A GROUP that has been protecting the Cotswolds for half a century is looking for more walk leaders.

Cotswold Voluntary Wardens was created in 1968, shortly after the region was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The AONB covers 2,038 square kilometres, including much of West Oxfordshire north of Burford, Witney and Woodstock.

Members take part in a range of projects from drystone walling, hedge laying and tree planting to installing kissing gates and pond restoration.

They also work with parish councils, farmers and residents to help keep footpaths open and identify local features in need of restoration.

Rosemary Wilson, chairman of East District Cotswold Voluntary Wardens, said: “We’ve being doing quite a bit for our 50th anniversary, from tree planting to doing activities with schools.

“In both cases it is about planting the seeds for the next generation that will grow and keep the beauty of the Cotswolds preserved for the future.”

One of the group’s most popular roles is providing leaders for guided walks, which run throughout the year and vary from gentle strolls around historic towns like Chipping Norton to more challenging treks across the Oxfordshire countryside.

Ms Wilson, who has been involved with the group for more than a decade, said: “The thing that sets our walks apart is that they are guided walks and are a bit more focused than others.

“We like to pick an architectural or wildlife subject and use that as the focus of the walk.

“For instance I’ll be leading a walk in June that will be based around orchids, with similar ones for snowdrops and bluebells.”

The Oxfordshire chairman added: “We have a good turnout each time, though it will vary depending on the level of difficulty and the weather its usually in the mid-teens which is nice.

“What would be really good is to get more people volunteering to become walk leaders. “Membership is open to absolutely everyone, all is required is an interest in the Cotswolds, and we provide a full day of training.

“It is a great way to share the joys of the countryside with others. That is probably my favourite aspect, we have such fantastic countryside and it so enjoyable to be able to let others see that.

“There’s a social aspect as well which is really important. I know a lot of people don’t feel comfortable going out on their own through open fields but like the security of walking with a group.”

Recent walks have included enjoying the rolling fields surrounding Charlbury and tomorrow walkers will explore the Gloucestershire village of Snowshill.

A full list of upcoming guided walks, which are all free of charge, is available via cotswoldsaonb.org.uk.

For information contact Rebecca Smith, rebecca.smith@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk or call 01451 862008. All pictures here by Tony Graeme