With more visitors than ever to Black Down and Burrington Ham the effects of thousands of pairs of walking boots, bicycle tyres and horses hooves have taken their toll. Eroded paths are becoming unsightly scars on the landscape and present difficulties for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Erosion is also damaging archaeological features and wildlife habitats; this is a particularly serious problem given that large parts of the site are designated as Scheduled Monument and Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The Mendip Hills AONB Unit is taking positive action to manage Black Down and Burrington Ham to achieve a balance between protecting the site and ensuring people can continue to enjoy it.
In the last year the AONB Unit has consulted with a wide range of site users and organisations, completed a study on repair and restoration of paths on Black Down and Burrington Ham and produced an Archaeological Management Plan for the site. In November an application was submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a grant of £290,300 for a three-year project entitled “Conserving Black Down”.
The grant, if awarded, will fund:
• A programme of path repair and erosion works;
• Interpretation and information for visitors;
• Community involvement;
• A project officer for 3 years.
The AONB Partnership must contribute of £50,000 in cash support and coordinate £48,000 of in-kind support through volunteer time.
The HLF decision will be known in March 2011.
Andy Mallender, the Mendip Hills AONB Project Officer said:
“The Conserving Black Down project will provide sustainable access to a wide variety of users in ways that do not damage the fabric and character of the area. We will also encourage greater appreciation and understanding of why the site is special through interpretation and activities.”
The AONB Unit is coordinating ongoing action to address some of the more pressing management issues on the site. AONB Volunteers carry out regular site duties to monitor the site, report any issues, keep the area free from litter and provide information to visitors. In the coming years AONB Volunteers will play a key role in practical work and community involvement aspects of the project.
In addition the AONB Unit has secured funding from the Sustainable Development Fund and Natural England’s Access Management Grant Scheme to take immediate action to carry out the following works:
• Signage and waymarking of bridleways and main ‘desire line’ paths;
• Stone pitching of the Beacon Batch trig point and approaches to protect the archaeology while ensuring visitors have easy access to this fantastic viewpoint;
• Installation of bollards and boulders to prevent vehicular access.
Further information on the Black Down Project and volunteering opportunities with the AONB can be obtained from the Mendip Hills AONB on 01761 462338.