Article Types News Mend Our Mountains in action 2024 - improving access in the Cotswolds Natural Landscape

Mend Our Mountains in action 2024 - improving access in the Cotswolds Natural Landscape


Right now, this May, it’s National Hill Walking month, but not everyone finds it easy to access this hills, whether that’s due to physical, financial or knowledge-based barriers. That’s where the BMC’s Mend Our Mountains charity campaign comes in - this year funding a new Grants & Access officer for the Cotswolds Natural Landscape (formerly known as Cotswolds AONB). The newly appointed Nina Stubbington is now leading the ‘Access for All; Removing Barriers’ programme, improving access to the area for people of all ages, abilities and from all backgrounds.

This year Nina will be allocating funds for projects across the area including path repair and improvement and vegetation management. More accessible parking spaces will be created and the team hope to purchase two off-road mobility scooters to book and borrow. New signage and interpretation boards will be erected and more support will be given to new-to-hill-walking groups. All this work is designed to create more opportunities for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds enjoy the beautiful, rolling, green hills of the Cotswolds. Go Nina! We caught up with Nina to find out more about her good self, her new role, and the exciting plans for the Cotswolds Natural Landscape in 2024.

What’s Mend Our Mountains?

Mend Our Mountains is an award-winning campaign from the BMC Access & Conservation Trust (ACT) which has raised a total of £1.4 million since its creation in 2016 to repair Britain’s hills and mountains. Since then over 50 miles of fragile footpath has been restored for future generations and 544 miles of upland has been repaired - the equivalent length of over 67,000 double decker buses.


Nina Stubbington - the new Access & Grants Officer

Hi Nina, welcome to your new role! What is your background?

I have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) since I was a teenager; diagnosed with a severe case, I was suddenly housebound and unable to continue my A Level studies due to extreme fatigue. CFS is an incredibly difficult illness, it stops you from being able to do any aspect of your life as normal. After a gradual build up I was able to take a part-time job in retail and administration. My time spent in retail provided a solid working-life foundation but also highlighted the need to do something positive for our environment, as opposed to contributing to the unnecessary waste! After much searching, I was lucky enough to get onto a 12-months traineeship opportunity provided by Cotswolds Natural Landscapes – to be their Grants & Outreach Officer, working on administering small community grants and building connections.

What does it mean to you to secure this new Mend Our Mountains funded role for a further year?

Quite honestly, it means everything. It means continuing to do what I am passionate about and it means continuing to work on building a future that for a long time seemed impossible. Without the opportunity provided by Mend Our Mountains, I simply wouldn’t have had the experience necessary to continue in this field; while passion and willingness counts for a lot, I would have struggled to say the least. With a chronic illness, finding an understanding organisation who knows your worth irrespective of qualifications is, unfortunately, rare.

What is your role this year?

I am now the Grants & Access Officer, leading the ‘Access for All; Removing Barriers’ programme, the outcome of which will be improved access to the Cotswolds National Landscape for people of all ages and abilities, and from all backgrounds. What I will be doing is allocating our funds to various organisations so that they can deliver projects that will help us reach this goal. The Cotswolds National Landscape covers 790sq miles, and six counties, so working with partners is essential.

How many projects will you oversee?

There will be roughly 25 projects, so my job is to ensure that they all happen (and as smoothly as possible) and to promote the improvement works being done so that we can reach the intended users and let them know what’s changing. Other parts of of my role include; administering and promoting a grants scheme, Caring for the Cotswolds, which supports organisations across the Cotswolds Natural Landscape with environmental and community-based projects; and working with the Cotswold Way Association, a charity which maintains and repairs the Cotswold Way National Trail.

What barriers to access do people currently experience?

Here in the Cotswolds we share many of the barriers to access that are experienced across the country whether it be physical, intangible or monetary. Physical barriers include uneven terrain, stiles, lack of parking or toilets. These impact those with lower mobility and wheelchair and mobility scooter users, to name a few. Unfortunately, it is common to come across these barriers in public spaces, particularly on Public Rights of Way throughout the countryside.

Lack of information can be a big barrier that is often not considered. Having information to detail access to a site, for example, and what facilities there are provides a huge source of reassurance for those with disabilities, neurodivergence or visual impairment. It allows for further independence, since all visitors can then make their own decision based off of the information given, rather than not knowing and having to risk a negative situation, or simply not going.

Why is it important to remove barriers to access?

Everyone should have access to nature. There are no questions about the importance of spending time outdoors, and its links to improving both physical and mental wellbeing. Having a connection with the natural world, and making green spaces more accessible, more diverse and more inclusive reaps endless benefits.

How will you be helping to break these down?

By engaging with community groups, charities and a variety of organisations – understanding barriers more deeply, starting conversations, raising awareness through social media and print media.

The funding will allow physical improvement work which will provide better access for all users, but in particular it will unlock public paths, named trails and attractions to mobility scooters, wheelchair and pushchair users. Over the course of the next year we will see accessible parking spaces created, new accessible routes formed, off-road mobility scooters purchased, and signage and interpretation boards erected.

Who will carry out the work and when?

The Cotswolds Natural Landscape covers six counties and we have projects taking place in all of them over the next year. The majority of the projects will be carried out by external partners, with around 20% of the projects being led by ourselves. For the ones that we are leading, we will complete them with the help of the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens – an extensive network of over 400 volunteers who implement on-the-ground improvements all over the Cotswolds National Landscape all year long. Organisations we are partnering with this year for projects include The National Trust, Cotswolds Lakes Trust, Gloucestershire County Council, and The Woodland Trust – along with smaller Parish Councils and charities.

What is your favourite part of the job?

Seeing projects come to life! It’s incredibly rewarding to see a project being delivered or completed and get to visit – often meeting who you have been in contact with for months, for the first time in person. You get an infectious sense of enthusiasm for the projects when you see the community getting involved and how much it means to them.

What aspects do you find more challenging?

It can be difficult to say, ‘No’ to people. Unfortunately, funds are limited and we can’t support every idea that comes in, so the challenging part comes when I need to share the news that no one likes to receive.

Although, we keep every applicant in mind because you never know when future funding will come up, so I always hope that I get the opportunity to see an initially unsuccessful idea get a second chance.

What are you keen to learn more about?

I’m really keen to learn about how we can encourage more diverse groups of people into the countryside. I like hear from different groups of people about what can be done to better their experience.

Please get in touch with Nina here if you have any ideas for her or wish to know more about her role in the Cotswolds National Landscape as Grants & Access Officer.

Make a real difference

Want to see more access work like this throughout England and Wales? Donate now to the Mend Our Mountains charity campaign here. Whether it's £5 or £500, every penny will go towards vital access and conservation work to protect and restore the beautiful places you love to walk in.