Countryside rangers thank their visitors for their support in 2018

The countryside team at South Somerset District Council (SSDC) are celebrating a fantastic year of events across the district.

As the countryside event programme for 2018 draws to a close, the rangers have been busy planning the next year of events across Ham Hill Country Park, Yeovil Country Park and Chard Reservoir LNR.

October half term proved the most successful yet with over 1,500 children dressed as witches, werewolves and zombies as they took part in the Halloween trail at Yeovil Country Park. The week finished with a fire, the largest around, to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night at Ham Hill Country Park. Over 500 people, dogs and children were in attendance. Not a firework in sight, making it suitable for the whole family and the wildlife that call Ham Hill home.

SSDC's countryside service manages two country parks, three local nature reserves and a woodland for wildlife and recreation purposes. In order to put on such enjoyable and imaginative events, they rely on fund raising through their Friends groups and the income generated at each event. The countryside service also relies on external grant funding to deliver projects, such as new maps and information panels, leaflets, woodland play areas and much more.

Green space in urban environments provides many advantages: a space for sport and recreation, education, preservation of natural environments and wildlife. Access to green areas such as country parks and nature reserves and exposure to nature has benefits on both physical and mental health, increasing physical activity, reducing stress and increasing happiness.

Management of the country parks & nature reserves in South Somerset is not just about cutting the grass and picking up the litter. It is about delivering a healthy network of green spaces so that wild animal populations and local ecosystems can thrive and providing accessible outdoor environments to teach children about the environment and the importance of conserving natural environments.

Being outdoors and playing in nature is crucial for the healthy development of children. Country parks and nature reserves create a stepping-stone between the urban environment and the countryside and provide a safe place for nature which is ever increasingly displaced by urban sprawl.

Countryside ranger Kristy Davies said: "A huge thank you to all of the visitors who attended our events and have shown their support for the 'Friends Groups' fundraising projects in 2018. It would be a struggle for us to host such an array of events without the continuing support from all of the wonderful passionate people who volunteer their spare time to assist the countryside team in keeping the country parks and nature reserves accessible to the local community.''

Countryside Manager Rachael Whaites said: "Without the support and generosity of our visitors and people attending our events the country parks and nature reserves would not be the award-winning greenspaces that they are today."

Councillor Sylvia Seal, portfolio holder for Leisure & Culture at South Somerset District Council, added: "It's been a really busy year once again at our countryside sites, with many thousands of people being kept busy and entertained with the wide range of events that have been on offer this year. We look forward to seeing many old faces and plenty of new faces in the New Year."

The details of the 2019 event programme will be published in January 2019 and following on from the popularity of this year's events, will include the big ones such as the Halloween trail at Yeovil Country Park, the bonfire at Ham Hill and crafty chard at Chard Reservoir. Look on our website www.southsomersetcountryside.com for more information.

Ham Hill Bonfire

Above: Ham Hill bonfire from 2018 event. The event attracted hundreds of visitors.