Learning to scythe at Kingwood Common

The Kingwood Common Volunteers enjoyed a days scythe training this week with local scyther Clive Leeke. The team spent the day learning how to use and maintain these low-impact tools with the aim of using them to help restore and maintain the important open grassland and heath habitats on Kingwood Common. Reducing the dominance of bracken and bramble is a key task for our volunteers, and the scythes offer an efficient and rewarding method of carrying this out throughout the year.

Bracken is very invasive and quickly dominates the open glades if it isn’t controlled. Regular cutting reduces the bracken’s vigour and dominance allowing space for a diversity of wildflowers and grasses to develop.

This is part of a wider partnership project at Kingwood Common supported by the Nettlebed Estate and TOE2 with funding from Grundon Waste Management Ltd.

 

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Box Woodland Project at Wormsley Estate

This week, 30 of our volunteers returned to Wormsley Estate to help kick-start start the next phase of an exciting Box Woodland project that is being funded by a £50,000 grant from Network Rail. The funding will allow thousands of new tress to be planted on site, and we’re delighted to play an important part in the delivery of the project.

Building on the success of several years of creating Box Woodland in the Ibstone Valley, this project supported by Network Rail’s Woodland Creation Grant is a big step forward by supporting the creation of approximately 38 hectares of new Box Woodland and scrub habitat.

England’s first new Boxwood forest since Queen Elizabeth 1st is proposed on a steep, elevated chalk scree site recently cleared of beech forest by a storm, within a parcel of beech woodland. The site was selected in 2011 on a search to find a location similar to the 3 SSSI box woodlands in neighbouring counties. Small trial plots on the site 2012-13 have established a solid working method.

Box woodland has become scarce in England with less than a total of 20 hectares in the south east. Many locations favourable for box are now used for other purposes. Box is a native tree with a rich invertebrate fauna, and a long history as very useful to humans before the discovery of tropical hardwoods, particularly in music, tools, and art.

Network Rail is making funds available for biodiversity following unavoidable habitat loss resulting from the electrification of the Great Western Railway line. The aim is to support biodiversity projects that provide long lasting improvements to wildlife habitats.

The Chiltern Society have been working with The Estate for several years on this project and will continue to support the project with three practical volunteer work parties carrying out a variety of work from site preparation to planting to collecting seedlings.

 

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Volunteers get to work at Lindengate

Last week a group of our volunteers spent the morning at Lidengate, helping to enhance the habitats in their wildlife area focussing on the boundary hedge. Volunteers worked hard to clear bramble and cut back the sides to help thicken the hedge up making it more attractive for a range of species from nesting birds to small mammals that rely on the hedge for cover from predators.

Lindengate is mental health charity based in Wendover that offers specialised gardening activities to help those with mental health needs. The charity believes that the healing power of nature and the outdoors can do a great deal to improve mental wellbeing, boost self-esteem & social inclusion and encourage long-term recovery. We’re proud to be collaborating with such a worthwhile local organisation and look forward to returning there again later this week for our next volunteer session.

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Kingwood Common Group Get To Work!

On 1st November, our brand new Kingwood Common Conservation Group officially launched with it’s first volunteering session.

Twenty-five volunteers rolled up their sleeves to clear bracken, bramble and self-seeded saplings from the open glades to help restore this important heathland and acid grassland habitat near Nettlebed.

Kingwood Common, a County Wildlife Site, is characteristic of a neglected heath consisting largely of oak, birch and bracken. However, pockets of lowland heath and dry acid grassland areas still survive. These habitats support a range of species, including heath bedstraw, heath milkwort, heather/ling and bell heather, that are not found in other habitats.  These species are are nationally rare, particularly so in Oxfordshire.

Our volunteers have been working in partnership with the Nettlebed Estate for many years carrying out access improvements across the Nettlebed Commons. An opportunity arose to work again with the Nettlebed Estate to support the Nettlebed and District Commons Conservators in delivering the Kingwood Common Conservation Management Plan, so, after months of preparations, we are delighted that this new conservation group is now finally established.

Kingwood Common is an important site for biodiversity and heritage and is a wonderful natural asset for the local community. We are thrilled to play an important role in caring for it.

The Group’s next session is being held on Saturday 18th November from 10am to 1pm. All are welcome to attend and lend a hand. For more information and to register your interest, please send an email to Matthew Davis, our Kingwood Common Group Leader.

This project is supported by TOE2 with funding from Grundon Waste Management Ltd.

 

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Kingwood Common – Get Involved!

Get hands on and help to protect your local landscape by volunteering with our brand new Kingwood Common Conservation Group. All are welcome to join us at the group’s official launch on Wednesday 1st November. This is the first work party for the new group, which will subsequently run twice a month.

We’ll be undertaking a range of conservation work to protect the biodiversity of this unique common in partnership with the Nettlebed and District Commons Conservators.

No special skills are needed, just come with your boots, old clothes and some work gloves if you have them.

Hand tools and briefings will be provided, along with light refreshments at break time.

You’ll need to be aged 18 or over, reasonably fit, and have plenty of enthusiasm.

Give Volunteering a try – it’s great for your wellbeing and a fabulous way to get active, learn more about the environment, enjoy what we have so close to us, and have fun with like-minded people.

Details:

1st November
9:45am – 1:00pm
Meeting and parking at Cherry Croft, RG9 5NA

For more information and to register your interest in attending, please send an email to Matthew Davis, our Kingwood Common Group Leader.

This project is supported by TOE2 with funding from Grundon Waste Management Ltd.

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Introducing the Kingwood Common Partnership

We are delighted to announce a new partnership with The Nettlebed and District Commons Conservators to care for Kingwood Common as a unique part of the Chilterns.

Kingwood Common is an important site for biodiversity and heritage and is a wonderful natural asset for the local community. The site will be protected under a Conservation Management Plan that will be implemented by the Chiltern Society in conjunction with the existing Kingwood Volunteers and Sonning Common Green Gym.

The site comprises of 60 hectares of mostly young birch and oak trees, together with patches of ling and bell heather- both of which are unusual in the Chilterns.  These, together with unique fungi, flora and fauna need to be protected from invasive species.  Commons have a long heritage, and there are remains at Kingwood from when it was used during the Second World War by US Forces. The continual battle against brush, brambles and overgrown grassland requires a well organised plan and dedicated volunteers.  This is exactly what we  specialise in – already managing 12 of our own sites and partnering with the other organisations on many other sites throughout the region.

Our volunteers already maintain footpaths around the Nettlebed area, so our new involvement at Kingwood Common is a natural fit and an opportunity that we’re very excited about.

It is planned that volunteer work groups at Kingwood will run twice a month, with the first event planned for 1st November, meeting at Cherry Croft.  Further details will be published shortly on our Volunteer Schedule page.

We would welcome your involvement and are encouraging new volunteers to get involved. Volunteering is great for your wellbeing. It’s a chance to get active, learn more about the environment, enjoy the nature that we have on our doorstep and have fun with like-minded people. If you are interested please contact Peter Duxbury, Chiltern Society Volunteer Coordinator:

getinvolved@chilternsociety.org.uk
07756 070382

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BT Volunteers at Whiteleaf Hill

Last week our regular Whiteleaf & Brush Hill Volunteer team were joined by five keen and hardworking corporate volunteers from BT. Lesley, Shanna, Aliya, Deborah & Nicky, all of whom were new conservation work, were thrown in at the deep with a tricky job of replacing protective fencing around the Juniper trees growing on the steep scarp slope. This low level fencing is important in giving the Juniper seedlings the best chance of successfully establishing themselves.

The volunteers did a fantastic job replacing four of the enclosures.

Lesley from BT said, ‘The volunteering with The Chiltern Society was a great opportunity for us to get together as a team and invest some of our time into doing something really worthwhile. The team found it really energising helping with the repair and protection of these conservation areas, learning about the plant life and understanding a little about the importance of the archaeological features. The conservation group we joined were really welcoming, coffee and brownies was certainly a highlight! Every member of our team have expressed how much they enjoyed themselves.’

We look forward to working alongside another group of BT volunteers who will be coming out again to help out in June.

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Box Woodland Creation at the Wormsley Estate

Following the successful planting sessions last year on the Wormsley Estate, as part of their Box woodland creation scheme, we are continuing our support for the next phase of the project with a series of work parties focusing on a new planting area. The first of these took place on 14th March and was a great success. Sixteen volunteers made great progress preparing the area for planting on the steep wooded valley slopes – the main jobs of the day were collecting up hundreds of old tree guards, clearing areas of scrub and bramble and some selective thinning of previously planted Beech. The volunteers will be returning for two more sessions in April with the aim of planting over 5,000 trees, predominantly Box and Juniper, to establish this addition to the Box woodland extending through the valley.

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Bring Back the Hazel Dormouse!

The hazel dormouse (or common dormouse) is in decline across the country, and sadly we have seen that populations have plummeted here in the Chilterns.

The reasons for their decline are likely to be complex and may include competition for food and space with introduced pest species including American grey squirrels which eat hazelnuts before they ripen fully, and Fat Dormouse (Glis glis) which may also predate them. We found that the population of Hazel dormice in the Chiltern Society’s Bottom Wood crashed at the same time as Glis glis were first found in next boxes.

Other factors to explain their decline may include changes in woodland characteristics; if woodland is not managed properly or is densely shaded with little understory, there is less dense young tree growth that hazel dormice thrive upon. In addition to the age of trees, the impact of large numbers of deer browsing and removing the undergrowth is another possible contribution factor. In addition, climate change may be altering the flowering times of key food sources (pollen is an important food in spring) along with insects that they also feed on.

So what can we do about it?

In Bottom Wood we need to replace the Dormice nest boxes so the population can be monitored (Dormice are a European Protected Species and require Natural England licenced handlers). We also need to continue to improve the habitat by roughly laying the hazel hedge in certain areas of the woodland to create a dense tangle of undergrowth, including bramble and honeysuckle, that we hope will be more suitable for them and will encourage numbers to increase.

The dormouse is a species that can benefit from positive woodland management. Leaving a woodland unthinned, or coppice uncut, eventually reduces the understorey and the quality of the habitat for dormice. The shrub layer and understorey of woodland needs to be enhanced and it is also important to develop a flowing network of connecting belts of scrub and suitable habitat that is necessary to sustain thriving dormouse populations over time.

But in order to do this we need your help!

The dormice of the Chilterns would be extremely grateful if you could make a donation to help their cause. A portion of the proceeds raised will go directly to the Chiltern Woodlands Project; a charity that specialises in local woodland management, and helps us to maintain some of our own woodland reserves.

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Bird Box Installation in Chesham

We were delighted to team up with Impress the Chess to participate in National Bird Box Week.  Local residents sponsored bird boxes along the River Chess, to provide nesting opportunities for species including blue tits, great tits and robins.

Ten sponsored boxes were installed by our volunteers in Meades Water Gardens, Chesham to give the small bird population a helping hand. We will monitor the boxes as the bird breeding season progresses to see if the boxes are being used.

This project was initiated by the Impress the Chess group as the first of a series of improvements to habitats along the River Chess. Impress the Chess is a Chesham Town Council-led partnership of local authorities, conservation bodies and community groups that works to protect and restore the River Chess in Chesham. The partnership has created an Action Plan to help conserve this rare chalk stream environment and is actively working with landowners and volunteers on schemes like this.

Having already run a similar scheme at some of our own sites, we were pleased to be able to lend a hand.

The volunteers were pleased to be working in the early Spring sunshine and were watched by a number of birds as well as interested passersby, so we are hopeful that the bird boxes will soon be investigated by birds look for an ideal nesting spot!

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