AONB Conference, Shrubs Farm 16/06/17
We had been looking forward to the 2017 AONB Annual Forum Conference, as not only was it a chance for me to meet some of the people who had made this project possible, and to get to hear some great speakers on relevant subjects, but it was also an opportunity to explore some new areas of the Stour Valley. The conference was held at Shrubs Farm in Lamarsh, by invitation of Robert and Sara Erith, in their fantastic barn, a venue that not only inspired us but also kept us cool in the heat of the hot summery spell that we've been having. There was an abundance of refreshments and everyone was made to feel very welcome, and even the dogs made you feel like you were at a friends house.
After an introduction by Robert, there were 6 speakers to lead us through some interesting and though provoking topics, including Cllr Nigel Chapman, Chairman of the Joint Advisory Committee, Simon Amstutz, AONB Manager who spoke of the excellent work that all of the AONB organisations do and Tracey Brinkley, Tourism Development Officer at Babergh District Council, who also gave our project a welcome mention.
This prompted some great conversations during the break with quite a lot of enthusiastic people and groups wishing to be a part of the project, which we were very grateful for. The networking window wasn't really long enough but we did manage to get in a cup of tea and a scone before heading back for the second round of presentations.
Howard Davies' talk on how AONBs benefit society was very illuminating about how the geology of the landscape is essential to its character, buildings and elements that make it special. Jules Pretty, who will be leading one of our walks later in the year, provided us with real evidence on how the environment and good health are so deeply linked and the concept of the natural health service, before Lord Gardiner, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA answered some questions on policy and the way forward for environmental matters during and after Brexit.
After lunch and another networking session, we then boarded a minibus and headed off for an informative guided tour of Dedham Vale Vineyard and a very enjoyable wine tasting! Although just a smallish party we had some great conversations on the bus and have swapped details with several people in order to meet up with them at a later date and learn about their connections with the river. More on those experiences as they happen.
All in all it was a very positive and productive day and we can't wait to follow up on the discussions we had with people.