Green Week Volunteering Day - blog by Michelle Hearn

As one of the winners of the Green Week volunteering day, I chose to spend it with Suffolk Coast & Heaths and Dedham Vale Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Photo by Michelle HearnAONB’s are part of a network of high quality landscapes that receive special protection from the UK Government, and are protected by law. There are 46 AONBs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and, together with our National Parks; they include much of our finest countryside.

The Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB was designated in March 1970. The designated area covers 403 square kilometres from the Stour estuary in the south, to the eastern fringe of Ipswich, and to Kessingland in the north. The Dedham Vale AONB was designated in 1970 is 90 square kilometres and the Project area is 302 square kilometres. The DVSVP area runs from Great Bradley near the Cambridgeshire border eastwards to the Stour Estuary on the Suffolk/Essex border.

A Partnership of 26 organisations cares for the SCH AONB and a partnership of 15 organisations cares for the DVSVP working to deliver statutory management plans that it is committed to implement. The AONB Partnerships includes local authorities, government agencies, and national and local voluntary organisations, all of whom support the conservation of this unique landscape.

The voluntary organisations provide an additional resource to help with the care of the AONBs and Stour Valley, especially with:

  • wildlife and landscape management
  • interpretation/education about the AONBs and Stour Valley.
  • management of access opportunities
  • information exchange between Partners and communities
  • research and data collection.

My day was spent with one of these voluntary organisations, Waldringfield Churchfield Trust, in Waldringfield along with members of SCH AONB. Here the local community have turned a donated 5 acre farmland site in to a mixed use site. This includes recreation and play space for all the inhabitants of the village; acid grassland (a priority habitat) and areas of native shrubs and trees offering shelter for wildlife all year round. This facility has been in existence now since 2003 and has stunning vistas over the River Deben.

My tasks for the day were ensuring pathways were accessible and safe by clearing bracken, gorse and brambles and removing an invasive species of Honeysuckle (Japanese) which was suffocating other shrubs and trees. It was not always easy work (I lost count of the brambles that caught me throughout the day!), but getting to spend the day with the volunteers who were so passionate and knowledgeable about conservation and having a physical output for my day’s work (plus the tea and biscuits!) made for an extremely rewarding time.

Many thanks to Michelle Hearn for writing about her experience with the AONBs.
To find out more about volunteering with the AONB please click here.
You can download a 2-page version of this document here.

By Cathy Smith on October 18th, 2016

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