the Wye Valley AONB Unit hopes that there will be a good take-up for this year’s competition from the farming community. The farm will also take home the prestigious Wye Valley AONB Farming Award Trophy, designed by Forest of Dean ironwork sculptor and blacksmith Steve Bluett which will be presented to the winner at the Monmouthshire Show on Thursday, August 25.

Nick Critchley, Wye Valley AONB Development Officer said “Farms can be nominated for all sorts of reasons, they may demonstrate excellent examples of building restoration or conservation of drystone walls, care for wildlife habitats, conserve rare breeds or contribute to community life.  We just want to hear about those examples of great farming practice that enhance the outstanding landscape of the AONB”.

Entries for this year’s awards need to be sent to the AONB by the deadline of Monday, July 4.  Nominations need to be written up on no more than a single side of A4 paper, explaining why you think your farm has made a special contribution and including your name, address, telephone number and email details.  Please send it to AONB Farming Awards, Wye Valley AONB, Hadnock Road, Monmouth NP25 3ZZ or email the details to development@wyevalleyaonb.org.uk.

For more information contact Nick Critchley, Wye Valley AONB Development Officer Tel: 01600 710841

- Nikki

Fire , Flame and Fun as the River Festival Flows On

- Posted Monday 9 May 2016 by Nikki

There were buskers; river characters The Water Ones with their engaging comic chaos of pouring and spilling, singing and dancing; three exciting new outdoor art commissions from Articulture and entertainment from a shoal of musicians plus Monmouth Band and Forest of Dean Male Voice Choir. There were performances from Savoy Youth Theatre, students from the University of South Wales and Engage Youth Circus from Cinderford. During the afternoon the Wye Valley AONB’s Youth Rangers, a group of 14 to 16-year-olds who are passionate about the countryside, conducted a river survey and helped organise a canoe safari. At the centre of the festival, the Giant Samovar dispensed tea in a time-honoured symbol of hospitality and the intriguing caravans, The Caravan of Myths and Legends and The Caravan of Curiosities and Hydrosities, part of the festival’s travelling Wye Serai,  hosted a stream of visitors. The Caravan of Fact and Wonder, a collaboration between the arts and the sciences, celebrated the biodiversity of water and included an eclectic collection of species loaned from the National Museum of Wales. The comic, interactive Arts and Entertainment River Health Check Laboratory, manned by performers ‘Mr and Mrs Clark’ entertained in a fun and thought provoking manner. The day reached a spectacular conclusion with atmospheric torchlit processions and river ceremonies and fabulous fire and flame sculptures by And Now. 

Meanwhile, the festival was “flying high” at The Old Station, Tintern. On Friday, May 6, the Caravan of Myths and Legends was there, collecting stories and spinning yarns and in the evening The Water Ones and the George Choir came together for the ceremonial launch of the arts installation Luminous Birds by internationally renowned artist Kathy Hinde. It’s an installation which creates a flock of origami-style birds seemingly flying overhead through synchronised lighting. It remains open until May 15, 10am-11pm and is best seen at dusk and after dark.

The Wye Valley River Festival continues this week with the conference The Art of Sustainability: Rivers, Local meets Global taking place at Wye Valley Sculpture Garden, Tintern on Friday May 13 from 6pm to 8pm. There will be a live link to Brazil and Professor Henrique Chaves in conversation with Simon Evans from the Wye and Usk Foundation (booking required).

At the weekend, the festival makes a splash in Llandogo. On Saturday May 14 (12.30pm to 10.30pm) there will be theatre, music, food and fabulous entertainment and towards evening, torch bearers and musicians will converge at the river’s edge and fantastic illuminations will light the riverside as choirs join with The Water Ones to bless the waters of the Wye.

Meanwhile the River Festival Caravans are heading out into the countryside to seek out folk who want to unravel the mysteries of the Wye's water; they are creating mini happenings at small communities and local schools.

Bringing all the varied festival activities to a crescendo, the grand finale on Sunday May 15 at Chepstow Racecourse (2pm to 10.30pm) includes interactive games; a Beast Feast; an evening performance of the Wye Serai; a river shaped fire sculpture, lanterns in the woods; water stories and the final servings from the Giant Samovar.

Celebrating the River Wye and its connections to rivers and people around the world, the biennial Wye Valley River Festival is led by the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) unit collaborating with local communities. For more information visit www.wyevalleyaonb.org.uk; Twitter: @wyebeauty #wyevalleyriverfestival; Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ wyevalleyriverfestival

- Nikki

Festival flags fashioned by local schoolchildren

- Posted Wednesday 27 April 2016 by Nikki


The youngsters from primary schools and a youth club along the riverside created the flags which will be fluttering at all the Wye Valley River Festival Events.

The flags represent water, nature and the biodiversity of river life, especially invertebrates. Artists Becky Prior and Faye Joines worked with classes from Reception to year six in 11 different primary schools and Brockweir Youth Club to create 23 double sided flags. They can be seen fluttering in the breeze at events between Hereford and Chepstow from April 29 to May 15 during the free, family festival. 

In the Lower Wye Valley the artists worked with primary schools in Thornwell (Chepstow), Llandogo, Trellech, Redbrook and St Briavels, as well as Brockweir Youth Club. In Herefordshire they worked with primary schools in Whitchurch, Goodrich, Walford and Ashfield Park (Ross-on-Wye) as well as St James C of E Primary School and Lord Scudamore Academy in Hereford.

They used a process called Cyanotype, which is an old fashioned printing technique that uses daylight (UV light) to create images. During the workshops the natural foliage that the children collected was placed onto the fabric. The group then worked as a team to carry it outside, keeping it as flat as possible. By blocking the UV light, the leaves created a beautiful organic stencilled effect.

At the start of each workshop the children learned about the different types of invertebrate that are found in the river and created some wonderful drawings. The older year groups were able to transfer theirs onto the flags and add colour using special fabric paint pens.

The 23 flags are labelled to indicate which schools created them, so anyone who took part in one of the workshops can come to the festival and find their amazing handiwork!

For details of all the fun at this year’s Wye Valley River Festival visit www.wyevalleyaonb.org.uk or pick up a free programme at any of the festival events.  Twitter: @wyebeauty #wyevalleyriverfestival; Facebook: www.facebook.com/ wyevalleyriverfestival

- Nikki

Unsafe Bridge closed to walkers at Lydbrook

- Posted Wednesday 2 March 2016 by Nikki

Wye Valley Walk – Temporary Diversion
The published route of the Wye Valley Walk is closed where the path crosses the river at Lydbrook Rail Bridge (Grid Reference SO 58713 17653) due to its unsafe condition. As a consequence, walkers should remain on the same side of the river throughout the length of the diversion which is shown on the plan which can be downloaded here
Additionally, the footpath that passes beneath the bridge on the north side of the river is also closed and an alternative route, shown in blue of the plan, must be used instead. Balfour Beatty contracted by Herefordshire Council and Gloucestershire County Council apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

- Nikki

We need new Youth Rangers

- Posted Thursday 1 October 2015 by Sharon Seymour

Please get in touch if you are aged 14-16 and would like to try the taster sessions during half term.  Don't be shy just come and try!

This scheme was launched in 2011 and is funded by the Lottery.



Please see Youth Rangers  for further information.



- Sharon Seymour

LEMURs add sharks and hummingbirds to the Wye Valley Bio Diversity

- Posted Friday 4 September 2015 by Nikki

The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has been providing work experience to two LEMUR+ trainees to enable them to gain practical skills in conservation and environmental work.

Stephen Shutt and Sophie Marley are the latest trainees on the Learning Environments in Marine, Urban and Rural Areas (LEMUR+) Project, led by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery. It provides career opportunities with organisations like the Wye Valley AONB, by offering professional on the job practical experience in technical skills such as wildlife habitat surveying, heritage interpretation, species identification and project management.  These skills are all being developed alongside the use of new emerging digital field technologies that can be employed during field work
Phil Burton, LEMUR project manager was very emphatic about the need for this project. ‘Under current predictions, it is expected that there will be a seriously depleted number of skilled naturalists who are capable of using digital field technologies necessary to efficiently provide the level and quality data required to inform biodiversity planning. ‘ he stated ‘This may have serious implications for our ability to monitor species dynamics as a result of climate change.’
The Wye Valley  AONB Unit has worked with a number of trainees since 2011, all of whom join 90 other LEMUR trainees that have gone on to work within the environmental and conservation sectors. The two latest trainees came along very different paths to their LEMUR+ placements at the Wye Valley AONB offices at Hadnock Road, Monmouth.
Stephen Shutt,  pictured left, LEMUR+ trainee and is currently on a 3 month placement. He came from a background of the Royal Marines, pub management, security work and manufacturing. His passion for the environment has carried on throughout his working career and he has carried out environment auditing and voluntary work with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Mammals Society, the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES)  and Gwent Wildlife Trust. After redundancy he obtained funding from the Welsh Government ReACT which helps people affected by redundancy gain new skills and encourages recruiting employers to employ a redundant worker.  This funding helped Stephen attend courses on such diverse topics as badger development and riparian mammals. He discovered LEMUR+ and after a 4 day intensive employability event, he was accepted on the LEMUR+ training placement. Stephen is currently studying for his BSc in Environmental Science with the Open University.

Sophie Marley, pictured right, came to the project via a more traditional route. After working with in Yorkshire in community engagement and horticulture she studied at the University of Reading, Berkshire in Applied Ecology and Conservation. She then had a voluntary period at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens working with the 7 million dried and pressed specimens at the Herbarium Sophie also worked as a conservation trainee for Buckingham and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust and a library assistant at the University of Reading. She sourced the LEMUR+ placement and was given a 9 month placement at the Wye Valley AONB. Sophie has found the placement gives her new skills for the employment market ‘ This project has helped me to increase my biological surveying skills and accelerated my botanical knowledge which I am sure will help me gain employment in this specialised area.’ she said.

Both Sophie and Stephen have had the opportunity to work on surveying the landscape of the Woolhope Dome, area south east of Hereford.  They concentrated on basic habitat surveys which included grasslands and hedgerows. Points of interest such as ponds, veteran trees and wildlife were also recorded. Finding a Chamomile Shark Moth caterpillar feeding on mayweed and Hummingbird Hawkmoth caterpillar in a field with large amounts of Lady’s Bedstraw were some of the highlights. Their important survey work was sent onto the National Biodiversity Network who capture wildlife data in a standard electronic form and it has contributed to the bio diversity knowledge of the Wye Valley.


Editor’s Notes:
The Wye Valley AONB is an internationally important protected landscape containing some of the most beautiful lowland scenery in Britain
 The 58 mile/92km stretch of the River Wye winds down through the valley through spectacular limestone gorge scenery and dense ravine woodlands. Superb wildlife, intriguing archaeological and industrial remains and impressive geological features all make it into one of the most fascinating Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Designated in 1971, this unique landscape straddles the border between England and Wales. It includes areas within Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire.
The AONB Management Plan identifies the need to support farmers in taking a positive role in the land management of the area and to ensure that woodland owners manage them in a sustainable way.
The Wye Valley AONB has had 4 trainees since 2011 on the original LEMUR project. Wye Valley new trainees are with LEMUR +
In December 2005 HLF awarded funding to the Herefordshire Nature Trust and its project partners Ambios Ltd (not for profit) and Sheffield Wildlife Trust to develop an innovative and exemplar training scheme that would help improve the quality of skills available to the heritage sector.Project LEMUR offers funded bursary placements that are supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Each trainee receives a training bursary and  a placement.
The LEMUR project has trained 90 funded bursary placements to date, helping to build a network of skilled wildlife professionals.  LEMUR has a 95%+ success rate of getting trainees into paid employment within the environmental sector.
LEMUR +  is the son of LEMUR.  Herefordshire Wildlife Trust have passed the lead for this project to their LEMUR partner Ambios Ltd to run alongside themselves as joint main partner.  Herefordshire Wildlife Trust are responsible for running the rural hub in the west midlands and Wales which supports the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre.  The partnership of hosts is set to grow in 2016 with an additional three hosts coming on board in the Midlands.  Ambios are the lead orgnanisation within Marine Hub in Devon and work closely with The Marine Biological Association, Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust.  This programme now offers both 3 month and 9 month bursary placements to support people who want to work in the environmental conservation sector.
Hereford Wildlife Trust
In order to restore Herefordshire’s wildlife and engage people with the natural world the Trust   works to conserve and enhance biodiversity in a specific suite of Living Landscapes, whilst supporting key habitats and species across the county, to achieve maximum conservation impact.
They act as the prime advocate for biodiversity in the county by working through strategic partnerships to increase the level of public engagement with nature and wildlife, thereby leading to greater support for conservation of Herefordshire’s wildlife.  They have 16 years experience in running structured internships and training for people who are keen to secure skills and employment within environmental conservation.
ReAct helps people affected by redundancy gain new skills and encourages recruiting employers to employ a redundant worker. Employer Recruitment Support funds employers who recruit individuals made t
redundant in the past 3 months. The award offers up to £3,000 paid in four instalments as a contribution towards wage costs Employer Training Support is a separate discretionary fund of up to £1,000 that an employer can put towards the cost of the new recruit’s job-related training.
National Biodiversity Network
The NBN is a collaborative project, but, above all else, it is a partnership, which involves many of the UK’s wildlife conservation organisations, the government and country agencies, environmental agencies, local records centres and also many voluntary groups.  All of these organisations collect and use biodiversity data and they are all committed to making this information widely available. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) also supports specific projects to develop the NBN further.


- Nikki

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