Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Outddoor Partnership - ShCC

Message forwarded by Sue Hackett, Ruyton Parish Clerk.

---Original message----
From : ukshropshire@public.govdelivery.com
Date : 28/11/2014 - 16:12 (GMTST)
To : ruytonxitownspc@btinternet.com
Subject : Outdoor Partnerships Winter Newsletter

Shaping your outdoors

Shropshire Outdoor Partnerships Newsletter

Winter 2014

Outdoor Partnerships Annual Customer survey is now open!

The Outdoor Partnerships Service looks after the county’s public rights of way, country parks, countryside sites, urban green spaces and play areas. To help improve our services we undertake an annual user satisfaction survey. We'd like to hear from you, even if you don't use these outdoor recreational assets.

Please take the time to complete this short questionnaire and help us to develop and improve the service. In these days of stringent financial measures your responses will help us to identify key areas for maintenance and development. 

The survey should only take about 10 minutes of your time, depending on how much detail you give when answering the questions.

Stronger links and working together

The Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership team is hosted by Outdoor Partnerships, following a recent Shropshire Council restructuring process. The team, based in Craven Arms, works independently from the Council and is overseen by the AONB Partnership, an advisory committee with 40 members. The team work with a wide variety of organisations, landowners, community groups, businesses, schools and others to deliver the AONB Management Plan. This is a statutory document, reviewed every five years, to ensure the landscape of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is conserved and enhanced.  

There are 46 AONBs in England and Wales, and together with our National Parks, they are our finest landscapes. The Shropshire Hills AONB extends from the Wrekin to the Clun Forest and from the Clee Hills to the Stiperstones. 

The team is involved in a wide range of activities from area initiatives such as improving habitat conditions in the River Clun catchment and delivering the Stiperstones & Corndon Hill Country Landscape Partnership Scheme, to supporting local conservation projects through AONB grants. The team also works with local schools and community groups to raise awareness and understanding of the AONB, and manages the Shropshire Hills Sustainable Business Scheme and weekend Shuttle buses. 

In the past, links with the Outdoor Partnerships teams have primarily been through the promotion of outdoor activities as a sustainable way to enjoy, explore and discover what the Shropshire Hills has to offer. Working more closely together now and sharing experiences of working with communities, volunteers and young people, will help to strengthen these links and future projects. For more information on the Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership and the team visit their website.

Winter events at Severn Valley

The Severn Valley Country Park packed events programme continues over the winter period. Our popular guided walks are held each month and allow our visitors to explore the Severn Valley in the company of our knowledgeable rangers. The walks range from 6 to 10 miles and are a great way to keep active.

If you are feeling creative, we have a wreath making day on 10th December. After collecting natural material from around the park you will be shown how to make a beautiful wreath to take home.

Our talk series continues with topics covering the work of a wildlife group (11th December), bee keeping (15th January), conservation of British orchids (12th February) and the history of the country park (12th March).

The Rain or Shine Theatre Company will be returning to the park on 23rd January as part of their national winter tour. They will be performing Charles Dickens classic tale, ‘Great Expectations’. The visitor centre will be transformed into the world of the young orphan Pip, whose expectations are shaped by a number of colourful and curious characters he meets as he grows up.

For the February half term holidays, we will be hosting two fun ‘Wild Weather’ sessions on Wednesday 18th, followed on Friday 20th by a nature activity trail.

Due to the popularity of events, early booking is recommended - please call the Park on 01746 781192.

To keep up to date with news at Severn Valley Country Park, follow us on Facebook or sign up to our monthly newsletter.

Active Volunteering in St Martins

Volunteers from the Ifton Meadows Management Committee have been busy planting 400 native daffodils ready for the spring. Ifton Meadows Local Nature Reserve is managed by Shropshire Council with the invaluable support and dedication of the Management Committee. The site is home to a diverse and colourful array of native wildlife and has one of the best spring shows of woodland flowers in the county. Regular tasks at the site throughout the year help create a haven for people and wildlife and anyone wanting to get actively involved would be warmly welcomed. Please contact Shaun Burkey, Greenspace Officer, by email or on telephone number 01691 624448 to find out more.

Pictured are members of the Ifton Meadows Management Committee, Elizabeth James, Ann and Bryan Williams and Frankie, Neil Graham’s dog.

The Mere achieves the Green Flag Award!

The Mere at Ellesmere has recently, and for the first time, been awarded the Green Flag Award, a benchmark national standard for parks and green spaces. The scheme recognises excellence in the management of our public space.

The Mere at Ellesmere is a beautiful lake with gardens, woodland walks and historic parkland on the edge of the medieval market town of Ellesmere. Over the last year the Outdoor Partnerships Team, in partnership with Ellesmere Town Council and other stakeholders, have worked hard to achieve Green Flag status.

In celebration the official Green Flag was raised at a short ceremony on the promenade. In attendance were all those who played a part in achieving this designation, even the local troupe of Beavers were welcomed after a morning with Park Officer, Wendy Salter. Pictured also are members of Ellesmere Town Council, Mere Advisory Board, Friends of the Mere, Ellesmere Anglers and Shropshire Council staff.

Councillor Ann Hartley was invited to say a few words and summed up everyone’s delight at receiving the recognition.

“Ellesmere people have rightly, always been very proud of The Mere and Cremorne Gardens, and I’m sure everyone is absolutely delighted that we have been recognised as a Green Flag status green space. I’d like to thank all the staff and, very importantly, all the volunteers involved in maintaining this ‘jewel in the crown’. I’ve been personally involved in this project from the start so it’s a great to see the recognition for the Mere.”

Celebrating local history and wildlife

Stiperstones & Corndon Hill Country Landscape Partnership Scheme is a five year programme of work to raise awareness of, enhance and celebrate local history and wildlife. Primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery, the Scheme covers the beautiful upland area that crosses the Welsh English border between the Shropshire Hills and Montgomeryshire. 

A team of six, based at Chirbury, manage 15 projects developed through community consultation. These projects range from heritage restoration and habitat management, to training young people in rural skills and offering grants and advice to landowners. 

Three Outdoor Partnerships sites (Snailbeach Mine, Poles Coppice and the Bog Mine) form part of the WREN-funded ‘Rescuing rocks’ project. Pontesbury P3 and other volunteers have been busy this autumn helping with hands-on conservation tasks at these sites and others in the Scheme area. 

The restoration work at Snailbeach Mine has started and is being managed by Shropshire Council. The Scheme is contributing some funding to this project and a series of on-site ‘Working with lime’ taster days were completed during October.  

Since the summer, over 20 events and skills courses have been delivered by the Scheme to involve people in the projects and to celebrate the local natural and built heritage. Visit the website for more information including events, courses and volunteering opportunities.

Volunteer Development

Shropshire Outdoor Partnerships Team has recently restructured to enable it to provide increased support for active outdoor volunteering. We now have officers whose roles are specifically to support more people to get active outdoors; one is working to develop new Parish Paths Partnership groups and Rangers for the sites and parks and the other is working to get people with physical and mental health issues active in the outdoor environment. 

Over the past few weeks, five Volunteer Forums have taken place across the county, helping the Shropshire Outdoors Partnership Team identify priorities for volunteer development to help maintain public rights of way and countryside sites and parks. 74 people were consulted on the following areas:

•Recruitment of new volunteers

•Coordination of volunteer groups

•Promotion of volunteering opportunities

•Support and training

•Working with other outdoor organisations

•Local prioritisation

A few headlines from the consultation include;

•Need for new and younger volunteers

•Enthusiasm for a family of branding for the different volunteer groups that increase the feeling of ‘belonging’ and recognition

•Need for improved web promotion and communication with range of countryside volunteers

•Importance of word of mouth promotion by existing groups to bring people along

•Plaques on fingerposts to promote the work of the local Parish Paths Partnership groups

•Development of one or more ‘A Teams’ of volunteers from across the county who are willing to get together for more complex or demanding tasks

•Importance of sharing skills and knowledge between volunteers and staff from a range of organisations

•Opportunities to get businesses involved on local projects to fulfil their corporate volunteering requirement

The findings from the consultations are now available and will inform a new Volunteer Development Plan. We have secured additional funding from the Sustainable transport Fund to support Volunteer development.

Roving volunteers

Three volunteers at Severn Valley Country Park near Bridgnorth have taken a Shropshire Council 'driver assessment' to enable them to drive a Council vehicle to other parks and open spaces across Shropshire and carry out important maintenance work. Tasks that the team have tackled so far include installing bins, repairing park furniture, cleaning and painting play equipment and clearing overgrown paths. The Outdoor Partnerships Team manages over 100 parks and open spaces across the county and works closely with volunteers and community groups to keep the sites up to a high standard.

Keith Dawes, a volunteer from Romsley, said, ‘I have been volunteering at Severn Valley Country Park in Alveley for around 7 years now. Since taking the Shropshire Council driver assessment, I have been able to take myself and other volunteers to other parks. The Park staff tell us what tasks need doing and we can then load up with tools and materials and work independently. I enjoy the opportunity to explore different parts of Shropshire.’

Edward Andrews from the Outdoor Partnerships Team at Shropshire Council said, ‘The volunteer team at Severn Valley Country Park is now very large and has some really experienced volunteers within it. By getting some of our key volunteers trained to use the van, they are able to work independently doing jobs that we would otherwise have to pay a contractor to do. The guys enjoy the new challenges presented on different parks and open spaces and the camaraderie of working together in beautiful surroundings. Their hard work really is appreciated..’

Irresistible Offa

The Walking with Offa Partnership is currently developing a second phase for the successful Walking with Offa project; a cross border co-operation project between the English & Welsh Local Action Groups and protected landscapes along the Wales-England border. As the first phase draws to an end, the partnership is looking to the future and through several consultation events has identified a number of key areas to be developed for a phase II project.

Suggested activities include:

•Heritage and wildlife conservation and promotion, focusing on the border themes of the power and prestige of the Church; Engineering Marvel; Conflict, control and commerce; and Outstanding wildlife of the borders

•Volunteer support and training for ROW maintenance and habitat management

•Business development opportunities around walking, wildlife and heritage assets

•Event organisation and promotion

•Further development of Walkers Are Welcome towns

•Walks Leader and Sense of Place training for volunteers and businesses

•Integrated, cross border public transport information

•Promotion of the area under the ‘Irresistible Offa’ strap line, including links to the Wales Coastal Path

The strap line of ‘Irresistible Offa’ will be adopted as the title for the new programme. There will be a focus in Shropshire around Oswestry and the North West for the second phase of this project.

Review of the Countryside Access Strategy for Shropshire 2008-2018

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 required all Local Authorities to prepare and publish a 10 year plan for the improvement of public rights of way. Shropshire as a result produced its Countryside Access Strategy 2008-2018. The Strategy is required to be reviewed at the 5 year point, so a report has been drafted on the achievements to date and the priorities for action up to 2018 when a new Strategy will be consulted on and drawn up. Please email us if you would like to request a copy.

Increase in user numbers noted on improved long distance bridleway

The new Humphrey Kynaston Way long distance bridleway was put forward by local volunteer, Zia Robins, with support from the Nesscliffe Hills & District Bridleway Association, a Parish Paths Partnership Group. The route has featured on ITV’s ‘Off the Beaten Track’ and BBC Radio Shropshire.

The 46 mile linear route, linking to a number of circular routes, was designed with local businesses in mind and it was hoped this would bring benefit to many local hostelries, equestrian and other businesses along the routes. Increased usage is already being noted and the route is now being used by an equestrian riding holiday business. It also appears on the Long Distance Walkers Association website and the improvements along the routes have brought great benefit to local horse riders, supporting the rural economy. The important new section of bridleway from Preston Montford to Montford Bridge, passing under the A5 and paid for by Paths 4 Communities funds, has helped to reconnect communities.

Zia said ‘It is lovely to see young horse riders being able to ride out with confidence now they can connect safely to off road routes. The A5 rest area café, which the new route passes, has provided tie ups and water for horses! A new access bridleway gate in Ford Parish now gives locals a circular route and a connection from the route to the local pub.’ In addition she states ‘Shropshire Council's support of the route has been fantastic. The new low handle bridleway gates, and better surfaces benefit disabled users as well as the many walkers, riders and cyclists who are now using the routes’. The printed leaflets, with some local history, route maps and directions are proving very popular. They can be downloaded from the Shropshire Riding website, or you can request a copy by email.

Zia’s hard work has been recognised when she was presented with an Access Achievement award by the British Horse Society, as well as a Volunteer of the Year Award by Shropshire Council for her dedicated and outstanding effort in ensuring this project was completed. Shropshire Council Officer Jim Stabler said ‘It could not have been undertaken without her hundreds of hours of research, writing and practical work on the route, and for this we are very grateful’.

Hedgehogs in Oswestry's green spaces

On 15th November, a Hedgehog House-making Workshop took place in the Eastern Oswestry Community Centre.

The idea was to bring the local community together in an activity which would benefit the survival of hedgehogs within Oswestry’s greenspace network which is managed by Shaun Burkey of Shropshire Council. Twenty people, of all ages, attended the workshop. Each Hedgehog House (hibernaculum) took three hours to construct and thatch. This was a labour-of-love in terms of concentration, attention-to-detail and dexterity! Everyone rose to the challenge.

The Hedgehog Houses were moulded from 13mm mesh wire netting. The houses and entrance tunnels were then lined with natural coco fibre which was firmly wired in place. This part of the process was time-consuming and fiddly! The fun part was adding the weather-proof thatch. The thatch consisted of dried grasses, leaves and bracken, all woven into place with willow, dogwood stems, and fir tree trimmings.

There was a lovely atmosphere in the room, with a gentle burble of conversation as everyone moulded, twisted, wove and generally helped each other out! The finished results were spectacular and any hedgehog would be proud to take up residence in any one of the houses produced. Thanks to enthusiastic community involvement, Oswestry’s hedgehog population will spend this year’s hibernation in cosier surroundings, safe from winter’s icy blast. 

Written by Gill Oldaker (Community Art Worker)

Photo: Courtesy of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Oswestry Hedgehog Project

Members of Friends of Shelf Bank Local Nature Reserve recently joined forces with Shropshire Mammal Group to undertake a survey of hedgehogs found on site using footprint tunnels. The tunnels, on loan from the Mammal Group, have ink pads and are baited with suitable hedgehog food in order for hedgehogs to walk through them leaving their footprints behind. Gaining a better understanding of hedgehog numbers and where they are found will allow us to tweak greenspace management in favour of this endearing British mammal.

Results at Shelf Bank are still being collated. Anybody wishing to learn more of this project or get involved with Friends of Shelf Bank LNR can contactShaun Burkey, Greenspace Officer on 01691 624448 or by email.

The National Hedgehog Survey is coordinated in part by The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species; details can be found on its website. 

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