Volunteers taste the fermented fruits

- Posted Tuesday 21 October 2014 by Sharon Seymour

Our Fantastic volunteers enjoyed an outing to Broome Farm, near Ross-on-Wye where they were able to see, smell and taste the apple and pear cider made on the farm. Lunch was provided at the Yew Tree Inn where excellent food and the home brewed cider is on sale.

Broome farm has been the home of the Johnson family for over 70 years.  The 65 acres have been put to many uses during this time including a dairy herd, crops of potatoes and soft fruit, sheep and more recently alpacas.

In 1974 the first of the commercial orchards contracted to Bulmers, the Hereford cidermakers, was planted.  This enterprise has grown in recent years and today is the main farming activity occupying 40 acres.

Throughout this time a traditional farmhouse orchard of cider apple and perry pear trees has been maintained with a small amount of cider and perry made each year for consumption on the farm.  Since 1984 when the farmhouse was reopened after renovation the popularity of the cider and perry with both local customers and visitors alike has resulted each year in increasing quantities being pressed. All Broome Farm Cider and Perry is made from whole fruit juice – once pressed the juice is allowed to ferment with its own natural yeasts.

Further orchards have also been planted to supply fruit for the growing production of Broome Farm Cider and Perry.  There are now over 70 varieties of cider apples and perry pears growing on the farm enabling the creation of individual blends of award winning cider and perry.

The farm cellar is open every day for tastings and sales straight from the barrels and there is also a selection of bottled cider and perry available, both single varieties and blends.  For more information visit: www.rosscider.com

- Sharon Seymour

Caving Youth Rangers at Clearwell

- Posted Tuesday 21 October 2014 by Sharon Seymour

Youth Rangers, Young people who love the countryside and actively conserve the special landscape of the Wye Valley, enjoyed a very interesting geology  walk lead by Nic Howes. Starting just outside St Briavels, descending into Slade Brook.  Slade Brook contains 700m of actively forming Tufa dams.  Tufa or Travertine is a naturally formed precipitate of calcium carbonate rich freshwater.  To protect these geological features the area has SSSI designation (site of special scientific interest).  Then onto Stow Green then Trow Green and finally to Clearwell where they experienced the descend into the historic mines. 

The mine dates back well over 4,000 years, when early miners dug for ochre pigments to make paints.  Iron ore miners later created a warren of underground passageways, by connecting the huge caverns.  The iron-ore mines are part of ancient natural cave systems that began their development mainly within a bed of Carboniferous limestone known locally as the Crease Limestone, fairly soon after the rock formed, some 330 million years ago. Later, about 225 million years ago at the start of the Late Triassic Epoch, the surface of the area became a hot desert, totally unlike our modern landscape both in climate and appearance.Occasionally, torrential rain storms, far heavier and more prolonged than anything that we experience today dissolved iron minerals from the arid land surface. Massive floods of acidic, iron-rich water then entered the older cave systems, where iron-ore minerals were deposited as the water was neutralised by contact with the limestone.

Millions of years later, at about the same time that the Alps were forming elsewhere in Europe, the whole of the Forest of Dean area was uplifted again. The ancestors of major rivers, the Wye in the west and the Severn in the east, and their tributaries, eroded deep valleys through the rocks of the basin, locally cutting through the old cave systems, exposing the iron-ores that most of them now contained.

The road that now runs outside the Clearwell Caves entrance follows the now-dry valley of a former tributary to the river Wye, which probably fed underground streams until the end of the cold climatic phase associated with the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago.

The original source of iron mineralisation still mystifies geologists as the remaining strata above the limestone contains relatively little iron mineralisation compared to the vast quantity that became deposited into the cave systems that eventually became iron mines

Clearwell Caves are amongst the earliest and one of the last producers of ochre (natural earth pigment) in the British Isles. Ochre is now thought to have been mined here for more than 7000 years (since the Middle Stone Age). Ochre pigment is found as a soft deposit intermingled with pockets of harder crystalline iron ore.

Until the 1930's Forest of Dean mines were famous for good quality, rich pigments, particularly shades of red and purple. Purple ochre is an unusual natural earth pigment, similar colours are usually only available in synthetic forms. The mines at Clearwell were well known for the quality and wide range of ochre colours available. Yellow, orange, brown, red and purple ochre is still mined here; dug by hand, using simple tools much as the ancient miners would have done. After careful sieving, the ochre is either washed, or milled.  For more information please visit: www.clearwellcaves.com

 

- Sharon Seymour

Farming Awards Presentation 2014

- Posted Monday 1 September 2014 by Nikki

The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Farming Awards 2014 was a closely fought competition, sought after by Wye Valley farmers in recognition of the work they do to conserve and enhance the landscape.
2014’s  worthy winner was Severndale Farm, Tidenham and farmers Lyndon and Maria Edwards were presented Wye Valley AONB Farming Awards trophy at Monmouthshire Show by Lucie Taylor, from the Community  Land Advisory Service in Wales (CLAS Cymru) who sponsored the competition.

Lyndon Edwards family has been farming Severndale, located on the banks of the River Severn, for three generations since the farm was first built in 1952.
He has developed innovative work with land share opportunities for local residents. Where loaned plots of land to grow their own fruit and vegetables are offered in return for either sharing their excess produce or paying a small annual rental fee. The free range and conservation work on the farm have also added to the biodiversity of the area and have added substantially to the landscape of this protected area.
Second place went to well known farmer John Childs from Cowshill Farm, Hewelsfield with his farming enterprise which includes producing meat from rare breed pedigree animals including British Lop and Berkshire pigs.
The Community Land Advisory Service in Wales (CLAS Cymru) aims to help bring more land into productive use for communities by helping landowners and community growers work together for mutual benefit. The five-year project, funded by a £600,000 grant from the Big Lottery’s Climate Change Programme, works alongside government, local authorities, landowners and community organisations to overcome barriers to community growing, such as access to land.  Lucie Taylor was delighted to present the award of cash and the superb trophy designed by Forest of Dean sculptor Steve Bluett. ‘We have a target to provide specialist guidance and support for community food- growing projects.’ she said ‘ Severndale is a worthy winner and I am delighted to be part of the AONB Farming Awards’ Pictured from left are Lucie Taylor CLAS and Andrew Blake Wye Valley AONB Officer with Lyndon and Maria Edwards

- Nikki

BBC Countryfile Showcases AONB Trainee

- Posted Saturday 23 August 2014 by Nikki

John Craven, presenter of the popular BBC Countryfile programme, visited the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on the border of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire for a taste of wildflower identification and to learn about the success of a national training programme.

Project LEMUR (Learning Environments in Marine, Urban and Rural Areas) was set up by the Herefordshire Nature Trust to help stem the UK’s decline in key conservation skills needed by the next generation of wildlife professionals such as species identification and wildlife habitat surveying. LEMUR is a national project that has been run in partnership with numerous other organisations such as the Wye Valley AONB, who have provided placements to passionate individuals who are intent on securing a career in wildlife conservation. This project has been made possible with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has awarded a grant of £1,703.300 for this nine year bursary programme.

Phil Burton, LEMUR Project Manager said ‘The concerns are about whether there will be a next generation of competent professional field naturalists, and if so, will they be up to the challenge of providing accurate species identification and ecological understanding that is necessary for implementing bio-diversity planning in the future?  Under current predictions, it is expected that there will be a seriously depleted number of skilled naturalists that are able to provide the level and quality of data required to inform bio-diversity planning. This may have serious implications for our ability to monitor species dynamics as a result of climate change’.
Trainees Sophie Cowling and Charlotte Long are undertaking nine month work-based training placements with the Wye Valley AONB and the Herefordshire Nature Trust in order to develop skills that will secure them a job in wildlife conservation.  Sophie was the fourth LEMUR trainee who to hone their surveying skills by working at the Wye Valley AONB and felt the Project had helped her in her quest for employment, ‘There is a big gap between where university ends and employment begins.’ she said ‘After obtaining a Biology degree from Cardiff University, I found I was actually ill-equipped to get a job because I didn’t have the skills employers needed.   Lemur is helping me bridge this gap’.

Throughout the filming John Craven talked to Sophie and Andrew Nixon, Wye Valley AONB Development Officer about Project LEMUR and learned the skills of wildflower identification. He found one of his favourite plants, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, and with his newly learned botanic identification skills discovered a range of new plants that were previously unknown to him. This Countryfile episode was aired on BBC1 on Sunday, August 24, 2014 and can be available on BBC I Player

- Nikki

MindSCAPE Project works its Magic

- Posted Friday 11 July 2014 by Nikki

Eight people living with dementia and their carers attended a Natural Sculpture Workshop with artist Rachel Shilston and learned techniques of creating artwork with found objects in the Forest. MindSCAPE, a Big Lottery funded Project was launched in May at the Bracelands Centre in the Forest of Dean.

Hannah Elton-Wall the project co-ordinator from Artspace Cinderford organised the workshop at the newly built log circle at the Forestry Commision site at Bracelands near Coleford. ‘The day went really well.’ stated Hannah ‘ People enjoyed themselves and as well as creating natural sculpture they made their own natural bookmarks.’
MindSCAPE’s programme for activities in July and August has now been arranged and includes natural sculpture, willow weaving and Tai Chi running alongside stone walling sessions. The sessions all run on alternate Tuesday mornings at Bracelands Adventure Centre and include refreshments and lunch. All activities are free including transport, if required and Forest of Dean residents have first choice. To find out more information log onto the mindSCAPE pages.

If you would like further information about the project or you know of any individuals living with dementia or their carers who would benefit from the activities provided or who would like to volunteer or contribute their views on what is needed in the programme of activities please contact Hannah on tel: 01594 815 111 (ext4) email: hannah@artspacecinderford.org or Nikki Moore on information@wyevalleyaonb.org.uk

The project is also looking for volunteers who would like to become involved with and informed about dementia issues They will receive first aid and dementia awareness training which will enable them to understand the issues facing those living with dementia and cognitive impairment.

- Nikki

AONB Farming Awards 2014

- Posted Wednesday 28 May 2014 by Nikki

Farms in or adjacent to the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) could be in line for some serious cash prizes. The Wye Valley AONB Farming Awards is open again for 2014, with the AONB Unit seeking nominations for farms that make an outstanding contribution, in any shape or form, to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the Wye Valley AONB. 

Andrew Nixon, 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 or conserve rare breeds or contribute to community life.  We just want to hear about those examples of great farming practice that enhance the landscape'.

With a first prize of £400, plus cash prizes for second and third place, the Wye Valley AONB Unit hopes that there will be a good take-up for this year’s competition from the farming community. The winning farm will also take home the Wye Valley AONB Farming Award Trophy, designed by Forest of Dean ironwork sculptor and blacksmith Steve Bluett. This will be presented to the winner at the Monmouthshire Show on Thursday August 28.
Last year’s winners Home Farm, Courtfield Estate open up their farm at 1pm on Sunday, June 8  2014 as part of the national Open Farm Sunday. People can come along and enjoy seeing the work that has been undertaken in this exceptional landscape during a 2.5 mile walk  through the Courtfield Estate.

Nominations for this year’s awards need to be sent to the AONB by the deadline of Friday, July 11.  Nominations need to be written up on a single side of A4 paper, clearly explaining the special contribution the farm has made and including your name, address, telephone and email details.  Please send to AONB Farming Awards, FREEPOST SWC 4106, MonmouthNP25 3ZZ
For more information on how to enter or for further information about the Open Farm Sunday event at Home Farm, Courtfield Estate contact Andrew Nixon, Wye Valley Development Officer Tel: 01600 710841, email development@wyevalleyaonb.org.uk.

- Nikki

Wye Valley River Festival has now Finished

- Posted Wednesday 12 March 2014 by Nikki

We celebrated nature, culture, landscape and life along the River Wye in the stunning Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

This year’s inaugural festival in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was spearheaded by the Wye Valley AONB Partnership with artistic direction from Desperate Men Outdoor Arts Company and community groups and organistaions along the river. Two weeks of riverside revelry started in Hereford on May 3, with a river carnival with a theatrical twist, a celebration on the riverside at Ross-on-Wye with a dash theatrical nonsense, a traditional Village Fete at Lydbrook,  a trial at Monmouth, flame and fire and a tightrope walk in Llandogo, bustling river port recreation at Brockweir, song and ceremony at Tintern and the finale Turn of the Tide at Chepstow with a flotilla, massed choir, brass bands, fire and flame and illuminations..

Thousands of people visited the events and enjoyed the main activities as well as Festival extras, which are still going on in some places.The aim of the Wye Valley AONB  to be fun and informative and also to stimulate serious debate about topical and environmental issues affecting the river and valley landscape was well supported. Desperate Men, a versatile and inventive outdoor arts companies from the UK, specialising in mischievous, warm-hearted work which invites audiences to ask serious questions about the environment put on a supreme show of street theatre and encompassed young and old with enchanting, cute otters and squirrel facing  the awesome Judge Wild Boar with his cronies Mink and the badger brigade. Look through the River Festival pages on the website www.wyevalleyaonb.org.uk to get an idea of the how each of the events was organised with several hundred community organisations who took the Wye Valley River Festival to their hearts.

The 2014 Festival has gained funding from the AONB Sustainable Development Fund, a Welsh Government initiative in the Wye Valley AONB; Arts Council of Wales, supported by the Welsh Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund; Arts Council England; adventa, Monmouthshire’s Rural Development Plan for Wales which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development; and in-kind support from The Shire Hall, Monmouth and National Theatre Wales along with contributions from numerous volunteers and various communities along the Wye Valley.

 For futher details of the event programme go onto the website pages

 

- Nikki

Scenic Sundays are an Irresistible Offa

- Posted Wednesday 12 March 2014 by Sharon Seymour

Make Sundays special and get out and about in the footsteps of Offa this spring and summer with a new Sunday/Bank Holiday bus service between Hereford and Monmouth, which ties in with the existing Sunday service from Monmouth to Chepstow.

Backed by the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, the 34 Sunday and Bank Holiday bus service supplements the weekday 34 service and ties in with the existing daily 69 service from Monmouth to Chepstow. For the first time in 10 years it now gives locals and visitors the chance to enjoy and explore the length of the Lower Wye Valley and the swathe of beautiful country either side of Offa’s Dyke every day of the week. “It fills a gap in the Sunday and Bank Holiday network in the area,” said Andrew Blake, Wye Valley AONB Officer. “This will be the first time in ten years that the bus has run from Hereford direct through to Monmouth via the Wye Valley. We’re calling it The Wye Valley Wanderer and we are backing it in response to requests from both residents and walking groups.

“This is a flagship project for us. We want to encourage more people to visit the Wye Valley by bus; the journey is always part of the day out and buses allow you to sit back and enjoy the view. The bus is being supported financially by the AONB Partnership in conjunction with the Walking with Offa project, which promotes walking and sustainable transport along either side of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail, allowing people the ‘Irresistible Offa’ of exploring outstanding landscapes and fascinating local places.”

The Wye Valley Wanderer 34 bus will be operated by First Bus from May 4 to  September 28, leaving from Hereford Railway Station at 1010 and returning from Monmouth at 1715. This allows connections by train from Shrewsbury and Worcester as well as from Leominster and Ledbury. There will be an additional three journeys between Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth leaving Ross-on-Wye at 1300, 1420 and 1620 offering connections from Gloucester and Hereford. Stagecoach Explorer and South Wales Network Rider tickets will be valid on the service.

The route goes via Ross-on-Wye, Kerne Bridge, Goodrich and Whitchurch (for Symond's Yat). “Travellers can enjoy the stunning scenery from their over-hedge vantage point; hop off when they want to visit pretty Wye Valley towns and villages; have a Sunday stroll in idyllic countryside; a pub lunch washed down by a guilt-free tipple (no driving!) or a breathtaking long distance walk taking in beautiful woodlands carpeted with wild flowers or the wonderful viewpoints of the Wye Valley,” said Andrew.

The bus service, linking with the 69 service from Monmouth to Chepstow, also enables walkers to plan an outing along the section of the Wye Valley Walk between Hereford and Chepstow or to step it out along the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail which follows the River Wye from Sedbury Cliff just outside Chepstow before crossing the Wye at Monmouth and heading off through the Vale of Usk.

To view a copy of the timetable please click here.     

Shuttlebus: The 34 service is being supported in conjunction with the Walking with Offa project which promotes walking and sustainable transport along either side of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail. Cartoon: Alan Duncan 


 

- Sharon Seymour

MinsdSCAPE secures Big Lottery funding

- Posted Monday 11 November 2013 by Nikki

Mindscape, an exciting and unique Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) project, has been lucky in obtaining Big Lottery Reaching Communities funding for a four year project to help people cope with the challenges of dementia.

The AONB Unit has been working towards this innovative approach, in getting hard to reach groups out and about in the Wye Valley, for the past three years with their Inside Out programme. The funding will enable this new programme to focus on people living with dementia and help them reconnect back with the landscape in the Forest of Dean. The project will also be recruiting a part time funded Mindscape Project Co-ordinator who will work to pull together the regular activities and events, promote the scheme and raise awareness of the challenges of dementia.

Mindscape will be essentially a regular club where people can get together, enjoy company, chat, tea and cake and can take part in a range of activities and events. These will be based around the landscape its environment, history, heritage, arts and crafts. From jam making to canoeing from poetry to singing. Most of the regular fortnightly activities during the spring and summer will be based at Bracelands Adventure Centre, Christchurch near Coleford where there is an already established forest studio space but it will move around the Dean area particularly during winter months.

Nikki Moore the Wye Valley AONB Information Officer was really excited about the new project. ‘ We have been working incredibly hard in consulting with the various groups in the Forest of Dean and we are so pleased that this programme will now have a four year period and funds to carry out really meaningful events and activities. This can make a real difference to those living with dementia and those who care for them either as family members or from the professional care services.’

Solid partnership working has been an essential element of the success in gaining the Big Lottery funding of £129,000 towards their £160,000 project. The Forestry Commission, Art Space, The Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia Adventure, Cinderford Art Space and the Forest of Dean District Council Community Engagement Officers have all been involved in helping to formulate the project and will be on hand to work with the project and as part of the Dementia Alliance will be working towards making the Forest of Dean a dementia friendly area.

Most of the events and activities are either free or will cost a small amount. Transport can be arranged if required. So if you feel you, your family carer or the person you care for and work with would benefit from regular meetings, events and activities please contact the Wye Valley AONB. Also go onto this website http://www.wyevalleyaonb.org.uk/index.php/mindSCAPE/  to download the Interactive leaflet which you can fill in and register your interest and decide on the types of activities you would like to see offered. Or contact Nikki Moore, Wye Valley AONB Information Officer on 01600 710846 or email information@wyevalleyaonb.org.uk for the leaflet and further information about Mindscape.

- Nikki

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