They have been working to conserve and enhance the Cotswolds since 1968 and are celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year. The Cotswold Voluntary Wardens are the voluntary arm of the organisation that exists to conserve and enhance the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Cotswolds Conservation Board. Wardens carry out valuable conservation projects in the AONB and help to promote the area by encouraging the public to enjoy it.

There are now over 340 Cotswold Voluntary wardens but back in 1968 when they were established it was Head Warden, Major Ray Clarke’s job to recruit volunteers. Employed by Gloucestershire County Council to help found the Wardens, he set to work and by 1970 there were over 200 members.

The current Head Warden, Colin Boulton said:

“ It was no surprise that the number of warden’s swelled so quickly and that it stands at over 340 today. It is a testament to Major Ray Clarke’s hard work but also to the dedication of those who have been wardens over the years and those who now make up the service. It also illustrates the great sense of achievement and fulfillment there is to be had from working voluntarily to care for an area that is well-loved by so many. “

The Wardens will be celebrating their 40th year with a week of activity in the early summer, including parish walks in the north Cotswolds, family-focused walks across the area, a public conservation work party in the south and a special event to mark the anniversary at the Royal Agricultural College.

A series of 15 short walks that are suitable for those using wheelchairs, power scooters and pushchairs has also been created to mark the 40th Anniversary. ‘Walks on Wheels’ which will be available to the public in the spring has been given the stamp of approval by access professionals and disability groups and all of the routes have been tested.

Wardens complete thousands of hours of conservation work every year and in 2006-7 broke their own record by collectively working over 40,000 hours. Their conservation work covers everything from walking route improvements, such as path clearance, gate installation and bridge building, to drystone walling, hedge laying, scrub clearance and restoration of historic features. Wardens also lead hundreds of guided walks every year and hold stands at shows across the AONB.

Over the past 40 years, the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens have achieved a great deal:

  • 1975 – Guided walks programme established – it continues to this day with over 300 walks a year.
  • 1976 – Drought in Britain. Participants on walks requested not to smoke for fear of fire.
  • 1980s – Wardens won two awards for their work. The Tidy Britain Award for their ‘Clean up the Cotswolds’ campaign and the Carnegie Interpret Britain Award for audio visual presentations on their work.
  • 1981 – Over 400 people attended Prestbury village guided walk.
  • 1991 – The Wardens Way and Windrush Way were created by wardens.
  • 1990s – Wardens work to create easy access (stile free) routes and lead wheelchair walks
  • 1993 – 25th anniversary celebration held at Royal Agricultural College.
  • 2001 – Wardens create an alternative Town and Village walks programme to allow visitors to continue to enjoy the AONB despite Foot and Mouth restrictions.

Website details: The Cotswold Voluntary Warden service