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I’m being outsourced. The Isle of Wight Council can’t pay for a full countryside service any more, so some time early in 2016, I’m taking a load of the council’s countryside sites, one of my colleagues, and a lot of optimism off to work for a small Island charity called Gift to Nature. Yes, it’s finally happening, I’m going back to countryside management.
During my time at the Isle of Wight Council I’ve always been countryside manager, but I’ve also variously managed (as well as countryside) parks, beaches, allotments, rights of way, estuaries, AONB, protected trees, ecology, village greens and more. All of these have taught me a lot and – on the whole – been great to do. But actually, I started as a ranger and that’s what I like best. So I’m very pleased to be going back to it.
The good news will be that we’ll have freedom to concentrate solely on countryside and community work, and a few years at least to build up some projects without having to worry about being sacked. The other side of that will, of course, be the need to raise the funds to do so.
How much do we need? At the moment the countryside service costs the Isle of Wight Council just under £100,000 per year to run. For the first three years the council will be giving us a part of that, getting smaller every year until by 2019 we should be raising that money every year to keep all the sites going. That’s a big task, but luckily I will have a lot of help from my new colleagues who are very experienced in working for a charity. We’ve already got some fund-raising plans.
What will we be doing? Well, there’s a lot of land all across the Island to keep safe and open for everyone to enjoy (a provisional list is at the end of this post). We’ll also be getting out and doing things to engage people with the countryside that’s on their doorsteps. Our sites are mostly near where people live and work – and we want them to be used and enjoyed. We don’t have massive sweeping landscapes, but we do have a huge number of little sites that are well-loved and well-used for local people to enjoy walking the dog, watching wildlife or just enjoying the outdoors.
With the end of council funding the future for these sites could be decline, abuse, closure or even sell-off. Luckily the council didn’t choose that path. With Gift to Nature, we hope to be able to not only look after this beautiful countryside and the wildlife in it; but also make sure that we all can get out in our local countryside and love it!
Can you help? Yes you can! We’ll be looking for volunteers to do all sorts of things (not just practical work on the sites, although plenty of that!) . And of course, fundraising. Get used to it chums, I’m on a mission to save the Island’s countryside. Go on, give us £1 to show you care. Tell them I sent you.
Provisional list of sites for the new Gift to Nature
- Afton Marsh
- Medina Riverside Park
- Dodnor Creek and Dickson’s Copse
- Golden Hill Country Park
- Brading Down
- Shide Chalk Pit
- Rew Down
- Nansen Hill Bonchurch
- Haylands Wood
- Binstead Wood
- Millennium Wood, Seaclose
- Sibden Hill & Batt’s Copse, Shanklin
- Sandown Levels
- The Landslip Bonchurch
- Blackgang Viewpoint
- Rosemary Lane / Swanmore Meadows
- Merstone Station
- Land at Connie’s Way, Newport
- Pan Mill Meadows
- Castle Copse
- One Horse Field
- Munsley Bog
- Sandown wetland walk and community orchard
- Bohemia Bog