Junior Rangers get their dose of Vitamin N(ature) at Brush Hill

During the first week of the Easter holidays, the Chiltern Society ran three Junior Ranger days on their Brush Hill Nature Reserve. Our grown-up rangers, Gavin and Fiona, opened up the conservation area and transformed it into a camp for the duration of the activities. They ran a series of activities designed to show what a day in the life of a ranger involves and were joined by around 30 children and their families over the course of the three days. They were also lucky to be supported by some wonderful Chiltern Society volunteers.

Each day started with a scavenger hunt, which the children participated in whilst walking to the camp. They spotted key species on Brush Hill and learnt about the different habitats and animals that live there. On arriving into camp, they were split into small groups and volunteers led them around the conservation activities. The junior rangers had to identify animals using their tracks and a set of clues pertaining to their homes, calls and individual features. They had to identify birds in the woodland and correctly name them using a picture identification sheet. Each group also spent time constructing a large insect mansion which is being left on site and created a small one to take home to their own gardens.

After a tea break and refuel by the camp fire, they began the basic bushcraft skills section of the day. The children built shelters and learnt fire lighting techniques which were later put to the test when marshmallows were roasted and corn was popped over their open fires.

Everyone had great fun- grown ups and children alike! Cries of “Awwwwww” were widespread when it was time to head home! We will definitely be running more activities over other holidays for children so keep your eyes peeled!

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Appointment of Chief Officer

The Chiltern Society is delighted to announce the appointment of its first Chief Officer, Tom Beeston. Tom will join The Chiltern Society on the 1 April 2019 having previously been a consultant in the charity, food and farming sector. Prior to this Tom was CEO of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) and before that Visitor Centre Manager at the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust’s College Lake nature reserve.

Simon Kearey, Chair of the Chiltern Society, comments, “Tom has a great track record of leading organisations with conservation and volunteer charities. We are delighted that he will bring his energy and vision to ensure the Chiltern Society continues to support a thriving, strong countryside and towns while delivering a wide range of benefits for both residents, tourists and wildlife. Tom lives in Tring and I know is very much looking forward to working close to home and to leading the Society at such a crucial time for the Chilterns as a whole and when our area of outstanding natural beauty and its heritage assets need us the most.”

Tom added, “I am delighted to have the opportunity to work back in the Chilterns and to lead the Chiltern Society. The area’s amazing landscapes have inspired my lifelong love of nature and a strong desire to protect it. It is a real privilege to be able to work with and lead the Chiltern Society, which under the Trustees leadership, has achieved fantastic things across the Chilterns countryside and its heritage, and provided great enjoyment and benefit to the people who live and work in the area. I am looking forward to getting to know the area even more and to working with the staff, trustees, volunteers and partners to continue creating thriving wild and heritage spaces for people and for wildlife.” 

The Chiltern Society looks forward to welcoming Tom next month.

 

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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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New Play Trail at Wendover Woods

In December, our Wendover Woods Volunteer Group helped put the finishing touches to a new play trail and officially opened it alongside the Forestry Commission’s Wendover Woods team!

In partnership with Forestry Commission England, the Society secured funding from The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development to develop this exciting and innovative attraction at Wendover Woods – combining a new trail with a variety of play structures and features spaced along the route.

The aim of the trail is to help engage young people with the forest environment and the wider Chilterns landscape. It’s designed to encourage visitors to explore further into the forest – helping young families to explore and gain the confidence to venture deeper and reconnect with the countryside. The features are intended to reflect the local environment. They can be used in a variety of ways, and should appeal to visitors of all ages –parents and older carers will be involved as the children drag them round to find the next feature!

The trail is fully accessible and offers a short loop and a long loop to suit different abilities.

‘The new trail will be a great way for the whole family to experience the woodland together in a fun and creative way and hopefully take visitors to new parts of this wonderful Chilterns site,’ said Gavin Johnson, the Chiltern Society’s Head of Conservation.

‘We’re thrilled with the new play trail and the bespoke play pieces created especially for Wendover Woods. We very much hope visitors enjoy exploring the woods and playing together in the play spaces,’ added Joanne Mason, Beat Forester, Forestry Commission England.

The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas 

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New Housing Sites to be Identified in Three Rivers

The Chiltern Society responded in December 2018 to a consultation on the choice of housing sites in Three Rivers District for inclusion in the emerging Local Plan. Planning Field Officer, Barbara Paskins, reviewed the plan and visited many of the sites to assess potential impacts on the Green Belt and the Chilterns Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The main area of concern was that the proposals would be likely to take land out of the Green Belt to allow for the Council to meet its housing target. Also, one of the larger sites would be located within the AONB. The Society expressed a preference for using brownfield land to cater for development needs wherever possible, but due to the scale of development required, some greenfield land is likely to be needed. The response includes some general comments on development in the District as well as comments on the impacts on specific sites.

The full response can be read here. 

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PhotoGroup 2019 Exhibition

The PhotoGroup’s Online Photographic Exhibition 2019 has just gone live. The 15th edition comprises an impressive total of 313 images contributed by 31 of our members. You can view the 2019 collection here

Once again the landscape category attracted most contributions, with many images featuring the diversity of the beautiful Chiltern countryside. The flora and fauna category was not far behind with at least half of the images of flowers, birds, butterflies and other insects taken in the Chilterns. Many of the photos were taken by members in their gardens or close to home.

Terry Coffey, an experienced camera club judge within the Chilterns, was again our guest reviewer. He has supplied a valuable critique of many of the images, which can be read here. He especially appreciated a photo of fungi illuminated by a shaft of sunlight taken in Hughenden Woods by Bob Smith. “You make your own luck by diligence don’t you?” he asks, echoing a view that most photographers will identify with.

For the first time, browsers of the 2019 Online Photography Exhibition were invited to choose their most favourite photograph from the 300 images submitted. We found the ‘People’s Favourites’ comprised ten images.  See them here.

 

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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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Chief Officer Recruitment

As the Chiltern Society continues to grow and develop, we are looking to recruit a dynamic, forward-looking Chief Officer to manage the small staff and office volunteers and to assist the Trustees in the development and delivery of our ambitious expansion plans.

Our new Chief Officer will support the board of trustees in the execution of their responsibilities including reporting to them on all aspects of the Charity’s performance including finance, people, operational performance, marketing and member recruitment.

This a permanent, full time role based at our Head Office in Chesham.

To view the full job description and person specification, please click here.

Deadline for applications is 31st January 2018.

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Working with Pipers Corner School

A couple of weeks ago, we spent an afternoon with Year 7’s at Pipers Corner School supporting their ‘Changing Chilterns’ topic. Following a talk about the Chilterns from Gavin Johnson, our Head of Conservation, the students were challenged with a variety of tasks including map reading, designing promotional posters for the Chilterns and thinking of challenges facing the Chilterns landscape in the future and possible solutions.

We were very impressed with their level of knowledge and enthusiasm for the Chilterns.

We have been working with Pipers Corner for two years now – the students visiting our Prestwood Local Nature Reserve to carryout fieldwork and also carrying out a litter pick with their families followed by a picnic in the Spring. We plan to make this an annual visit on Earth Day in April.

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