Summer Newsletter 2020

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SUMMER 2020 Moving on from Lockdown Thames Water Project Update Forest School on Furlough Goldcrests in Keephill and Deangarden Woods Heart of Bucks and the Rothschild Foundation Wexham & Ivers In and Out of Schools Project Francesca’s Furlough Fndings Box Tree Moth

Plus photos and updates from across our team on life in lockdown 1

Welcome to our Summer 2020 newsletter Moving on from Lockdown


Thames Water River Project Update


Forest School on Furlough


Goldcrests in Keephill and Deangarden Woods


Heart of Bucks and the Rothschild Foundation


Francesca’s Furlough Findings


What others have been up to during Furlough


Our Lockdown Inspiration


Wexham and Ivers In and Out of Schools Project


Box Tree Moth Sightings Wanted



Moving on from Lockdown Chiltern Rangers is emerging from lockdown and evolving with new ways of how to safely manage the new work situation as we #BuildBackBetter. Some of our team are still on furlough leave, but we keep in touch with each other with online weekly meetings and a WhatsApp group.

lockdown started - birdsong, daily walks in nature and more. This can only help organisations such as us and the world generally. It affects every one of us, we all need to take responsibility and consider whether we need to drive to our destinations or can we walk, cycle or even share a lift. We do though need to really look after the environment. Unfortunately there has been so much littering/ fly-tipping, fires and a casual disregard for the very place where we have found sanctuary and solace when we needed it... Let’s make sure we all do our bit and encourage others to do so too.

We are taking things slowly, keeping within government guidelines and have prepared our depot for a safer environment for staff to work. However, the number of people in the depot and office at the same time will be limited. Home working has suited some of the staff but is not ideal for others especially those with small children around. We are considering a mix of all options at present so please bear with us through this period. Thanks to Heart of Bucks who have been able to allocate us some Covid-19 resilience funding so we have supplies to help us deliver in this way.

Of course there remains the twin challenge of climate and biodiversity crises which are inextricably linked to this pandemic. The only true solution will be us as a society tackling these. Our projects including Chalk Cherries & Chairs in partnership with the Chilterns Conservation Board will be a way for you to get involved and we’ll be in touch regularly through our social media platforms to let you know how this can happen.

What we would love to do is to bring back our wonderful volunteers but there are safety issues associated with this. Rest assured we are looking to get you out as soon as possible and have started If you have ideas on how to help or have more with very small numbers as we look to build on this time now and you want to get involved on site as we can. We certainly miss you! or from home, then please register with us by emailing so we can Something positive that has come out of this contact you and include you in our plans. pandemic is that the environment has been highlighted in the media even more than before Enjoy the summer!

Volunteers Thank you also to Jean Peasley who has been supporting and helping Steph in the office.

Normally we announce an award for Volunteer of the Season but due to the limitations of taking volunteers out during Covid we have decided not to do it this time. However there are a few people who have generously given us their help who we would like to thank.

You may know that we ran a number of Forest School TV videos on Facebook over the lockdown period. We would especially like to thank Sue Louttit and Naomi Lyon for their fantastic contribution to these videos, if you haven’t seen them you must! See our Facebook page for all the sessions. Sue has also been helping Paul with growing plants.

Will Shaw kindly spent a lot of time repainting the depot floor with guidance on where to walk to make it safe for staff to return to work.

If you missed our “Give Covid the Boot” video, you can check it out on our Facebook page 3

Thames Water River Project Update - June 2020 A lot of work has been going on in the background designing the restoration of the river and getting all the permissions required to do the work. It is very exciting that we can now break ground at two sites.

Wye Dene At Wye Dene we are extending the restoration we started at the old Water Cress beds downstream. Specialist contractors were employed at Wye Dene by us to start the process of felling to provide us with materials to build the woody structures in the design. This also reduced the risk to a Thames Water sewage pipe that runs alongside the trees. Rangers Paul and Leila visited early in June and cleared the channel that was getting blocked by vegetation at the watercress beds and made a start on the new section.

A highlight was a multiple funder event in February with over 100 volunteers of all ages and abilities working together, installing art, time capsules, planting conservation hedgerow and cowslips, coppicing, litter clearing and more!

Our ‘Wye Wednesday Afternoon’ sub-project started with the first group of pupils being introduced to River Fly Monitoring at the Wye Dene Site and our River Volunteers and Beaconsfield High Sixth Form Students have been able to meet weekly due to additional funding from Wycombe District Council at their Kingsmead Rec Site.

Many users of Kingsmead Park have commented on the improvements to the path network, visibility of the river, light levels, planting and interpretation as we work.


West Wycombe Park At the beginning, the Chiltern Rangers team started felling at West Wycombe Park without volunteers, unfortunately, due to the pandemic. This felling is to bring light back to the river and for materials to build woody structures in the river to narrow it and increase the flow. Post-lockdown it was exciting to be able to work with our first volunteers on a couple of days as we began to build and dismantle a weir that was blocking fish passage and impeding the flow. One of the most satisfying outcomes of this work is to see sections of the river restore so quickly with a silty river bed replaced with clear fast moving water flowing over a gravelly bed. We are pleased to report that in the first quarter of the year, before lockdown, we delivered 11 community engagement events at 4 different sites covering over 2km of river, engaging 251 volunteers and receiving support from 17 community groups.

Key volunteers have been introduced to chipper operation and we are identifying training opportunities for them to get formal tickets to build Chiltern Rangers capacity and demonstrate their value as volunteers.

We encourage our volunteers to learn new skills where possible and during this project they have learned coppicing, carpentry, hedge planting techniques and other skills.

Thanks to Thames Water for funding this project.

Keep up to date on all our projects on our website:


Forest School on Furlough Furlough has been a bit of an odd time – all the time in the world to do whatever you wish, and yet unable to go anywhere or do anything or see anyone. Thankfully, the regulations still allow furloughed employees to do work-related training. I was due to undertake Forest School Leadership training in June with the lovely people at Forest School Learning Initiative, which of course could not go ahead as originally planned.

Everyone else on these webinars is a teacher, so initially I felt a little out of my depth as apart from assisting with Forest School sessions for the past 6 months, my only experience of working with children was working in the kids department in Clarks shoe shops. However, it was interesting to hear different perspectives, and actually very helpful to be able to learn from these people.

Enter stage left: Zoom calls! Like most people, I’d never heard of Zoom before the lockdown. We were able to complete much of the theory behind Forest School online this way, so we didn’t miss out after all. We learned about the history and development of Forest School and the benefits it offers children; different theories of child development and learning; how to slowly build a child’s skills through small and achievable tasks; how Forest School links in with the curriculum; and how to manage and maintain your Forest School area, amongst many other things.

The scales tipped in my favour when it came to meeting in person to learn the practical skills that a Forest School Leader needs. Once the lockdown eased, we were able to meet in our tutor’s large garden and barn, with plenty of room for social distancing. Now we were learning about fire lighting and safety, how to use and maintain tools like bow saws and bill hooks, and about woodland ecology – much more in my comfort zone! Now, the only part I have left to complete of my training is to plan and deliver some Forest School sessions myself. Coincidentally, one of the schools we usually work with has just agreed to open up to Forest School again, so now I have two days per week to utilise my new skills (accompanied by fully trained Ranger Steph). Once I have completed six sessions, and my tutor is able to observe one of them, I’ll be fully qualified to deliver Forest School Sessions myself! Ranger Francesca

Above: Francesca and another trainee practice their whittling skills. Top image: Ranger Steph leads a socially distanced Forest School session in Highfield and Hangingcroft Woods. 6

Goldcrests in Keephill and Deangarden Woods After the ‘Beast from the East’ in late winter 2018 we lost all our establishing firecrests (Regulus ignicapillus) but their close relative, the goldrest (Regulus regulus) survived much better. So last February and March 2019 (before the breeding season) we tried catching them in mist nets and ringing them. This March (2020) before the restriction on movement came in, we returned to the exact same place in the woods to try and recapture them. Goldcrests like to nest in yew trees, so we selected places in the woods with highest density of these trees. We played the recorded song of goldcrest in 11 locations to

entice the males which were beginning to defend territories and used a handheld sat nav device to record the location. In 2019 we caught and ringed 7 males and 3 females and on return in 2020 caught 8 males and 2 females. The song playback is more likely to attract males than females. Of the birds caught in 2020 3 males were recaptured in the same locations as in 2019 (no females). Ageing goldcrests at this time of year is difficult, but we know all 3 recaptured bird were adults (birds over 1 year old). This gives us a crude estimate that maybe only about half the goldcrest survive in a mild winter, so they did well to survive the Beast from the East in 2018 unlike the firecrests. Last year we also conducted a census of birds on Keephill and Deangarden woods and estimated about 12 pairs of goldcrests, so we are monitoring most goldcrests in the woods. We plan to do the same in 2021 and let’s hope some firecrest return and we can catch and ring some of these also. This article has been kindly written for us by Pete Edwards who is a trained bird ringer.

Heart of Bucks and the Rothschild Foundation Thanks to these two organisations who are helping us with some funding as we continue to adapt to the Pandemic. These funds are helping us to start volunteering little step by step (Ashley here clearing the river at Wye Dene on his first day back) and adapt our sites to social distancing (two small benches replacing a large bench that had been vandalised during lock down at Mount Skippet). 7

Left: Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii); below: Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis). Lower left: Tawny Mining bee (Andrena fulva); Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera)

Francesca’s Furlough Findings Hey everyone! Hope you’re all as well as can be. I’ve been on furlough since the end of March, and have been using some of my time off to take note of the local flora and fauna. I live on Micklefield Road, and am lucky enough to be very close to my two favourite habitats: woodland and meadows. My interest in botany began last year while completing my traineeship with BBOWT and I was looking forward to spring and summer coming around so I could improve my very amateur skills. In that way, furlough has been a blessing in disguise, as I have had more than ample time to wander the woods and meadows and immerse myself in how my surroundings have changed over these two seasons.

A week or so later, I went orchid hunting for real after a tip off from our Chiltern Rangers WhatsApp group. Rumour had it that there was a Fly Orchid in bloom on Micklefield Bank. I’d only ever seen pictures of this kind of orchid, so I wasn’t going to miss a chance to see one literally around the corner from me. Off I went, armed with the intimidating Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose, the more beginner friendly Collins Gem Guide to Wildflowers, and a smartphone for pictures. I only had a rough idea where the Fly Orchid was supposed to be, so got a lot of funny looks from passers-by as I systematically tip-toed up and down the hill to try to find it, whilst also trying not to crush anything under my feet. After about 20 minutes, I hit the jackpot. I was surprised at how small both the flower and the entire plant are – barely shin height, with flowers smaller than my fingernail. As the name suggests, the flower is supposed to look as though a fly has landed on it, although I’ll let you make your own mind up on that one…

Spring is definitely a time for yellow flowers, it seems! Cowslips were the first to appear on Gomms Bank around the end of March/start of April, their beautiful pastel flowers a herald of the changing season. I took a seat on the bench at the top of the hill to admire the view. As I sat there, I saw a small bee buzzing around – bees being one of my favourite creatures, I was content to sit and watch it for a while. To my surprise, it landed on the ground near my feet and spent about 40 minutes pootling around in the loose soil. I lay on the bench to try to get a good enough view of this tiny, beautiful, golden bee to be able to take a photo. I took a guess that she might be a mining bee, as she was so interested in the soil, so googled “UK mining bees”. A few clicks later I was able to see that she was a Tawny Mining bee – a first for me! Here she is, pictured under some blades of grass, so you can see how tiny she is.

June brought yet more orchids, to my delight! I didn’t have to do too much hunting around to find them, as Micklefield bank is quite literally covered in these lilac beauties. The petals of the Common Spotted Orchid are quite as distinctly marked as its leaves, and so delicately arranged. The Pyramidal Orchid is one of those sensibly named species, as its sprig of purple flowers are arranged in a firm pyramid shape. The range of shades displayed by these two species alone is lovely, ranging from palest lilac, to almost vulgar violet.

I left it a few weeks before I visited again, and was greeted with a wash of meadow buttercups all across the field at the start of May! This was such a welcome splash of colour to come across on my one allotted walk per day during lockdown and really cheered me up. I also came across some peculiarly marked foliage amongst the grass, which turned out to be Common Spotted Orchid leaves!

That brings us up to date on my botanising adventures. All in all, it has been a privilege to have the time to observe all these beautiful flowers coming in to bloom, and a light in the dark time of the globe. Ranger Francesca 8

What others have been up to during Furlough Paul: As you might know there is

nothing I like better than having a project. I managed to get a load of wood from my local wood recycling company just in time and then it was build a bike shed, home allotment and tend to the pollinator patch started the previous year. You can see how it developed over a couple of months of lock down. Just take the turf off a patch of your lawn, edge for those of you who like things neat, sprinkle with seed, lightly cover with top soil and water regularly. Shake the flowers to distribute the seed at the end of the season and cut the greenery down and chuck out in your green bin.

Steph: I have been improving my conversational French using Duolingo! I am keen to take lessons when life gets back to normal. I would have written this in French but I am at Forest School right now! John Taylor: I’ve had more

time to work in my small (but now slightly better-formed) garden, taken the chance to brush up on some language skills (not necessarily anything that’s in current use), caught up on a bit of reading with only a couple of small piles of books left to go and have happily managed to spend a bit of time out and about in the local countryside.

On top of that I continue to miss my local park run but I am doing lots of runs in readiness for when it starts again and am upping my running distances with the aim to do a marathon and maybe something even longer!

Alex: Having moved house right at the beginning

of lockdown, my collie, Nala, and I have been enjoying photographing the wildlife and get totally lost in our new area. The added charm of finding one of the beautifully carved walking sticks which some kind person is surreptitiously leaving around the woods has been one of the most uplifting things I have experienced during lockdown. Now looking forward to the opening of the cafes and pubs en route!

Kate: Furlough has made me into a teacher, a carer

and a mentor! I have been challenged beyond belief. Home schooling has had its ups and downs but I am proud to say that it is succeeding. One of my twins Tom with SEN (Special Education Needs) can now write his alphabet and write numbers, and James is now working independently. As a family we have spent more time outside walking and learning about trees, wildflowers and identifying birds with Grandad which has brought us all closer together. 9

Dan: I have been trying to improve

my birdsong ID by coming up with my own mnemonics. Who knew that ‘Game of Thrones ending with a squeaky flourish’ would help me nail down a particular species?

Our Lockdown Inspiration These are some of the photos taken by staff showing what has inspired us on our daily walks since April.



Wexham And Ivers In and Out of Schools Project Ranger Paul, Artist Ranger Dan and Volunteer Perry started our schools work again in the middle of June as part of our postponed Buckinghamshire Council Wexham And Ivers In and Out of Schools Project. Before lockdown Paul worked with some year 1 students to enhance their grounds for wildlife and learning. The children were so happy to see us and in their ‘bubbles’ helped us to create a bird hide and bird feeder sculpture, renovate their allotment area, plant currant bushes for the Currant Clearwing moth, a disease resistant elm for the White Letter Hairstreak butterfly, and much more! If you live in that area please plant currants and elm when appropriate in your own gardens to help us create a network of habitat for these species as well as saying no to mow and creating pollinator patches, etc! We are going to Iver Heath Junior and Infant schools soon to do similar habitat work with them. One of the lovely things about the project is that the Head teachers have wanted to focus on giving opportunities to their student in receipt of pupil premium, giving these students who often need that extra little bit of support a much needed boost. Buckinghamshire Council visited us on location at Funges Meadow/Wye Dene to celebrate the restart of this project: check out the video on YouTube

Box Tree Moth Sightings Wanted! The box tree moth is an invasive pest of gardens and wild box trees which is causing great concern especially in the Chilterns where Wild box is a speciality. One of the best examples can be seen at the box tree valley near Ellesborough. If you see any of the moths or caterpillars please complete the short survey on the RHS website. 12

Keep safe and connect with us online! Keep safe and take care of yourselves and others during the easing of lockdown. If you would like further information about our work, please contact us by email, call us on 01494 474486 or via the Contact us page of our website. Like us on Facebook and Youtube, follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you for your continued support!

Inspiring and Enriching Communities, through conservation, education & community engagement 13

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