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From Bumble Bees to U-boats: A review of our Annual Forum

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Ralph Baker Cresswell at our Annual Forum on Friday Iain Robson

Our Annual Forum, which was held last Friday, is the main event in our calendar, bringing together valued local advocates, businesses, AONB Partnership members and ambassadors, all in support of our AONB. It's a chance to give the public an opportunity to learn in detail what we are doing and most importantly, to tell us their views.

There's a long held belief by our northerly AONB neighbours that the sun always shines along our coastline. Not so on Friday. The weather forecast said mainly overcast with some light rain. Should've said heavy rain. 

So we were delighted by the hardy souls who braved the dreary conditions to come along to our Annual Forum on Holy Island. Held in the Crossman Hall, we hosted an inspiring day of talks and presentations from our invited speakers, as well as the usual updates from the staff team. In another incredibly busy year, we gave a whistle-stop 'tour' of the projects we've been working on, as well as the development of the 2019-2024 Management Plan and a discussion on the findings of the recently-published Designated Landscapes Review.    

It was great to hear from Kristian Purchase from our Coast Care volunteering initiative, who ably updated us on progress. He was joined by Ellie Coleman who is one of their graduate trainees. She enthusiastically told us about the value of her traineeship as a next stepping stone in her career in conservation. As one of our National Lottery Heritage Fund projects, Coast Care is externally evaluated. We are lucky to have Katherine Williams to do this. She has been working with us since 2016 and, as a freelance consultant supporting heritage and community organisations to develop projects and measure their success, she told the audience about the evaluation of Peregrini Lindisfarne and Accessing Aidan, as well as Coast Care. 

It's our aim to bring you an interesting variety of speakers and this year was no exception. Mudlarks were the successful recipient of a Sustainable Development Fund grant last year and one of its founders, Bridie Melkerts, spoke to us about her passion for creating the 'Coastal Classroom'. Having spent a few years volunteering with local schools in outdoor education, she realised the huge potential benefits for children of outdoor learning and how little of it was happening on our beautiful coast. The Beach School Sessions have been a huge success - it's frightening to think that some of the children who attend have never been to the beach before. 

One of the highlights was the talk from local Bamburgh businessman Ralph Baker Cresswell, who told us the story of his grandfather, Captain Joe Baker-Cresswell DSO RN, the capture of the U110 and subsequent discovery of the enigma coding machine during WWII. It's hard to comprehend the enormity of his actions - his shrewd move to have the U-boat searched instead of destroyed surely played a major part in Germany losing the Second World War. Ralph is himself an expeditioner who, amongst other adventures, has travelled to the Arctic in search of Sir John Franklin and to Norway to follow a wartime commando raid.

John Hoborough was able to be with us on Friday too - despite having a knee operation only weeks before. As a retired Professor in International education who holds a PhD in Ecology, he has also devoted much of his life to bees, having kept them for over 65 years. He brought this experience together with scientific analysis to the present day concerns related to climate change, pollinator decline and agricultural practice.  

We're always open to suggestions - if there is something you want to hear about next year or if you want to have the opportunity to speak at the Forum, then please get in touch: It's guaranteed to be an interesting and informative day, which a chance to network with like-minded people.

The only thing we can't guarantee is the weather.

You can read the review from the Northumberland Gazette here


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Kristian Purchase from Coast Care at the AONB Annual Forum on Holy Island Iain Robson
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