Report to Belstone Annual Parish Meeting 2022
It’s good to see a bit of normality return enabling face to face meetings like these again and it’s also a relief to be able to report that generally the number of problems and issues dealt with and reported during 2020 did not repeat themselves at any where near the same level, last year!
The National Park Authority has taken advantage of Green Recovery Fund which has given us short term funding to increase staff on the ground including three Engagement Rangers, one of whom has been specifically involved in promoting and setting up a programme for our Junior and Youth Rangers. These have been actively involved in various projects in this area including help to control the bracken infestation on several moorland archaeological sites including the Pillow Mounds at Skaigh Warren and helping to keep ditches open in Belstone Cleave.
Surprisingly, given the immense benefits of open spaces to people, our NP Grant was only received on April 1st and is a flat cash settlement, the same as in the previous three years, so overall we have seen a 50% cut in funding since 2010!
We are being expected to deliver on several initiatives based on the Glover Review including Nature and Climate and People and Place, but we are also awaiting a landscape strategy and outcomes framework which will highlight the key outcomes that government would like to see protected landscapes contribute towards.
There appears to be a growing gap between Government expectations and the reality of what we can deliver with ever decreasing resources. Incidentally Scottish NPs received a 5% increase in core funding whilst the Welsh NPs saw and increase of 10%!
My local Voluntary Warden, Ian Solomon decided to hang up his boots recently having been a wonderful support for so many years. He has been replaced by Graham Cruikshank whom I am sure many of you already know, and he has already been active, working specifically on the local rights of way network in Belstone. It’s great to have him on board and I know he will do a great job.
Recently, I was asked to attend a meeting with a relative of the late Joyce Glanfield, due to ongoing and unacceptable behaviour by some local people using the footpath that goes down from the village to Priestacott. This includes dog mess being left in the fields; people walking in every area and not keeping to the line of the path and almost unbelievably, to a local horse rider who was using the fields as a gallop! As a result, it is likely that come the Autumn this year, the first two fields will have the right of way fenced in which is a great shame but legal providing certain conditions are met.
In case anyone hadn’t noticed, a small area of The Cliff was cleared of gorse in Belstone Cleave by the Sticklepath and Okehampton Conservation Group (StOC) following negotiations with our own ecologist, the Belstone Commoners Association and Natural England. The request had been made by a local person who originally asked if the whole of The Cliff could be cleared after presenting an old photograph as evidence that the rock face was entirely exposed many years ago.
It was decided that clearing all the rockface would be detrimental to the ecology of the area but that the clearance of a small area would help protect an area of acid grassland as well as ‘opening’ the face to be observed from the other side of the Cleave.
The old wheel pit has also been cleared of vegetation in order to protect the stonework from further deterioration and to help show people just how magnificent this structure really is.