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SEARCHING FOR RIVER WYE DIAMONDS

1949 didn't have great deal going for it. Only four years after the end of WW2, the country was recovering from prolonged hardship. Rationing of clothes and sweets was only just ending and throughout the towns of Great Britain, bomb sites reflected the scars left by air raids. In these bleak post-war days however there were a few beacons of light on the horizon, one of these being plans for the protection of areas of the British countryside leading to increased access and the formulation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 was a seminal piece of post war legislation under the Atlee Government and was passed in December of that year. It paved the way for the establishment of protected landscapes, and since the act was passed, 14 UK National Parks, 49 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), 294 National Nature Reserves and 2,900 miles of National Trails have been established. These are diverse in character: areas of lowland heath; upland mountains; gently rolling hills; coastal plain and shingle beaches; each containing unique and fascinating landscape features. They also vary in size: the largest, The Lake District National Park being 2292 sq. km and the smallest The Isles of Scilly AONB at just 16 sq. km.

The first protected landscape, the Peak district National Park was designated in 1951, the first AONB, was Gower in 1958 and the most recent is the South Downs which received its National Park status this year.

The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated in 1971 and recognized some of the most beautiful lowland scenery in Britain, creating a unique protected landscape area which straddles the border between England and Wales. It includes areas within Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. The 44 mile (72km) stretch of the River Wye winds down the valley through spectacular limestone gorge scenery and dense ravine woodlands. Superb wildlife, intriguing archaeological and industrial remains and impressive geological features all make it into one of the most fascinating Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The 60th Anniversary has provided a superb opportunity for a combined 'Diamonds in the Landscape' celebration, AONBs and National Parks are using this landmark year to not only look back to past achievements but also to encourage interest in current issues and challenges facing protected landscapes over the next 60 years and beyond. >

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Goodrich Castle on the banks of the River Wye.

The Wye Valley AONB Unit is also celebrating this notable date by searching for our own Diamonds in the Landscape. They are looking for people who were born sixty years ago and who live, work or have been concerned with our special area and who are sixty this year. They hope to find people to represent all the counties as well as England and Wales and intend to publish their achievements and contribution to this special landscape.

To start the celebration they have located two superb diamonds. Author and playwright Jon Hurley and his wife, historian and author Heather from Hoarwithy, Herefordshire are well known for their contribution to the Wye Valley. Heather's informative and popular walks are valued as is her contribution to local history publications as in the recently published Landscape Origins of the Wye Valley.

If you know someone who has made a significant difference to the environment, business, conservation, arts or tourism or has just shown interest and support for the landscape please let the AONB know. The AONB Unit is also featuring a walk as part of the joint AONB initiative '60 Walks for 60 years'. The walk on Coppett Hill, Herefordshire takes in spectacular views of Goodrich Castle and the Herefordshire countryside. The walk is part of a series of planned events taking place all over the UK, and information can be found on the website: www.diamondsinthelandscape.org.uk.

The Wye Valley AONB is running a wide series of events and walks throughout the year, which are published in our booklet Wye So Special. Their booklet 'Walk this Wye', outlining twelve walks in the Wye Valley from easy to demanding, is also available. To get your free copies contact Information Officer, Nikki Moore on 01600 710846. Help cherish our landscape. After all, 'Diamonds are Forever' - if properly cared for.

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