Chiltern Society – Christmas letter from our Chief Officer

Dear Volunteers, Members and Friends,

As we start to put our Christmas decorations up, we’ve been thinking about how we can help local business recovery in early 2021, and about taking some positives from the imposed changes we had during 2020.

High up that list has been the spike in interest in the countryside, for which on the whole we are delighted. However, we are well aware it has come at a cost, with more people visiting there have been more issues for farmers and those already living and working in the countryside. In early January we will be letting Natural England know our thoughts on the Countryside Code, so when they update it in the Spring of 2021 it will work even better for us here in the Chilterns.

We have also talked at length about the problems facing the leisure, tourism and hospitality sector, and how we could help. We here at the Chiltern Society feel we have had to push and support local businesses more than ever. Our partners at the NFU Mutual Hemel Hempstead agreed, and added they were focussing on how they could provide additional support for Hospitality & Food & Drink, with reports already produced offering more help (see links below). I know Ian at the NFU Mutual’s Hemel Hempstead Office would be delighted to direct you in the right direction if you wanted to know more on the help they may be able to provide to your business, for more information please email

Whilst we have missed the face to face contact with our volunteers, members and partners, we have managed to keep in touch via video calls which has enabled us to continue as normal – a mid-point balance of the two going forward, would be great!

What has been noticeable is less traffic, which has been more than welcome, and we’re now wondering how we can encourage people to drive less and maintain some of that to reduce the demand on our transport system. Which leads me to thinking about our Cleaner Greener Chilterns conference in November, and our plans to campaign and take action on becoming one of the first regions in England to become a Carbon Neutral. Is that possible by 2025?

One of the strands we are looking at is to see how we rapidly create more space for wildlife by creating a new/improved Wildlife Belt somewhere in the Chilterns, a step change for biodiversity will hopefully mean a carbon sink too.

We have faced enormous challenges this year, and will probably continue to do so for some months ahead, but we will continue to seek comfort from our homes, communities, countryside and environment.  Thank you for your unfailing support, it is very much appreciated.

We would like to say a huge ‘Thank You’ to all our volunteers, members and friends for your continued and valued support and wish you all a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Hopefully see you soon!

Tom (your faithful Chief Officer)

PS: check out our FacebookTwitter and Instagram feeds over the 12-days of Christmas, the team in the virtual office have some treats coming your way.



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Chalk Stream Summit sees a step change in commitment from Westminster

It was fantastic to host the Chalk Stream Summit today, with Rt Hon Rebecca Pow as Minister leading the call to action. The conference was attended by 150 key people, including a large contingent from both houses in Westminster, the CEO and Senior Directors from across the Water Industry, as well as key delivery partners like the Chilterns Conservation Board. The panel and speakers all acknowledged the step change needed to solve the over abstraction, pollution and waste.

Tom Beeston our Chief Officer, summed it up afterwards by saying:

“It’s a simple problem to resolve, we abstract more water than there is rain, and to add insult to injury we allow leakages, pollution and major development (sic HS2) to wreak further damage. Thankfully we now look to have senior level support and commitment from Westminster and the boards of the water companies to put our Chalk Streams first.

The Chiltern Society and our delivery partner at the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project will be watching closely to see if the commitments result in actions and resources being put in the right place.” 

The full two hour conference can be seen here, and we will be publishing a brief update soon answering all the questions asked at the conference.

We would particularly like to thank our Patron Earl Howe for chairing the summit, to our volunteers who made this all happen, and all those working on the ground to keep our amazing Chalk Streams healthy and alive.  Thank you!


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Himalayan Balsam Bashes

Chiltern Society volunteers have been working with the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project this year to control two infestations of Himalayan Balsam along the River Gade and the River Misbourne.

Large stands of this plant have become established close to the sources of each river threatening to spread downstream if not controlled. Himalayan Balsam was introduced to Britain as a garden plant in 1839. It rapidly colonises riverbanks, developing into dense stands that kill off native plants and other flora. When it dies back in autumn, it leaves riverbanks bare and prone to erosion.  Each plant can produce up to 2,500 seeds which can be transported by rivers to establish new colonies downstream.

Control of the infestation on the River Gade at Great Gaddesden is now in its third year and is close to being eradicated.  Work to clear the stand on the Misbourne at Little Missenden began this year and is likely to take 5 years to eradicate.  Ceri Groves, who is managing the control programme for the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project says, ‘It has been great to work with the Chiltern Society’s volunteers this year. Their assistance has been invaluable, contributing over 170 hours so far this year to help stop Himalayan balsam from spreading further.’

A final work party is being held on the 4th September to clear any remaining plants from the Gade.  If you would like to take part in this work party or future events,  please contact the Ceri Groves

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Bird Monitoring at Whiteleaf & Brush Hill

With the help of a dedicated team of volunteers, we have been monitoring bird boxes on Whiteleaf and Brush Hill for the past 4 years as part of a British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) monitoring scheme. The boxes are primarily inhabited by Great Tits and Blue Tits, and since March the team has been busy checking the boxes around the reserves on a weekly basis to see the progression from the nest building, to eggs, to chicks hatching, ringing and eventually fledging. All of the chicks and some adults are ringed by Dave Short and the 4 trainee ringers (Rachel, Robyn, Veneita and Paul) before being ‘posted’ safely back into the nesting boxes. So far this year, out of the 35 boxes installed on these two reserves, 22 have either eggs or chicks present, indicating a healthy population of tits within the sites. Raptor boxes for larger birds such as barn owls and kestrels have also been placed across Whiteleaf Hill – although previous years have seen the intended birds nest in these larger boxes, only squirrels and stock doves have been found so far this year!

The group also carry out mist netting 3 to 4 times a year, to investigate the wider bird population on the sites. Here fine nets, that are hard to spot with even human eyes, are set up in a clearing at dawn, into which a huge range of birds fly into including Dunnocks,  Jays and Woodpeckers. The birds are then measured, weighed and ringed, and the results are sent to the BTO as part of the wider UK monitoring scheme, this also includes all ringed at the nest boxes. These results are then kept by the BTO for nesting and population trends in the area and also longevity of the birds.

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Volunteers Return to the Wormsley Estate

On a beautifully sunny and warm day in February, our volunteers returned to the Wormsley Estate near Stokenchurch to plant some more trees- another 1300 to be precise!

Volunteers were joined by Alexander Getty, future heir to the estate, who got stuck in and helped them with their planting of Yew, Juniper, Box and Privet trees. The woodland has been thinned by 30% to let more natural light through and to allow for this species diversity to flourish.

The volunteers have been planting trees on this particular site on the Estate for many years, so it was great for them to see how the trees they planted years beforehand have matured and settled into their surroundings.

Another group of volunteers assisted with the removal of old tree guards from trees that have adequately matured and no longer require support.

After a morning of hard labour, volunteers were rewarded with a fish and chip lunch.

The project is funded by Network Rail as part of their Bio-diversity Offset Programme, and is also supported by The Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment who have played a key role in facilitating the conservation work.


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Largest Ever Conservation Project in the Chilterns is Awarded National Lottery Funding

An ambitious project to restore and enhance the wildlife habitats, landscape features and cultural heritage of the Central Chilterns has been awarded a National Lottery grant of £2.4 million. The Chalk, Cherries & Chairs Landscape Partnership Scheme, spearheaded by the Chilterns Conservation Board will also work to educate and inspire communities to become protectors of their local heritage and landscapes. The Chiltern Society is proud to be a key partner in this exciting initiative and we have been working hard with a range of partnering organisations and community groups over the last two years to help plan the project.

Thanks to National Lottery players the five-year scheme will encourage people to connect and reconnect to the wildlife and cultural heritage of the Central Chilterns through a number of individual but interweaving projects across three key themes: Wildlife & Landscape, Heritage & Landscape and People, Communities & Landscape.

Key aims of the scheme include; protecting declining wildlife; reinvigorating Chilterns Orchards; Solving the Mystery of Grim’s Ditch; Exploring the biodiversity in the headwaters of the Chilterns; Revealing the untold history of the Chilterns’ chair Bodgers.

Supported through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), High Speed Two Ltd through the Community Environment Fund (CEF) and Wycombe District Council through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), the project will leave a lasting legacy of improved conservation and land management, partnership working, skills, volunteers, and engaged and aware communities caring for the future of wildlife and their heritage.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of HLF said: As well as being part of a nationally protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty –, the Central Chilterns has a wealth of heritage stories dating as far back as the Neanderthal hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic era and continuing right through to the present day. We are thrilled that with money from the National Lottery we are able to fund Chalk, Cherries and Chairs to preserve this important natural heritage for future generations, allowing them to forge stronger connections to the fascinating history of the area, and create their own stories through the scheme.”

Commenting on the award, Kath Daly, Countryside Officer said: “We are absolutely delighted that we have received this support, thanks to National Lottery players. This major partnership will provide opportunities for people to get involved and volunteer; to increase and improve wildlife spaces; and for communities to learn, create and take action for heritage.” 

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Volunteers get back to work at Whiteleaf

On a cold January morning, a group of volunteers gathered for the first Whiteleaf Hill work party of 2019. Around 20 volunteers turned up ready and eager to work of the excesses from the festive period. The group split into 3 with one group raking up cuttings from last year, another cutting a new area of scrub at the back of the reserve and the third group checking all the nest boxes.

Scrub is cut on a rotational basis and the Chiltern Society is keen to restore as much chalk grassland habitat as possible.  With this in mind, a new area was identified to be cleared which consists of a lot of blackthorn and scrub. Volunteers worked to clear this away to open up the area, and at the next session they will burn the scrub that they have removed. They will continue over the coming months to clear this and we are hopeful that, in time, both flora and fauna chalk grassland species will return to the area.

The bird boxes were checked at the site and cleaned out, making the homes ready for the nesting season in April. There was evidence of glis glis in some of the great tit boxes but the volunteers were hopeful that the birds had fledged before the glis glis made an arrival. Glis glis will move into a birds nest box and build their nests on top of an exiting birds nest using leaf material and are considered a pest in this part of the country.

If you’d like to join our volunteers and help to care for the Chilterns, please email our volunteer coordinator.

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South Oxfordshire District Council employees lend a hand at Kingwood Common

On the morning of the 3rd December, employees from the South Oxfordshire District Council met at Kingwood Common, to join Chiltern Society staff and volunteers for a day of volunteering.

It was a miserable, damp December morning, but once the work briefing had been given (under the cover of the gazebo!) the group were split into two groups and set off enthusiastically for work.

Under the watchful eye of Gavin (Head of Conservation), one group worked in Oval Glade clearing gorse, holly and bracken – opening up the overgrown area of grassland. Meanwhile in Butterfly Glade, Matthew (Kingwood site co-ordinator) and our ranger Fiona helped the second group to clear birch saplings, bracken, bramble and rake up leaves from the glades floor.

The group also tried their hands at scything which was used to clear the bracken and brambles. After lunch, the groups joined together and made a combined effort at clearing away all cut arisings and stacking these in two large habitat piles which will benefit the local fauna. The second group also tried scything, and helped to clear the woodland edge of bracken. The result of a day’s work was remarkable and the group never tired of the work or the incessant drizzle from the sky! The Chiltern Society would like to thank the volunteers for such a great days’ work and for helping us to care for Kingwood Common.

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Scrub Clearance at Bottom Wood

Last week our rangers and volunteers spent a day clearing scrub from an area of Bottom Wood that will be replanted to create a new Hazel coppice.

Once cleared this area will be planted with Hazel and managed as coppice to link up with existing coppice areas to create a more continuous habitat. This continuity of habitat is vital in supporting a range of species and in particular the Hazel Dormouse which likes these larger are of continuous Hazel coppice.

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Annual visit to Studham Common

Earlier this month the Wendover Woods Volunteers made their annual visit to Studham Common in the North Chilterns. The Wendover team have been supporting the work of the Friends of Studham Common for over 5 years now and it is always a hugely popular event in the calendar for the volunteers.

Studham Common’s unusual combination of clay soil overlying chalk supports an interesting variety of plants which offers a refuge for a diversity of habitats and supports a wealth of insects, birds and small mammals – 200 plant species, 26 species of butterfly and over 20 species of birds – including Skylarks and Hazel Dormice. The Common’s eastern boundary is an ancient hedgerow dating back to medieval times and is a breeding site for the Hazel dormouse. 25 of our volunteers carried out work to help maintain and enhance this habitat by clearing scrub and removing old growth from the ancient hedgerow. They worked so hard that they also managed to move to another area to clear Blackthorn from encroaching on the open grassland areas.

After the mornings hard work they were rewarded with the legendary Friends of Studham Common lunch – a variety of delicious soups washed down with cakes and wine – no doubt everyone will be back next year!

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Working at Whiteleaf with BBOWT

On the 2nd October, our head of conservation Gavin and our ranger Fiona were joined by BBOWT at our Whiteleaf reserve to clear some areas of scrub. BBOWT brought along their alpine tractor which was used to cut a large section of scrub from an area on the hillside.

This was the first time we have been able to use this machinery at Whiteleaf, and we are hoping that this will help us to make a greater impact on the amount of scrub we can clear in the year. It is important to keep scrub down to a minimum on the grassland areas; if left to grow the scrub will outcompete the chalk grassland plants that are so important to the reserve and the Chilterns.  We also had four brush-cutters in use, clearing areas of dogwood and other scrub from the steep hillside banks. We are grateful to BBOWT for their time in helping make a positive start early on in the season.

Our regular volunteer group of volunteers at Whiteleaf went out later in the week to rake the areas that we had cut and our volunteers will continue to cut back the scrub and burn the arisings during the Autumn and Winter months. We are hopeful that by repeating this type of habitat management over time that there will be a reduction in scrub and more grassland plants will flourish, which in turn will provide a great variety of fauna too.

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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.


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:
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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Scrub Bash at Whiteleaf Hill

This week we hosted the Chiltern Conservation Board’s annual Scrub Bash at Whiteleaf Hill Nature Reserve. Over 80 volunteers turned out on a wonderful winter’s day to help restore the important chalk grassland on the steep scarp slope.

Our regular volunteers were joined by others from a whole host of different groups and organisations including students from the Berkshire College of Agriculture, staff from CCB, Chiltern Rangers, Butterfly Conservation, The National Trust, Chiltern Woodlands Project and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.

The focus of the day’s work was to clear encroaching scrub from the chalk grassland to improve the opportunities for wildflowers to flourish and to support species such as the endangered Chalk Hill Blue butterfly. A huge effort was invested by everyone who attended, only stopping to to have a BBQ lunch and admire the stunning views. Over the course of the day the volunteers managed to clear almost half of the slope which will be a huge help to the regular Whiteleaf Hill volunteer team in their on going efforts to restore and manage this habitat in years to come.

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Woolly lawnmowers on the move

The flock of Herdwick sheep that had been grazing our Brush Hill site have now returned to Prestwood Local Nature Reserve to help us manage the important chalk grassland there. By grazing the more aggressive grass and plant species, they make room for a more diverse range of wildflowers that will, in turn, support a wide range of insects and bird life.

Herdwicks are particularly suited to this type of work – a hardy breed, brought up on the rough grazing and steep slopes of the UK’s upland areas, they are used to being outside in all weathers.

If you visit the site, please help us keep them safe and healthy by:

  • Keeping your dog on a lead and under close control
  • Giving the sheep plenty of space
  • Sticking to the footpaths

If you notice that the sheep are in difficulty, or if you have any concerns please call us on 01494 771250.

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Restoring Whiteleaf Cross

Our volunteers have put in a huge amount of effort over the last month to give the Whiteleaf Cross a much needed make over. Taking advantage the wonderful Autumn weather, they have made great progress by meticulously weeding and scouring the surface of the cross revealing the bright white chalk beneath giving this iconic hill figure a new lease of life.

Following the additional work by a three man team of specialist contractors who spent two days cleaning the lower and much steeper slopes beneath the cross, the restoration is well on its way to being complete.

Read more about Whiteleaf Hill and its heritage here.

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Sponsor a slice of nature…

Over the next twelve months, we’ll launching a number of special projects to help protect Chiltern woodlands. 21% of the Chilterns is covered in woodland, which is double the national average, and over half of that is ancient woodland that’s been in existence since before 1600.

Unfortunately however, many difficult challenges including disease, climate and poor management pose major threats to our woodlands’ survival. If we are to preserve local woodland properly and encourage the native wildlife to thrive, it will require meticulous management and careful planning. We are giving you a very special opportunity to help us do this by offering the chance to sponsor an acre of woodland at one of our sites.

You can choose to sponsor an acre of either ancient woodland or newly planted woodland. A wonderful way to mark a special occasion, remember a special person or just celebrate your countryside, your sponsorship will go a long way towards helping us to manage local woodland properly and, in turn, provide local wildlife with the best possible habitats.

With only a very limited number of acres available for sponsorship, and given that areas will only be dedicated once, this is a very special opportunity for those who wish to invest in the preservation of their local countryside.
We are also offering tree sponsorship, the proceeds from which will also help us to manage Chiltern woodland more effectively.

Acres and individual trees can be sponsored in the following locations: Bottom Wood, near Stokenchurch; Captain’s Wood near Chesham; and Penn Jubilee Wood, a newly planted site.

To find out more, and to apply for sponsorship, please click here.

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