What £1 can do

The areas were bought for £1 from the county council

The areas were bought for £1 from the county council - Credit: Archant

A Somerset charity has bought two areas for the Quantock Hills for £1 in order to preserve them for generations to come.

Friends of Quantock has taken over nearly 400 acres of the precious area from Somerset County Council.

Last year the council declared the land surplus to requirements, deciding instead to concentrate its limited resources on protecting essential frontline services.

Following this announcement there was widespread anxiety about the future of the hills and the local economy if this Area of Outstanding Beauty were sold and whether it would still be accessible to all.

This well-loved heathland is enjoyed by locals and many visitors who come and stay especially for its bracing sea-tanged air and magnificent views from Exmoor to the Mendips and across the Bristol Channel to the mountains of Wales.

Now Friends of Quantock holds Over Stowey Custom Common and Thorncombe Hill as custodians in perpetuity, on behalf of the people of Somerset and the many visitors from further afield.

People will be able to range across the open landscape, as they have done for hundreds of years without restriction or concern, enjoying the peace and birdsong.

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The takeover has only been possible because of Friends of Quantock’s long involvement with the Hills, their willingness to take responsibility for managing the sites and the support of their members: private individuals and local companies.

They were so concerned for the beauty and welfare of the Quantocks that they were determined to find a way to keep them safe for posterity.

Alan Hughes, chairman-elect of the charity, said, “We are delighted to be able to take on the challenge of managing the land; but it will be a challenge as it will cost up to £5,000 a year to maintain it and we will need the support of more members.

“Work will be needed to its paths, car parks and woodland, as well as to protect its rare plants, birds and ancient monuments.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to involve local people in their heritage.”

Stanley Johnson was guest of honour at a Friends of Quantock party to celebrate their newly-acquired status as owners of part of the Quantock Hills.

Lady Gass, Lord Lietenant of Somerset and President of the charity introduced Stanley, who may be less of a household name than his oldest son Boris, but he is a lifelong conservationist, author and is passionate about caring for endangered land and species.

He is chairman of the Gorilla Organisation, helped write the EU’s Species and Habitats Directive and has been on the Countryside Commission.

Brought up on Exmoor and living in London, Stanley appreciates the space and calm of open countryside like the Quantocks. n

To join Friends of Quantocks, or to give a donation to their special fund for Saving the Quantocks, download a form from the website at friendsofquantock.com or contact the Secretary on info@friendsofquantock.com or 01984 656633.