Over 60 people attended the revived AONB Forum on 22 February to hear thought provoking presentations and to celebrate the outstanding contributions of local volunteers. The presentations were from Professor Michael Winter from the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter and Nick White, Chairman of the North Devon Marketing Bureau. Both farming and tourism have considerable influence on the AONB’s landscape and are an essential part of the rural economy that keeps the North Devon coast as a living and working landscape.
The talks provided a detailed context to what is happening in the two sectors and the likely impact of changes related to Brexit and changing behaviours, which could affect the AONB landscape. Professor Winter raised concerns about the future of smaller livestock farms if there are significant reductions in support payments to farmers, whilst welcoming the focus on payment for public goods from the environment and the government’s ambitions in the 25 Year Environment Plan. Nick White explained the gradual changes in visitor expectations both for higher quality accommodation than their home environment and for ‘experiences’. This is reflected in the shift from camping fields to glamping and lodges, and the demand for organised experiences whether water sports, themed trails or locally distinctive food and drink.
AONB Manager Jenny Carey-Wood presented a Review booklet highlighting the wide range of activities and projects delivered in the AONB during 2017 (downloadable on www.northdevon-aonb.org.uk ). Jenny also publicised the
The evening was rounded off with a celebration of volunteers who have done an enormous amount to benefit the AONB over the last year in particular areas of work. These went to John Breeds (beach cleans and bats), Paula Ferris (Coastal Creatures project support), Mark Fellows (beach cleaning on the Hartland Peninsula), Nicola Mello and family (supporting Bioblitzes), Jan Whittington (citizen science), Jack Wiggins (student volunteer) and Richard Dyer (farming and wildlife). Thanks were expressed to the speakers and the Pier House at Westward Ho! who generously hosted the event in their beautifully re-decorated Bay Suite.