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The Nation's Landscapes? Peoples and Places


“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”

Depending on which bit of the internet you look at, that statement either came from Confucius or Benjamin Franklin, which is quite a stretch in terms of which one you opt for. Either way, it's the theme underpinning the Annual Conference 2022. 

Consequently the programme has been re-designed for 2022. Feedback from previous events shows just how much we all value the chance to exchange ideas, network and learn from our colleagues across the AONB Family, so we've created more time to do just that. There is more time for learning-by-doing, but that doesn't mean we've done away with learning-by-listening; you will still hear from exceptional speakers to inspire and enthuse you. You will have time to put questions to them, so you can really use what you hear when you get back to day-to-day working life.

Field trips are being brought the core of the conference, no longer an add-on tacked on before the main event. As Confucius/Franklin (allegedly) said, we learn better by getting involved, and being outdoors in our Conference Outside the Classroom is a highly effective way of doing that.

The net result is a programme that we hope will entice more people to attend in full. A conference about engagement has to engage with the audience for the entire thing, not just a day here or there.

You'll see below there are a multitude of different tickets in case you can't attend the full three days, but we sincerely hope you can make time to be there from start to finish. It's been a long time since we've had the chance to get together to talk about protected landscapes - let's make up for lost time.

Please note: this programme is subject to change if necessary.

Monday 12th September - arrival and dinner

Further information coming soon

Tuesday 13th September, 9:30am - 12:30pm

Welcome to the AONB Annual Conference 2022

Philip Hygate, National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Welcome from our Northern AONB hosts - Lucy Barron, Arnside & Silverdale AONB

Hear from our Platinum Sponsor

John Watkins, National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Lord Benyon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Networking, coffee and exhibition

Keynote session: Perspectives

Hear from a range of speakers who will set the scene for this year's conference:

Natalie Querol, Arts Council England

Nick Hayes, author of 'The Book of Trespass' and 'The Trespasser's Companion'

Anita Kerwin-Nye, YHA

Dr Geeta Ludhra, Brunel University London and The Chilterns AONB

Panel discussion

Dicsussion with our keynote speakers



Tuesday 13th September, 1:30pm - 5:15pm (plus fringe sessions)

The Bowland Award presentations

Hear from each of the finalists of the Bowland Award ahead of voting during the afternoon networking break.

Learning and development session: Reflection

Welcome to an afternoon of rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in - this session is to enable you to develop your thinking after hearing from the morning's speakers. You will be able to attend two of the following workshops (with a networking break in between):

  • Generation Green. Anita Kerwin-Nye, YHA.
  • Engaging people with climate crisis mitigation. The AONB Collaborative Group.
  • Utitlising the Arts: Moving into action. Natalie Querol, Arts Council England.
  • Creating an effective TikTok video. Caroline Howard, Arnside & Silverdale AONB.
  • Rebranding: How to reposition your organisation. Ruth Colbridge, NAAONB.
  • Accessible and inclusive tourism. Katy Owen, Norfolk Coast Partnership, and Catherine Bradley, Kent Downs AONB.

Fringe sessions


We are making six spaces available for fringe sessions after the workshops, and we are inviting attendees to register their interest in running a session on a topic of their choice. If you want to manage a session on farming, bring together a geographic group of protected landscapes, or talk about nature recovery, climate change or any other topic of interest, contact Anna on You might want to 'walk and talk' round the university campus, or host an art session. It's entirely up to you.

If we have more than six (indoor) requests we will opt for those that give the widest spread of topics. The afternoon workshops finish at 5pm, and dinner is 7:00 for 7:30pm, so that's your timeframe. 

Tuesday 13th September, 7pm: Conference Dinner

The Conference Dinner and presentation of the Bowland Award

Wednesday 14th September - Conference Outside the Classroom

BreakOUT: Conference Outside the Classroom - Investigation

It's been scientifically proven that we retain information better when we're involved in the process of learning. In addition to conventional conference-style sessions, packed with high-quality speakers, our aim is for every conference attendee to grasp the opportunity to learn in nature. 

Entirely in accordance with the Engagement theme, it's important attendees engage with other delegates, local AONBs and National Parks, and experts from inside and outside the protected landscape network. Taking people to out of the lecture theatre to learn in protected landscapes facilitates all of these activities. Rather than site visits being seen as an add-on to the 'serious' business of sitting listening, the programme has been re-designed to make the Conference Outside the Classroom an essential part of this year's event.

All of our Conference Outside the Classroom trips will focus on engagement in its widest sense. There will be a range of options covering different subjects in varied locations, catering for various levels of physical activity. You will meet the people who are working with and engaging local communities on a day-to-day basis. The trips will be collaborative and designed to get people talking and thinking.

Information on each trip is available below - we'll let you know as soon as they are ready for booking. You'll need to give a first and second choice; we will try and give as many people as possible their first choice.

Arnside and Silverdale AONB trip 1: Audiences

Walks for All Christmas 2021.jpgTheme: Engaging with Underrepresented Audiences in the Arnside & Silverdale AONB

Take a trip to Arnside and Silverdale AONB. We’ll be travelling by train to Silverdale, then heading to RSPB Leighton Moss, where we’ll be catching up with Feleena Taylor, who leads our Dementia Friendly Walks For All programme. We’ll then walk up to Trowbarrow Local Nature Reserve, which is managed by the AONB team, to join local CIC Stomping Ground for a workshop in the woods, based on the Into the Woods programme we deliver for a local Pupil Referral Unit. Find out about our volunteer programmes and enjoy a picnic lunch in the new Woodland Oasis outdoor classroom, developed by Lancashire Wildlife Trust in the reserve.

Activity level: Walking from RSPB Leighton Moss to Trowbarrow Local Nature Reserve (approx. 30 mins), walking around the reserve and walking back to the station.

Footpaths generally good but with some uneven stretches. One short section with steps.

At Trowbarrow there is a composting toilet which has steps to access.

4-5 km total, spread over the day.

Footpaths and boardwalks. Footpaths are generally in good condition, but there and gentle inclines and there is one section with steps.

Arnside and Silverdale AONB trip 2: Nature and Heritage - FULLY BOOKED

Festival of National Nature ReservesTheme: From Past to Future in the Arnside & Silverdale AONB

Learn about the past, present and future of the Arnside & Silverdale AONB. Explore the limestone heritage of the area and find out about the nature recovery projects which are shaping the future of the AONB. We’ll be travelling by train to Silverdale, then following our Limestone Heritage Walk through the Trowbarrow Local Nature Reserve, heading to Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve. There we’ll meet the Back On Our Map Project, to talk about the reintroduction of the hazel dormouse in the AONB. After lunch we’ll head on to the Coldwell Nature Reserves, owned by the Arnside/Silverdale Landscape Trust, where we’ll hear about the Meadow Makers project. We’ll finish up walking through Teddy Heights Nature Reserve to reach the embankment, following the old railway line into Arnside.

Activity level: The walk is moderately strenuous, 8-9km in total. The walking route includes some moderate inclines, uneven paths and sections of limestone pavement.

Forest of Bowland AONB - FULLY BOOKED

Bowland Fells. Credit - Graham Cooper

From farm-based holistic therapy, to volunteering at the last socialist Clarion House, via a climb to the summit of the iconic Pendle Hill; discover how engagement, inclusion and wellbeing projects are being delivered in partnership in the Forest of Bowland AONB.

Meet Helen Leece at the Gathering Fields, where "Rewild the Child" uses wildflower meadows to connect with young people with challenging backgrounds. Hear how community-embedded arts organisation, In-Situ, is de-mystifying the complexities of peatland restoration - and lots more - through The Gatherings. Find out how Mid Pennine Arts are tapping into the area's radical heritage to encourage local involvement; and learn about Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership's successful People Enjoying Nature project, with Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust - engaging people dealing with mental health and social isolation issues.

Activity level: One, short strenuous walk up on to Pendle Hill summit, around the summit plateau and back – 2 hours approx. 4.5km on steep slopes with rough, wet and boggy ground.

Lake District National Park

Lake District insect lifeStriking a Balance! Join us at Brockhole, the Lake District Visitor Centre, to explore the challenges of running a commercial operation whilst balancing nature conservation, visitor/youth engagement and visitor experience. We will also discuss the challenges and benefits of securing external funding to help with our work.

Activity level: 1.5km of gentle walking, mainly flat. Assistance available for limited numbers.

Lancashire Wildlife Trust

Fylde Sand Dunes.jpgEnjoy a grand day out at the seaside to join members of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust team that will leave you feeling good  at the same time as gaining insights into how our work benefits both people and wildlife.

First you’ll be taken to the Fylde Sand Dunes, near Blackpool, for half a day on the beach with project engagement officers Amy Pennington and Bea Beggs to take part in typical “beach school” activities like sand art and beach combing . You’ll also get to learn about how our famous partnership sand dune restoration is involving local people and their Christmas trees to protect coastal properties from flooding and sea level rise, and bringing back sand lizards: just one of many such projects all along this coast that we’ll share with you. Fylde Sand Dunes Project | The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside (

Then it’s a short hop up the coast to Fleetwood for one of our award-winning wellbeing sessions led by the team at The Bay: A blueprint for Nature’s Recovery. This is  a pioneering “blue social prescribing project”,  in which participants get prescribed coastal nature by their healthcare workers (or self-refer). You’ll get to experience first-hand the healing power of our coast through one of the sessions that we offer to help those facing  loneliness, isolation, anxiety and depression. The Bay: A blueprint for recovery.

Activity Level: You will be outside, but there are only short walks onto the beach and so this will suit people of all abilities.

Lancaster city: Engaging the community in urban spaces

Lancaster city field trip imageJoin Ruth Colbridge of the NAAONB team to see some of the many community-owned green spaces in Lancaster. We will take the (public) bus into Lancaster and walk to the Fairfield Association’s nature reserves. Members of the Fairfield Association will give us a tour and tell us about the history of the organisation - set up in 1996 to save a local play area it has since restored and now maintains a community orchard and created the 52-acre Fairfield Nature Reserve (part of the Morecambe Bay Nature Improvement Area) on land leased from the City Council or owned by the association. Community events are held throughout the year on Fairfield Green or in the Orchard. The walk will take in the orchard, wet pastures, (grazed by White Park cattle), newly created and partially restored woodland, an arable field with wildflower margins, ponds, a secluded reed bed and a wildflower meadow. There will be an opportunity to meet volunteers on a working session before eating lunch from local coffee roasters Atkinson’s. Returning to Lancaster University campus for the afternoon, we will visit the University’s Eco-Hub which provides volunteering opportunities for students as well as bringing the wellbeing benefits of being in nature to campus, giving a place for students to carry out research and hosting events for local schools and the community. The University’s Stakeholder Relations manager will join us to provoke discussion around how AONBs and their local universities can explore how they can work together creatively.

Activity level: Low-moderate. Walking on well-maintained paths in the nature reserve as well as conservation grazed fields (potentially uneven). Pavements in Lancaster and at the University. Total distance around 2.5 miles.

North Pennines AONB

North Pennines artwork with artist RobThe AONB Partnership’s Fellfoot Forward Landscape Partnership Scheme covers the north western corner of the North Pennines, partly inside the AONB and partly in the beautiful Eden Valley in East Cumbria. We’ll visit the area covered by the scheme and look at aspects of engagement work with local people, young people and visitors. We’ll also hear about our EDI project ‘A Landscape for Everyone’. There’ll be art, archaeology, fun and a walk in a beautiful landscape.

Activity level: Easy - 3km of walking spread throughout the day.


Grune Point Solway CoastWe’d like to invite you to meet some of the people delivering nature recovery work in our coastal AONB in North Cumbria. The Solway Coast is one of the smallest and possibly least known AONBs but what it lacks in size it makes up for in the beauty and wildness of the Solway Firth estuary, the mysterious feel of the Mosses and the subtle nature of its farmed landscapes.

Come for a series of walks with us on some sites from the Inner to Outer Solway Firth to experience some of the varied and dynamic coastal habitats we have here. You’ll visit one of the biggest expanses of saltmarsh in Britain and meet the landowner, committed to making the estate a better place for wildlife as well as developing tourism and welcoming visitors to experience this special place. We’ll then take a walk up a drumlin, an island in a sea of the lowland raised peatbog of Bowness Common and meet some of our conservation partners engaged in a big project to restore the natural processes on the site as well as improve access and understanding. Finally we’ll head to a dune heathland where the AONB team have carried out a project to improve the condition of a key SSSI through a partnership with local farmers whilst working to balance public access and perceptions of change.

We’ll (almost) guarantee that you’ll experience the tiniest hill with the most spectacular view, get your feet muddy, meet the hairiest cattle and have the best cake ever. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your binoculars - the Solway Firth is famed for its birdlife!

Activity level: Easy - Moderate. Two short walks of around 1km, one 5km walk with slight ascent and with wet terrain in places over un-boardwalked bog. Walks mainly on lanes, paths and boardwalks.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

Cracoe School GrasswoodCome and join the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Education and Engagement Team, Youth volunteers and an Urban Partner Organisation for a day out in the Dales. There will be opportunity to take part in activities, and talk with the Team, the group and our young volunteers to explore the motivations and challenges facing under-represented groups in accessing a protected landscape.

Activity level: The walking route (approximately two miles) may involve steep hills, rough terrain and styles. The day will involve a range of outdoor engagement activities such as stream dipping and walking.

Wednesday 14th September - evening

Social evening

Plans to be confirmed.

Thursday 15th September: 9:30am - 1pm

We will bring everyone back together in the lecture theatre for the final session of the conference.

National Landscapes Question Time

This is your chance to ask questions of our distinguished panel of speakers. The session will be chaired by Elaine King from the Cotswolds AONB:

  • Tony Juniper, Natural England
  • David Butterworth, National Parks England
  • John Watkins, Chief Executive of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Anjana Khatwa, Trustee, National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Siôn McGeever, Defra

Panel discussion

Discussion with the speakers.

Networking, coffee and exhibition

Action: The art of the Possible

This final piece of the jigsaw is almost complete - this session will have four speakers (one final speaker to be confirmed):

  • David Harland, Eden Project
  • Kerri Morrison, Crichton Carbon Centre
  • Hear from Alpkit UK

Panel discussion

Your chance to ask questions

The Finale

Closing remarks, conference reflections and where we go next

Close of the 2022 Annual Conference

Then collect your packed lunch and head for home!