Bowland’s top champions are now revealed

Geoff Whitley (far left) delivering a hedge laying training course in Bowland; and  Jean Fone, winner of the 'Outstanding Contribution Award.
Geoff Whitley (far left) delivering a hedge laying training course in Bowland; and Jean Fone, winner of the 'Outstanding Contribution Award.

Champions of Bowland have been recognised at a special gala event.

The outstanding work of local individuals and organisations was highlighted during a special awards ceremony.

The event at Out Barn, Clough Bottom at Bashall Eaves, near Clitheroe, marked the culmination of a year of 
activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Forest of Bowland as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Winner of the Outstanding Contribution Award was Jean Fone, who since moving to Bleasdale 25 years ago has been a primary school headteacher,
volunteer ranger, historian and fundraiser.

The judges commented: “Jean has worked tirelessly to develop and deliver a whole suite of projects which have helped to cement the ties between the landscape, history and community of Bleasdale; making an extraordinary contribution to the area and demonstrating inspiring community leadership in the true spirit of the AONB.”

Scorton’s Geoff Whitley was the winner of the Traditional Boundaries Award.

Geoff has been involved in hedgelaying and training with the Forest of Bowland AONB for more than 15 years. His enthusiasm for the craft has been instrumental in encouraging volunteers, farmers and landowners to learn how to lay hedges in the Lancashire and Westmorland style.

The judges said: “Geoff’s commitment and enthusiasm for management of traditional boundaries is highly contagious.”

The seven awards categories reflected the breadth and variety of work which takes place within the Forest of Bowland and highlighted the skills and knowledge of the many people involved in caring for the area.

Winners of other Forest of Bowland AONB Anniversary Awards included:

Farming for Conservation – New Laithe Farm, Newton in Bowland

Biodiversity – Dr Jennifer Newton MBE (1937 – 2013)

Vibrant Community – Slaidburn Village Archive

Sustainable Tourism – Browsholme Hall & Tithe Barn

Bowland’s Best Kept Village – Barley

The winners received a 
bespoke elm plaque carved by Woodstock Signs, while highly commended nominees got a special certificate.

Special Judges’ Awards were presented to Cobble Hey Farm and Gardens for its outstanding work in farming for conservation, sustainable tourism and environmental education, and to the Brennand and Whitendale Focus Group for its outstanding work in river habitat conservation.

During the evening, guests were treated to a video and music performance by local young people who had spent the previous week working with Dutch theatre company, PeerGroup.

The Memories for the 
Future project saw youngsters collecting stories and mementoes for a time capsule buried at a secret location on the Bowland Fells – to be opened in 50 years time!

The gala dinner also brought to an end a year of fundraising which saw over £1000 raised for Champion Bowland, a social enterprise charity which gives small grants to projects which benefit visitors and the local environment.

The awards evening was supported by sponsors the Duchy of Lancaster, Grosvenor Abbeystead Estate, United Utilities, Countryscape, the Lord of Bowland, Green Tourism and Life for a Life Memorial Forests.

An AONB spokeswoman added: “Each of the winners was deemed to have gone that extra mile in helping to protect, enhance and share the qualities which make this 
area so special.”