Cannock Chase AONB Annual Conference 3rd March 2022
Our annual conference is a key event in the AONB calendar, giving us the opportunity to bring together local members of the community and AONB Partnership members in support of our outstanding landscape. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Changing perceptions and behaviours’.
Hosted by Frances Beatty, Chair of the AONB Joint Committee, this year’s online event held on 3rd March began with Ian Marshall, Cannock Chase AONB Development Officer sharing a review of the achievements of the AONB Partnership over the last 12 months.
Mike Dilger, broadcaster, naturalist, writer and tour naturalist then opened our conference which looked at what is being done to change people’s perceptions of Cannock Chase and influence positive behaviours to ensure that one of England’s finest landscapes stays special for this and future generations. Born and bred in Stafford, Mike shared the important role that Cannock Chase and its iconic wildlife had on his formative childhood years, and the importance of looking after its nature.
Tony Watson, Head of Visitor Services and Communications with the Lake District National Park Authority provided us with an alternative perspective from England’s most visited Protected Landscape, and the solutions they have put in place in dealing with visitor management pressures.
To set the scene for the afternoon’s case studies, Ian Marshall shared some reflections on the visitors who come to the Chase, the recreational demands and impacts on the AONB, and the approaches to visitor management.
Peter Farmer of FDA Design has been working with the Cannock Chase AONB Team for the last couple of years, providing creative input to a range of interpretative projects. At the forefront of these has been the development of the Cannock Chase place brand which Peter explained is being used to create a sense of place to develop emotional connections with landscape.
The arts are another medium through which people can experience the landscape to trigger emotional connections and better understand our place in the world. Ali Clarke of Surrey Hills Arts inspired us with examples of the projects she has developed over a number of years in the Surrey Hills AONB to connect people to nature through the arts.
The heathland core of Cannock Chase is a Special Area of Conservation, and protected by European Law. Kinga Niedzinska, Engagement Officer of the SAC Partnership shared with us the work she is doing to raise awareness and educate others about the special qualities of the SAC and wider Chase, including the development of a Cannock Chase code and educational projects with children and young people.