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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The 2.6 Challenge – Save the UK’s Charities

To help save what makes the Chilterns so great – its chalk streams, woodlands and footpaths, please support the Chiltern Society in The 2.6 Challenge. To donate or to fundraise for us, please visit our Just Giving Link. Thank you!

From Sunday 26 April, the day when the Virgin Money London Marathon would have taken place, join the rest of the UK for The 2.6  Challenge.

The 2.6 Challenge can be any activity you like – from running 2.6 miles to holding an online workout with 26 of your friends. Check out ‘how to get involved’ for more ideas.

Whatever your age or ability, you can take part. After all, we’re not looking for superheroes. We’re looking for Home Heroes.

How do I get involved?
No need to be a marathon runner to take part – this is a challenge for all ages and abilities. Just get thinking of an activity based around the numbers 26 or 2.6 and complete it on or from Sunday April 26.

It could be something as simple as running 2.6 miles, 26 minutes of yoga, or juggling for 26 minutes – or on second thoughts, maybe just 2.6 minutes! Check out this guide for more ideas and inspiration.

And don’t worry if you’re not able to get out your house or flat for now. We’re not looking for superheroes – we’re looking for Home Heroes.

There are no rules (apart from the Government guidelines on how to exercise safely during this time). Whatever you can do, you can be part of it – the main thing is getting active, having fun and donating whatever you can to help save the UK’s charities.

For full information, please visit The 2.6 Challenge home page here.

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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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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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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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Could you help our Rights of Way Group?

Do you enjoy being out and about in the countryside? If so, you may like the idea of playing an interesting and satisfying role in helping to preserve and improve the existing network of footpaths and bridleways in the Chilterns.

We currently have Area Secretary vacancies that we urgently need to fill in three important areas of the Chilterns:

  • The first covers the parishes of Chartridge, Cholesbury cum St. Leonards, Great Missenden, Little Missenden, Penn and The Lee.
  • The second covers Bledlow cum Saunderton, Downley, Hughenden, Piddington and Wheeler End, Radnage, Stokenchurch and West Wycombe.
  • The third covers Eaton Bray, Kensworth, Studham, Totternhoe, Whipsnade

The role of Area Secretaries has three main elements:

  1. representing the Chiltern Society’s interest in successful development of the local path network. This means considering and responding to all proposals from Local Authorities for change to the network and, wherever possible, putting forward proposals of their own to improve it.
  2. deploying a group of Path Representatives to carry out regular monitoring of paths and report any problem they find with their condition or waymarking.
  3. on receiving those reports to arrange appropriate follow up action with a view to remedying the problems found.

These roles offer every opportunity to get out and about in the countryside and to liaise about path issues with other Area Secretaries, Local Authority Officers, and sometimes members of the public. Previous experience is not important.

Area Secretaries are invited to four liaison meetings a year with other ROWG Committee members.

What’s in it for you? The satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping to sustain and improve a path network offering enormous opportunity to all those who appreciate the countryside; and working with a group of like-minded individuals in a growing team of Chiltern Society volunteers.

If you’d like to know more, please contact Brian Lawson on 01494 815814.

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Planning Campaign Leader Required

Are you passionate about protecting the Chilterns as a unique and special place to live? Do you have the drive and commitment to lead a successful campaign to influence local and national government?

Our Planning Group urgently needs a Campaign Leader to step up our campaign to prevent unsustainable development in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding National Beauty and Green Belt. You’ll be used to working in a volunteering role, and how to work with other volunteers to achieve results.

We’re looking for someone, maybe from a marketing background, with skills and experience in leadership, communication and management of diverse stakeholders to help influence senior levels of local and national government. There is no need for detailed knowledge of planning regulations, as you will have support from experts in our Planning Group. You’ll have an understanding of how government operates at different levels and how to collaborate with other like-minded organisations.

The role needs to drive out tangible results from our already publicised Planning Manifesto. This safeguards the AONB, protects the Green Belt, overhauls the methods for calculating housing need, scales infrastructure, favours brownfield and infill usage, and promotes good building design. The Chiltern Society supports the needs of local businesses and affordable housing for local people.

This is a fantastic opportunity to lead an exciting campaign that is of great value to the Chilterns.

To discuss more about how you could fit this role please email our Volunteer Coordinator or call 07756 070382.

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Bench Installation at Great Gaddesden

15 volunteers from our North Chilterns Path Maintenance Group took on the challenge of installing three benches at remote scenic sights on important footpaths in the Great Gaddesden Parish. No ordinary garden seats, these were solid oak benches with supporting posts that needed to be set two feet into the ground.

Our volunteers divided into teams, so that each team had a balance of skills and physical abilities to deliver the challenge. The logistics were interesting, requiring benches, appropriate tools, and the right mix of people to operate at sites that were a few miles apart.

The ground was well baked after a six week drought. The teams rose magnificently to the task, and three benches were installed for the benefit of ramblers for many decades to come. Indeed, as soon as the Heizdin’s Wood bench was installed, two weary and mature walkers appeared and took advantage of this brand new “breather” opportunity.

A well deserved trip to a local pub followed, and efforts were rewarded with a hearty lunch!


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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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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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Congratulations to our North Chilterns Path Maintenance Volunteers

A HUGE well done to our NCMPV group who achieved Highly Commended in the Dacorum Borough Council Community Champion Awards, which recognises individuals and groups who go out of their way to make Dacorum a cleaner, safer and greener place to live.

Les Mosco, the group leader, along with seven of our regular volunteers were presented the award by Mayor of Dacorum Cllr David Collins at a presentation ceremony earlier this month.

For more information about the work of path maintenance groups and how you could get involved, please click here.

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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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Planning Campaign Leader

Are you passionate about protecting the Chilterns as a unique and special place to live ? Do you have the drive and commitment to lead a successful campaign, building support from our community and other organisations to influence local and national government ?

Our Planning Group urgently needs a Campaign Leader to step up our campaign to prevent unsustainable development into the Chilterns Area of Outstanding National Beauty and Green Belt.  You’ll be used to working in a volunteering role, and how to work with other volunteers to achieve results.

We’re looking for someone, maybe from a marketing background, with skills and experience in leadership, communication and management of diverse stakeholders to influence senior levels of local and national government.  There is no need for detailed knowledge of planning regulations, as you will have support from experts in our Planning Group.  However you do need an understanding of how government operates and how to collaborate with other organisations in the area such as the Chilterns Conservation Board, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Natural England, District and County Councils.

The role needs to drive out tangible results from our already publicised Planning Manifesto.  This safeguards the AONB, protects the Green Belt, overhauls the methods for calculating housing need, scales infrastructure, favours brownfield and infill usage, and promotes good building design.  The first goal is to build a coalition of MPs across the Chilterns to support our Manifesto and change housing calculations.  The Chiltern Society supports the needs of local businesses and affordable housing for local people, rather than  unfettered free market priority for multi-million pound commuterland.

To discuss more about how you could fit this role please contact:

Merrin Molesworth: : tel: 01494 773381

Michael Jepson: tel: 01494 837602

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Volunteers Week 2017

We depend on YOU to help us care for the Chilterns! 

Across the country, charities are celebrating Volunteers’ Week, so now is the time for us to say a huge THANK YOU to all of our volunteers, group leaders and supporters!

Volunteers really do make a HUGE difference to the work we are able to carry out. Without our volunteers, we simply would not be able to care for the Chilterns. Our volunteers clock up over 60,000 hours work every year- all in the name of protecting our local countryside for people to enjoy now and in the future.

We do, however, have lots of volunteer vacancies that we urgently need to fill, many of which are suitable for anyone looking to lend a hand, and others that are more specialist. From conservation work and path maintenance, to monitoring planning applications, assisting our Heritage Group or keeping an eye on our important network of path ways, there really is an opportunity for everyone to get involved! If you have a more specialist skill that you’d like to offer, whether in marketing, IT or database management, we’d love to hear from you so please do contact us.

Volunteering with us isn’t just good for the Chilterns, but it’s also good for your wellbeing with proven benefits to physical and mental health!

Find out more about volunteering with us here.

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Central Chilterns Volunteer Conservation Group – New Leader Wanted

Our Central Chilterns volunteer conservation group has been running for more than 20 years. During that time it has made a huge contribution to the preservation of ponds and other small conservation sites.

We are looking for a new leader to help the group continue it’s brilliant work. The role would consist of leading a group of up to 15 dedicated volunteers, keeping in touch with local parish councils, organising the group’s volunteer schedule and, of course, working hard to maintain the quality of so many commons, village ponds and conservation sites. The Chiltern Society is dedicated to caring for the Chilterns and this volunteer group plays a vital role in helping us to do that!

This is a weekend conservation group which meets approximately once per month. The work parties take place from 10am – 1pm on a Saturday.

This is a voluntary role from which you will derive huge satisfaction. Ponds, in particular, are a fantastic habitat for so many aquatic plants and support two-thirds of all freshwater species including frogs, newts, toads, beetles and dragonfly larvae. They have a huge impact on many of the environmental issues affecting us today.

All Chiltern Society group leaders are given support and encouragement from a terrific team of trustees and office staff. It’s a role ideally suited to someone who thrives on teamwork!

Interested? For more information please call our Head of Conservation, Gavin Johnson, on 01494 771250 or send him an email.


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Volunteer co-ordinator wanted

The Chiltern Society is looking for a new volunteer co-ordinator to act as a focal point for all volunteering enquiries. This is a great opportunity to become involved with all aspects of the Society’s activities as well as working closely with a great team of volunteer groups and office colleagues. It’s a voluntary role taking up just a few hours each week and can be done in your own time.

The role includes making contact with new volunteers, discussing what opportunities are available, and making introductions to the relevant group leaders. We also actively seek volunteers for particular tasks, and from time to time the volunteer co-ordinator will prepare some paperwork for publication in ‘Chiltern’ magazine and our enewsletters.

The role is home-based and all you need are basic computer skills. There are occasional short committee meetings. You’ll gain tremendous satisfaction from getting to know lots of people all of who have a strong desire to help maintain the Chilterns as a fabulous place to live, work and visit. You’ll also appreciate the huge amount of effort that they put in as volunteers on behalf of the Society.

Interested? Please contact Geoff Wiggett if you’d like to find out more.

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North Chiltern Path Maintenance

It has been another busy few months for the North Chilterns Path Maintenance team carrying out a wide range jobs to improve access across the countryside. The autumn and winter months are the best time to carry out extensive clearance works and so the team have been taking the opportunity to reclaim some much neglected stretches of footpath and bridleway from Potten End to Whipsnade, Studham and Totternhoe.

Now into its second year, the team is growing in numbers, skills and confidence so that the North Chilterns Rights of Way network is available for everyone to enjoy!

Read more about our Path Maintenance Volunteers

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