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Environment Minister gets a preview of the Surrey Hills AONB Olympic venue

richardbenyon_1404964i1The Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries was given a whistlestop tour of Box Hill and the North Downs on Monday to see the landscape that will be the centre of attention at the start of the Olympic Games.

Richard Benyon MP officially opened the new National Trust Adventure Play Trail on the top of Box Hill, before being shown how spectators will be accommodated, and endangered wildlife including rare butterflies and orchids protected, during the cycle races up the ZigZag in July.

He went on to meet Wotton farmer Laurence Matthews, who manages a large tract of the North Downs under Higher Level Stewardship in partnership with the National Trust, with the aim of maintaining the rare chalk grasslands through extensive conservation grazing.

His final stop was Denbies Wine Estate, where the Surrey Hills, in partnership with Denbies, is organising a  Road Race Festival over July 28-29 to showcase the landscape and its food to the thousands of cycling enthusiasts expected to converge on the Dorking area to watch the races.

Mr Benyon was impressed with the Box Hill Aventure Play Trail: “It was inspiring and uplifting to see that the National Trust is not only encouraging children into the countryside but encouraging them to learn through taking risks within a safe environment and enjoy themselves without feeling they are being wrapped in cotton wool,” he said.

As a farmer himself, Mr Benyon was extremely interested in the HLS scheme at Ranmore, which includes land owned by many different people. “There is a real understanding in Government and across the agencies about the value of landscape scale environmental schemes,” he said. “I understand the frustration when a system is not as joined up as it should be. Government must accept that this connectivity between landholdings is important. We want to see that AONBs have landscape scale conservation and Government has to be on their side.”

Contact Details:

Surrey Hills Board