Landscape for Life Festival kick-starts our 60th anniversary celebrations

Dorset AONB kick-started it’s 60th anniversary with Landscapes for Life week at the end of September. Over 130 people joined us on the Cerne Giant, making a heart to show our love of our Outstanding landscape.

Sixty years ago, a line was drawn around nearly half of Dorset’s landscape from the vales in the west, along the South Dorset Ridgeway, right across to Poole Harbour in the east. This line marked our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a designation which alongside our National Parks make up our finest countryside and landscapes protected in the national interest for future generations.

Over 400 people joined us during landscapes for Life Festival at the end of September, kick starting a year of activities to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Dorset AONB. The festival of walks, talks and activities during that week helped people discover more about the outstanding landscapes on their doorstep.

'National Moment' on the Cerne Giant

At 2pm on 21st September, artist Lorna Rees led a special ceremony to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Dorset AONB in a moving address to over 130 people who had braved the steep slopes of Giant Hill to join in the celebrations. Across the country, people from over 25 AONBs joined in this ‘national moment’ to celebrate the legislation that brought AONBs and National Parks into being.

Lorna read out ‘Fugitives’, the new poem by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, written for the AONB family to celebrate the unique ‘natural health service’ that our landscapes offer to all to enjoy.

Sharing the landscapes we love

We asked some very special people who live and work in this rich and vibrant landscape to join in the celebrations. Artists, story-tellers, wildlife experts, geologists, farmers, archaeologists all shared what makes the landscape so outstanding. Events included autumn wildlife, poetry walks, forest school, ancient archaeology, river detectives, dry stone walling, fingerpost restoration and much more.

Nick Gray, is a wildlife expert whose work with local farmers, conservationists and communities focuses on enhancing this landscape.

“I relish West Dorset’s hills and vales with all the marvellous wildlife tucked away in the folds of the landscape or standing proud on the hilltops. Many of our iconic species rely on sympathetic farming and traditional woodland management which provides habitat for tuneful birds, beautiful wild flowers and their multifarious insect companions.” Over 50 people joined Nick on his walks at Kingcombe Meadows and Babers Farm for an inspiring insight on local wildlife, folklore and modern farming.

Nick Gray leads a Landscapes for Life Festival Walk at Babers Farm

Over the centuries, Dorset’s landscapes have inspired poets, authors, scientists and artists, many of whom have left a rich legacy of work. As part of the South Dorset Ridgeway Project, local artist Amanda Wallwork was commissioned to create a new set of Field Guides and Maps, enabling her to incorporate a long-term interest in walking, trackways, archaeology and geology.

“My practice as an artist is all about landscape – but not the aesthetic. I take a deeper view wanting to really understand and convey the more hidden aspects. The range of archaeological remains and geological variety in this area is absolutely fascinating and a constant source of inspiration for my work.” Amanda was joined by local geologist Sam Scriven for a guided walk from Abbotsbury, sharing their unique perspective on how what’s under our feet influences and dictates the landscape above.

Amanda led the 'Unseen Landscapes' walk with geologist Sam Scriven

Local professional storyteller, Martin Maudsley has worked alongside the Dorset AONB for a number of years and led an entertaining walk – despite the rain and fog – fat Black Down, in the heart of the South Dorset Ridgeway, an area that is rich with wildlife, history and folklore that provide vivid raw materials for magical myths and local legends.

“I’ve become passionate about ‘re-storying the landscape’ – literally putting stories back into place. Sometimes this involves weaving together a tapestry of tales that have been left behind by past inhabitants. There is a richness of prehistoric monuments here, whose origins and purposes have always been a source of mystery and wonder; inspiration for re-imaging stories that makes new connections between people of place.”

Martin Maudsley telling the myths and legends of the South Dorset Ridgeway