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Cotswolds Conservation Board announces record year for its visitor giving scheme

PUBLISHED: 11:51 23 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:52 23 October 2018

One grant gave £1,352 towards the restoration of the iconic riverbank dry stone wall where the River Windrush flows through the centre of Bourton-on-the-Water

One grant gave £1,352 towards the restoration of the iconic riverbank dry stone wall where the River Windrush flows through the centre of Bourton-on-the-Water

Archant

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Everyone likes a good news story, and the Cotswolds Conservation Board is pleased to announce a record year for its visitor giving scheme Caring for the Cotswolds.

“Thanks to our existing members and in particular a major contribution from Manor Cottages we have over £13,000 to distribute in grants, which is terrific,” says Grants Officer Edward Bonn.

The idea behind the scheme is well known: tourism-related member businesses ask visitors to voluntarily support conservation work around the Cotswolds by donating a small amount of money when they pay their bill or fees. Once the Cotswolds Conservation Board has gathered a sufficient pot of these donations, local groups can apply for grants to help with a range of environmental and landscape projects: managing and restoring habitats for wildlife, improving footpaths and bridleways, looking after heritage, conserving and enhancing local natural beauty.

Such work helps to offset the environmental impact of the millions of visitors who come to the area – and who will keep coming (and spending money here) as long as the Cotswolds’ special beauty and attractions are looked after.

Barn owls to SHRIMP

Since the launch of the scheme in 2013 over £34,000 has been raised, benefiting projects across the Cotswolds that include: the restoration of a hand-carved kissing gate and replacement of a village walking map in Ilmington, barn owl conservation along the River Windrush and the reconstruction of a railway halt near Hailes Abbey.

A grant of £1,000 to Bristol Avon Rivers Trust for the Sherston River IMProvement Project (SHRIMP) “allowed us to improve access to riverside areas which opened up these extremely valuable environments for local people and visitors to enjoy,” says Project Manager Harriet Alvis. “The work also had benefits for wildlife, with increased productivity within the river and the surrounding woodland.”

Another grant gave £1,352 towards the restoration of the iconic riverbank dry stone wall where the River Windrush flows through the centre of Bourton-on-the-Water. Sue Cretney, Clerk to the Parish Council, says:

“The project also provided support for our local economy as the river remains one of the main attractions for the one million-plus tourists who visit the village each year and who contribute enormously to the financial stability of the village.”

Paying things forward

There are currently just over 20 local businesses signed up to Caring for the Cotswolds.

“We really appreciate these businesses’ environmental awareness,” says Edward Bonn. “We are also looking for more companies to join the scheme, to help us raise even more money for local environmental projects. Joining couldn’t be easier and how you gather money is up to you, so it can easily fit within your business model.”

Chris Blakesley-Grimes, Director of Manor Cottages, says customers “are happy to support such a scheme – especially given the ease of its donation process.” The company, which provides an online booking service for holiday cottages across the Cotswolds, is a founding member of the scheme and offers guests the opportunity to donate £1 when booking their stay. Manor Cottages has matched this £1 for £1.

Cotswolds Distillery became a member more recently, as founder/CEO Dan Szor explains: “We’ve decided to join the scheme because the Cotswolds and its beauty are key to our existence. Clearly, given our name, we trade quite heavily on the image and identity of the Cotswolds, and we are very much dependent in our retail activities on the many visitors who are attracted to the region because of its great beauty. Even more to the point, the very existence of this business is a result of my own personal attraction to the area which made me leave my previous life in the City of London to move here and set up a new business.”

Stourton-based Cotswolds Distillery, producing spirits since 2014, invites customers buying via its website, at its main distillery shop and its outlet in Bourton-on-the-Water if they would like to add £1 to their purchase to donate to Caring for the Cotswolds.

Tom Benjamin, who runs Go Cotswolds offering small-group tours, finds visitors are very open to the idea of contributing money to maintain local heritage and he invites customers to make donations when they book tours – Go Cotswolds matches them pound for pound.

For Tom it is not simply a question of ‘paying back’ but (inspired by reading Bruce Poon Tip’s Looptail) a question of ‘paying forward’: to keep the Cotswolds beautiful, “businesses that work and profit from the area should pay things forward and invest in its future.”

By doing so they will help to create more good news stories!

For further information on the Cotswolds AONB and the Cotswolds Conservation Board visit cotswoldsaonb.co.uk.

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