In order for us to value and care for the South Devon AONB, we need to understand what is important about it - What makes it special. This campaign, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, ran April to October 2018. During the project we worked with a wide range of people from our communities, discovering more about the AONB and looking closely at the distinctive character of the natural heritage that makes up this nationally important landscape.
AONBs are particularly special landscapes whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the nation’s interest to safeguard them. The primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area.
The special qualities of South Devon AONB define and describe this natural beauty and are what makes the area unique or particularly distinctive. Together, the special qualities make the area nationally important and give it a strong ‘sense of place’.
Different people have their own opinions on what is special about South Devon, and no definition can claim to be absolute, but these are the ones used in our management plan.
A wild and rugged coastline
The superb, undeveloped coastline with its sandy shores, rugged cliffs, secretive coves and rocky islands
A network of streams, rivers and estuaries
Our five ria estuaries (drowned river valleys), combe valleys and the network of associated watercourses.
The patchwork of deeply rural agricultural landscape. Rolling hills with high hedgebanks and small fields on lower ground and hill top copses and wind sculpted trees higher up.
Open tops and hidden valleys
A naturally incised landscape that quickly turns intimate, hidden and secretive away from the plateau tops.
Long, unspoilt views
Iconic wide, unspoilt and expansive panoramic views and long framed dramatic views, giving a sense of remoteness, wildness and scale.
A long-lived in landscape
A rich sense of history and heritage reflecting thousands of years of human occupation, which creates ‘time-depth’ within the landscape.
A landscape rich in wildlife
An outstanding number and mix of priority habitats within a small area create a mosaic that is home to an amazing diversity of wildlife.
An ancient network of routeways
An ancient and intricate network of winding lanes, the South West Coast Path and other strategic recreational routes offer many opportunities to explore and enjoy the countryside.
A sense of tranquillity, space and place, natural nightscapes, distinctive natural soundscapes and visible movement.
Quality of views beyond the AONB boundary
A variety in the setting to the AONB formed by the marine environment, Plymouth City, Market and Coastal towns, rural South Hams and the southern fringe to Dartmoor National Park.
What we did!
From April to October 2018 we ran a programme of events and activities to help people in the AONB to find out more about this special landscape, funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. During this time, we asked people what they think makes South Devon Special and what living or visiting here means to them.
Exploring the special qualities of the AONB
This project has been very successful, and we have exceeded all the targets set out in the project application and plan. We have received lots of positive feedback and comments from participants and the material we have gathered from people about their thoughts on Special Qualities during the project is being used to form an annex to the 2019-24 South Devon AONB management plan, Understanding the Special Qualities of the AONB.
Where do you love?
We ran a programme of events over 7 months from April to October. This included 10 special landscape walks, 6 natural nightscape events and a series of 4 beginner photography walks. We aimed for an attendance of 290 people but had an actual attendance of 1063. Some of the participants on the photography walks did go on to enter images into the photography competition. Our natural nightscapes events included dawn and dusk walks, glow worm hunting, a big night out on the beach and a visit from a mobile planetarium!
Glow worm walk at Bolt Head
We worked with 3 local primary schools, bringing artists in to work with them to produce music, performance and art inspired by visits to an area highlighting a special quality near to them. This work was made into a film which was shared at our celebration finale. We also worked with A level photography students and 4 expert photographic artist, taking them out to different sites around the AONB. Their work was exhibited as part of the finale event and many of them went on to enter the under 18 section of the photography competition. We aimed to work with 120 students but engaged 193.
Children of Charleton C of E primary school, inspired by their visits to the estuary, created songs with artist High Nankivell. Listen to them here on Soundcloud.
Exploring our amazing estuaries
We set out a new series of What Makes South Devon Special geocaches, each hidden in an area of the AONB to highlight a different special quality. We aimed for 100 logged visits over the project period but have had 163 visits logged at the end of the 7 months. We have decided to keep these caches out and will commit to maintaining them into the future. You can find out where the geocaches are by searching for South Devon AONB or What Makes South Devon Special here
The photography competition was very popular with 188 entries, exceeding the 100 we had hoped for. The photography exhibition of 45 finalists has been brilliant and many visitors have enjoyed seeing the wonderful images. You can see them on our Facebook page here
Capturing the view at Start Point
We have taken displays and activities to 4 external events during the summer where we talked to well over 350 people. We distributed postcards and invited people to tell us where they loved in South Devon, we played our version of top trumps and even Special Quality play your cards right!
The project has been a brilliant way to engage with people and find out more about what they think does make South Devon special as well as help them to understand more about our wonderful and important landscape.
AONB on the road!