A large part of the Devizes Community Area is countryside of downs and farmland - the 'chalk and cheese' for which Wiltshire is famous. Within the seemingly timeless landscape are communities of villages and farms, all set within an attractive and diverse natural environment.

Timeless it might seem, but it is far from that. Changes in farming practices have reduced traditional rural occupations; the desirability of living in the country has escalated property prices, closure of village shops and pubs have made villagers more dependent on the town and reduced bus services have increased dependency on the motor car.

There is universal acceptance that we need to care for our countryside and facilitate its enjoyment by both town and country dwellers. Yet, the evidence upon which rural policy decisions are often based can sometimes miss some of the essential ingredients that make up strong and resilient communities in the countryside. Information and data can be broad-ranging, rely on minimum thresholds to register, and often individual circumstances can be missed - so one can think that 'deprivation' is just something that affects parts of larger urban areas.

The Countryside Interest Group is made up of the farming community, those with expertise in the natural environment, representatives of rural communities and those wishing to facilitate enjoyment of our countryside. Together, we aim to bring attention to the issues that matter to people living in and visiting the countryside, and gather those pieces of evidence that are sometimes missed by the larger scale processes, bringing them to the attention of policy makers and everyone else that cares about our countryside.

In the meantime, and for the 'bigger picture', follow this link to the new Wiltshire and Swindon Local Nature Partnership, called 'Link2Nature', which takes a coordinated, landscape scale approach to understanding and prioritising the challenges and opportunities facing our local environment.

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