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Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Farming and Conservation Be A Ranger Days

with Bates Wells and Biffa Waste Services

Bucks County Council Local Area Fund Projects Marsh & Micklefield Update Fanciful Fungi Education

Plus Volunteer Updates & Awards!


Welcome to our Winter 2019 newsletter Chalk, Cherries and Chairs An update on the Landscape Connections project of Chalk, Cherries and Chairs at the beautiful Chiltern Forest Golf Club.


Farming and Conservation A look at how farming has helped to shape the Chilterns landscape we know and love, and how farmers can contribute to conservation.


Be a Ranger Updates We have two fantastic Be A Ranger Days to tell you about with Bates Wells and Biffa. Contact us to organise a Be A Ranger Day for your team!


Marsh & Micklefield Update An update from Ranger John on projects such as Wright’s Meadow Centre, school sessions at Kingsmead, and the Gomm’s Wood Sculpture Trail.


We hope you enjoy this issue. You can stay updated with Chiltern Rangers all year round by visiting our website or connect with us on social media: 1

Buckinghamshire County Council Local Area Funding Projects How Chiltern Rangers is helping to keep Buckinghamshire thriving and attractive for people of all ages.


Fanciful Fungi The rainy end to the summer hasn’t dampened our spirits! It’s created perfect conditions for fungi and our Rangers have been learning all about them.


Education Updates Thank you to some of our amazing student volunteers for providing us with testimonials on their time with us, plus an update on species ID training too.


Volunteer Updates In this issue, we have lots of awards to hand out to our incredible and dedicated volunteers! There’s also a special offer for our volunteers on page 12.


Get Involved Are you passionate about the Chilterns? The Chilterns Conservation Board need volunteers for a new Landscape scale wildlife surveying programme.



Chalk, Cherries and Chairs – Chiltern Forest Golf Club The second event of the Landscape Connections project of Chalk, Cherries and Chairs was delivered on Monday the 28th October at the beautiful Chiltern Forest Golf Club. We must start by thanking the wonderful volunteer contingent from members of the Chiltern Forest Golf Club, as well as staff who supported us by not only physically helping deliver the practical aspect (thank you, Steve!), but by providing some lovely hot chips at lunchtime – not something that happens often for us here at Chiltern Rangers, a huge thank you for this added bonus! The day consisted of scrub removal, taking a significant amount of scrub out within a little copse of trees to let more light through and encourage the beautiful orchids that are already on site. Hopefully all this hard work will help encourage more of these beautiful wildflowers to flourish and spread next spring and summer. Of course, this would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the brilliantly hard-working volunteers who gave up their time to come out and carry out this important work within the Landscape Connections project for Chalk, Cherries and Chairs. We salute you and thank you for your efforts – three cheers for our volunteers! More work parties will be announced over the duration of this project so if you would like to


come and get involved, give back to the beautiful landscape we live in, meet like-minded people and enjoy the great outdoors, give us a shout – we’d love to meet you! (Did we mention, we will provide the teas/coffee/hot chocolate?!) For more information on the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs project see: Chilterns Conservation Board Projects We would also like to thank the Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Environmental Record Centre and the Bucks & MK Natural Environment Partnership for part funding this work as part of the Local Wildlife Sites project. Ranger Leila

Farming and Conservation Hundreds of years of farming have greatly moulded the Chilterns landscape that we know and recognise today; farming taking up three quarters of the Chilterns land area. The rolling hills with their undulating mosaics of farmed fields, dissected by partitioning hedgerows, is a feature most of us Chilterns-dwellers know and love, many of us finding a sense of peace and opportunities to become budding landscape photographers as we wander through or around arable fields or livestock-grazed grasslands, characteristic of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

species of birds over the winter. Farmers have also signed up to planting an extensive amount of new hedgerow, of which we have lost 1,500 miles worth since WW2, meaning the creation of a significant amount of new hedgerow habitat for the myriad species of plants, invertebrates, mammals and birds that call that habitat home. While there may be some (misplaced) sentiment that farming is destructive to habitat, it is far more important that we understand the role farming and farms have played in being custodians of the land, shapers of the landscape and contributors to conservation. It is our belief that, working with farmers to reach conservation targets will create a cohesive plan of conservation and landscape management for the area, ensuring we can maintain and keep the beautiful Chilterns AONB landscape as it is, for future generations to enjoy. Ranger Leila

Farming has long played a role in this area; agriculture has been present in the Chilterns for thousands of years and it has been a direct contributor to the AONB landscape. It is therefore important that as we move forward in managing the Chilterns and its landscape that the voices of the farming community are heard and that they are brought into the discussions regarding conservation, management and development of the landscape and the associated habitats and wildlife. Through the Landscape Connections project within the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs scheme, work is being done to engage farmers with conservation activities, providing a means for them to meet conservation goals within the settings of their farms. The project has opened discussions and engaged with 18 farms across the Chilterns – totalling 6,500 acres – all of whom have signed up for supplementary feeding to support many

…farmers are the key to the survival of this protected landscape along with the delivery of eco-system services and biodiversity objectives. – Georgia Craig, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire National Farmers Union Adviser


Be A Ranger Days: Bates Wells September saw our biggest ever Be a Ranger day when veritable hordes of legal folk travelled sustainably by rail and coach, (some even cycled from Wendover!), from the charity and social enterprise team at Bates Wells, a legal firm based in London. We assembled at Sands Bank Local Nature Reserve in High Wycombe over-looking the hallowed turf, of top of League One (correct at time of writing) Wycombe Wanderers Football Club, to help manage scrub by cutting and burning it and cutting and raking arears of the grassland. This was specifically targeted conservation work and benefits the rare chalk grassland habitat and the associated species of wildflowers and invertebrates especially butterflies it supports. We were joined by volunteers from Butterfly Conservation Upper Thames Branch and the Chilterns Conservation Board Chalk, Cherries and Chairs team who all got stuck in and took the tally to 80 on site! The event came a few days after the firm’s Managing Partner, Martin Bunch, had declared Bates Wells’ commitment to significantly reducing its impact on the planet as part of addressing the climate emergency and at the same time it committed to helping address the biodiversity crisis as part of its status as a B Corporation. This day delivered on both declarations. How? I hear you ask – surely burning scrub is BAD? Well, as we explained on the day and for our readers’ benefit here… managing scrub is a positive thing to do and is essential to help conserve the wildlife which depends on open or more mixed conditions, often referred to as a habitat mosaic. If we don’t do this, quite quickly, the valuable grassland is lost to secondary woodland which has limited value in terms of species it supports because the specialist chalk grassland species such as Chalkhill Blue or Grizzled Skipper butterflies or flowers like Eyebright and Pyramidal Orchids disappear.


In terms of the carbon - it’s also part of the carbon cycle and well managed grassland soils are actually carbon sinks due to the way the carbon is locked in by the plants into the soil. Also the land is not being deforested and built on but staying in a ‘natural’ state. There’s more to it though so for further information have a look at the following links: 1. 2. new-method-could-save-our-iconic-chalkgrasslands/ 3. grassland/lowland-calcareous-grassland The larger bits of wood are stacked to form habitat piles for a range of creatures such as the slow worm we found! This locks up carbon for a number of years until it is slowly released back into the soil through decomposition. As you can read there are many factors involved but to do nothing is simply not an option! Thanks to all who came, check out the film made by our friends at the award winning Cube Video: Bates Wells Be a Ranger Day

Be A Ranger Days: Biffa’s bin doing good! One of October’s Be A Ranger events saw our friends at Biffa leave the comfort of their desks to come out with us for a teambuilding Be A Ranger Day at Penn Wood. And what a day it was, far from rubbish! (Did you see what we did there?!) Biffa’s keen and hardworking volunteers came out to fell Western Hemlock, which was planted initially for economic return. As there is no longer an economic need for Western Hemlock and its wood, Penn Wood is now being reverted to a more natural broadleaved woodland habitat, work we could not have done at such volume without the help of our friends at Biffa. Penn Wood, an area of ancient woodland, was once part of a much bigger common, known as Wycombe Heath. In the early 90s, the area came very close to being turned into a golf course, much to the dismay of the local residents. Thankfully, due to the efforts of said local residents and the Friends of Penn Wood group, a six-year campaign against the golf course was launched which resulted in the successful outcome of no golf course being built. Thank goodness it wasn’t and the woodland remains open to all to enjoy!

Significant work has been undertaken in this beautiful woodland to keep it so and it really was fantastic to see Biffa get really stuck in; ancient woodland is a habitat to be treasured and looked after and we thank you, Biffa, for your time and effort in coming out an helping us and the Woodland Trust look after this beautiful site. Would you like to bring your team out to be a Ranger for a day? We can help you with that! Give us a call today, or head over to our website for more information.

Marsh and Micklefield Update The past few weeks has seen Community Ranger John working on a variety of projects. We’ve cut the mini-wildflower meadows so they are ready to flourish next year and the wildflower area at Wright’s Meadow Centre now has a companion mini-wood, the Wright’s Meadow Centre Copse. This small area has been planted with a mixture of native trees such as hazel, field maple, hawthorn, cherry and rowan and will, in time, become a fantastic wildlife haven as well as just being great to look at. There have been wonderful, inspirational and rewarding sessions on Kingsmead with pupils from Loudwater Combined School and members of the Highcrest Academy Eco-Committee who helped work on hedgerow maintenance, wildflower planting, seed sowing, litter picking as well as raking the freshly cut wildflower areas in the pouring rain! Also, many thanks are due to everyone who came along to the sculpture making session on the Cinema Field. Look out for these sculptures – and more – appearing in the Gomm’s Wood Sculpture Trail over the next few weeks!


Buckinghamshire County Council Local Area Funding Projects We have a great partnership with the Buckinghamshire County Council Communities team and we contribute to their priorities such as Keeping Buckinghamshire Thriving and Attractive and Creating Opportunities for people of all ages, for example: developing self-reliance. We have been working all over Buckinghamshire from the South West Chilterns Marlow Area to Aylesbury. These photographs give you a taster of what we have been up to! Sue Nicholls CAMHS Hospital Garden Build with Barnados Article 12 Youth Group and Johnson and Johnson: In and Out of Schools Projects Lots of our projects this year have been In and Out of Schools Projects where we work with pupils to design their school grounds for wildlife and then implement their design. Lots of planting, meadow creation, woodland management, pond work and art! We then take pupils out to local nature reserves to be junior rangers experiencing conservation in less urban habitats. Through the LAF we have been developing the grounds of Bearbrook Primary, Broughton Junior, West Wycombe Primary, Holy Trinity CE Marlow, Hughenden Primary, Bledlow Ridge School and Highworth Combined.

Family February Half Term LAF Celebration Events Provisional Dates: We will be running family events in many of our LAF areas throughout February Half term. A great chance to come out and make a difference to some special places all over Bucks! These are provisional dates so please check our website calendar nearer the time for confirmation and meet up details. Date Monday, 17th February

Time Event 11.00 am - 14.30 pm Chesham LAF, Restore Hope Latimer Laurel Conservation Cut bringing light to the River Chess Monday, 17th February 10.30 am - 14.30 pm South West Chilterns LAF, Buttlers Hangins Scrub Bash. Park at the old West Wycombe Garden Centre Car Park and wait for the minibus shuttle! th Tuesday, 18 February 11.00 am - 14.30 pm Wendover LAF. Dancers End Coppice Cut Session. Wednesday, 19th Watch this space! Hoping to have an event in the February Beeches LAF, Littleworth Common. Thursday, 20th February 10.00 am - 13.00 pm Greater Aylesbury LAF, Bedgrove Park Arty Bird Box Build and Litter Pick Drop in Event Friday, 21st February 11.00 am - 14.30 pm Beaconsfield Decides LAD, Holtspur Bank Woodland Thinning Session


Fanciful Fungi The summer may have ended in a bit of a rainy washout with the picnic and barbecue season coming to an abrupt and squelchy conclusion… but we always like to look on the bright side here at Chiltern Rangers! The sogginess created near perfect conditions for fanciful fungi and we have been out exploring our local woods to find incredible ink caps, wonderful web caps and enchanting earthstars.

After rubbing her eyes in disbelief and looking a bit more closely, she discovered it was a fungi and not a mammal - a Spiny Puffball (Lycoperdon echinatum)! This striking looking fungus is an ‘occasional’ species so it’s not always easy to find; some mycologists consider it as rare. It’s found in deciduous woodland (often beech) from late summer to autumn. Steph is not completely daft and the hedgehog similarity lends itself to the scientific name where echinatum comes from the Greek word echinos means ‘hedgehog’, or ‘seaurchin’ (both prickly little blighters).

Collared earthstar Deangarden Wood has been especially fruitful this autumn with species such as Common Earthstar, Trooping Funnel, Giant Club, Magpie Inkcap and Saffrondrop Bonnet all waiting to be found. One of the most exhilarating finds was at Desborough Castle (an Ancient Scheduled Monument) where Ranger Steph at first thought she’d found a tiny hedgehog with no legs…

Giant club Such is our passion for learning, that on Saturday 19th October; Rangers Steph, Dan, Leila and Francesca went on a fabulous fungi ID course along with volunteers Colin, Ian and Tink. The full day course was held at the brilliant Field Studies Council site in Mop End. They run loads of natural history courses throughout the year and we really recommend that you have a look at their website and get yourself on a few courses if you are interested It was a great course for Beginner ID and we learnt all about some of the more common genera and their diagnostic features. The woodlands surrounding FSC Amersham presented us with some gems and the closer we looked; the more we found with our species tally coming in at over 40 in just a couple of hours.

Hedgehog or fungi?

There are still lots of fungi to explore at this time of the year so get out and enjoy! 8

Education Education is a big part of Chiltern Rangers work both in Forest schools and work placements. We have enjoyed having 14 work placements this year plus other students working over the summer holidays. Many thanks to Sophie who worked with us recently and sent us the following testimonial: As part of my Environmental Studies degree with the Open University, which I started earlier this year, I applied to do an autumn placement with Chiltern Rangers. This was mainly to improve my practical skills, and to get a better understanding of what it means to manage local sites in a way that maintains key habitats and improves biodiversity. Over my two weeks in High Wycombe I was involved in cutting back grass at Funges Meadow to prepare the ground for next year’s wildflowers and removing invasive species in Penn Wood so that native trees can flourish. One of the most important lessons I learned is the value of clearing some areas in autumn, even though it might seem counter-intuitive in terms of conservation, in order to help sites to become better habitats in future. This is really important at Carver Hill, for example, where scrub removal means that the chalk meadow – one of our rarest habitats in the UK – can establish itself again. Doing so many of these activities alongside volunteers, corporate working groups and local students also showed me how much enthusiasm there is for our wild places, and how many people want to get involved. From planting trees at Wrights Meadow Centre to holly bashing in Kingswood, it has been fantastic to see the change that can be made to both small and large sites in a just a few hours. I very much hope to return and do more of this vital work as I carry on with my studies.

This autumn saw our team run species ID sessions for pupils from Hamilton Academy, a local primary school, with the aim of encouraging and improving their ability to recognise different species whilst out in nature. Ninety school children joined us across three sessions at Keep Hill picnic site, an area of chalk grassland in the woods rich in biodiversity, to begin to hone their skills.

provided the ideal conditions for these organisms, so they were lots to pore over. The children managed to ID Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), Magpie inkcap (Coprinopsis picacea), and King Alfred’s cakes (Daldinia concentrica), whilst being introduced to Candlesnuff (Xylaria hypoxylon) and Green Elfcup (Chlorociboria aeruginascens).

We started with tree ID, providing them with FSC (Field Studies Council) guides and asking them to collect as many different leaves as possible, figuring out what tree they came from, and telling the Ranger and teachers what they had found. Oak, beech, ash, and yew to name a few. Then on to fungi identification, with a strict “no pick, no lick” policy, as we want anything living to stay in situ and, as we all know, some mushrooms are very poisonous. It’s been a great year for fungi, as the warm summer followed by heavy rainfall has 9

Magpie inkcap

To end each session, we had that most popular of activities, a bug hunt! Kids love catching mini beasts and looking at them through our magnifying viewers (to be fair, so do us adults), and this bunch were no different. There were spiders, beetles, and woodlice galore, too many things to list here, but I think the discovery of a common frog caused the most hysteria. Fun was had by all, and we hope that these sessions have sparked a budding interest in the natural world in a new generation. In these troubling times of ecological collapse, providing these youngsters with an opportunity to foster knowledge and respect for the environment is very important, and a vital part of the work that we do. Ranger Dan

A big thank you to Aliya who is a 6th form student from Beaconsfield High School. She sent the following testimonial to her head teacher in October 2019 after taking part in one of our sessions: I just wanted to thank you, on behalf of everyone who has signed up to volunteer with Chiltern Rangers in Period 5 on Wednesdays. We had our first session this Wednesday before breaking up for half-term and each one of us really enjoyed it. It was a totally different experience to anything we have done in school, and some of us would never have had the opportunity to get involved in something like this if it weren’t for the school. We were allowed to use proper tools taking on big tasks like cutting down trees for conservation. Some of the other girls I talked to said it felt amazing to be given such important tasks to do and not have to be supervised the whole time, it made us feel independent and when we hit a problem we felt encouraged to talk about it and find a solution between ourselves. I think we can all say that our critical thinking and teamwork skills have improved a lot and will hopefully continue to improve in the upcoming sessions. The site we worked on was a rare chalk stream. We were told there are not many of them around in the world anymore, just knowing this made any contribution we made feel so much more important. By the end of the two hours, we could see a significant difference in the area. To me, the thought that I could do something like this, which will affect so many organisms in a positive way, was a powerful reminder that we are all useful and it felt very rewarding. One empowering thing we all learnt was how strong we actually are, physically and mentally. Some of the work was quite strenuous and, although we could easily choose not to do the more strenuous work, the majority of us did it anyway, pushing both the physical and mental boundaries we have put on ourselves. And I have to mention the tremendous effect working with nature had on our mental health. Even after all the hard work which made us uncomfortably hot and all the times we stung ourselves on stinging nettles, we were all excited and happy as we walked back to get to go home. Again, thank you very much for taking the time and effort to organise this wonderful opportunity for us. We all really appreciate it and we are looking forward to all the future sessions. 10

Volunteer Updates Volunteer of the Season It is with great delight that we announce our Volunteer of the Season: Mr. Jacob Pestana! Jacob has taken leaps and bounds forward in terms of development this season, on both a personal and practical level. Not only taking on new responsibilities personally, but also taking on a deputy role for many of us Rangers when out on site. We would also like to take a moment to acknowledge that Jacob has also started taking on tea duties (and we all know how important a role that is here at Chiltern Rangers – we even mention it in our job advertisements!) and what smashing cups of tea and coffee they are too! Congratulations Jacob, we are delighted to award you Volunteer of the Season, keep up the incredible work!

Volunteer of the Year We are really proud to announce this year’s winner of the coveted Volunteer of the Year Award is our very own Allan Foster. Allan joined us in 2018, joining us on Mega Mondays initially but also joining us for Fab Friday fun. Allan worked so very hard, responding well to being taught new conservation tasks and activities and being a hardworking and integral part of the team. As Chiltern Rangers, it was very rewarding to see such a committed individual grow and develop and we are very grateful for all the hard work that Allan put in during his time here. Congratulations, Allan, here’s to all your hard work and future adventures, we hope to see you soon!

Work Experience Volunteer of the Year Both Priyanka and Yusaff have been working here at Chiltern Rangers with us for well over a year now, starting their work experience journey with their class as a part of our ‘Chiltern Wood School Stepping Stones to Work Experience’ sessions up at Chairborough Local Nature Reserve. Over their time with us we have been delighted to see their confidence grow phenomenally. From first joining our Mega Monday team, supported by a member of staff, they are now able to come out independently with our Ranger Team. It has been wonderful to see their journey of development and it certainly makes us happy to hear they have been asking to join us for even more sessions. Yussaf and Priyanka, we thank and salute you and your hard work!


Green Thursday Volunteer of the Year

Work Placement of the Year Our work placement of the year award goes to Tink Middleton for her absolute assimilation into Chiltern Rangers – it was like she was always a part of the team! Tink joined us from the Open University, where she is currently studying towards a BSc in Environmental Science. As a part of this degree, Tink was offered an opportunity to carry out a work placement in keeping with her degree and luckily for us, she picked Chiltern Rangers. Tink threw herself into supporting us, getting involved in all practical tasks, willing and able to get stuck into whatever needed doing, no matter the task. Tink was a delight to have around and yet another brilliant example of just how much our volunteers, no matter how they end up with us, really are such an integral part of our work here at Chiltern Rangers. Thank you Tink, congratulations on winning Work Experience of the Year!

This year’s Green Thursday winner has been such a big part of Green Thursday for a while now, often supporting others quietly and consistently. Chris Barratt, we would like to award you our Green Thursday Volunteer of the Year for all the hard work you do. Not only in supporting others at Green Thursday but also for the sheer amount of litter you must have picked up over the many, many years that you have been a part of Green Thursday. It’s been so long, in fact, we can’t even remember when you started. That, in itself, is testament to just how long Chris has been a part of Chiltern Rangers and how long he has been giving up his free time to support us, the work we do and the people we work with. Thank you, Chris, we appreciate all you do for us and congratulations on being our Green Thursday Volunteer of The Year!

Free offer to our volunteers worth over £50! Rangers Steph, Dan and Francesca will be attending a course on identifying deciduous trees in winter, run by the Field Studies Council at their Amersham site. The course will look at the features of twigs, bark and buds to help to identify some commonly found trees, referring to an ID guide which we get to keep at the end. The tutor is Rachel Cassidy, professional gardener, field botanist and consultant forensic horticulturalist – safe to say that we will be in very knowledgeable hands! We have 3 places on this course to give away for free to our volunteers (worth £45 + £7 ID guide to keep). You’ll need warm clothing and sturdy shoes as we’ll be outside, and a packed lunch. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. We can potentially offer lifts from Chiltern Rangers depot to Amersham Field Centre. When: Saturday, 29th February 2020 10 am – 4 pm Where: Amersham Field Centre Mop End, Amersham, HP7 0QR

Email to request your free place – first come first served! 12

Get Involved New Landscape scale wildlife surveying programme: the Chilterns Conservation Board need volunteers Passionate about the wildlife of the Chilterns? Want to to carry out bird, butterfly or plant surveys in new and unexplored areas? Want to improve your ID and survey skills? Want to help train new wildlife surveyors? Tracking the Impact might be of interest to you... The Chilterns Conservation Board has teamed up with Butterfly Conservation, British Trust for Ornithology, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Plantlife to deliver an exciting new landscapescale wildlife surveying programme across the Central Chilterns area. New surveying opportunities will be on offer not only for experienced surveyors but also the next generation through a species ID and survey training package. For further information see: Landscape-scale wildlife surveying programme

And finally... Keep an eye out for our ‘new look’ website which will be launched soon. There are a number of project updates and it should be easier to find your way around. You can continue to find us at:

If you would like further information or to comment on anything in this newsletter please contact us: tel: 01494 474486 email: website:


Best wishes from the Chiltern Rangers team! Make your new year’s resolution to improve your mental and physical wellbeing by getting out and enjoying the countryside more. A walk in the winter has so much to offer – the birds can’t hide so easily and it’s surprising to see how many animal tracks appear in the snow. We wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Inspiring and enriching communities, through conservation, education & community engagement 14

Profile for Chiltern Rangers

Winter Newsletter 2019  

Winter is a busy season and we have lots of project updates for you in this issue, plus our Volunteer Awards and a special offer for our fan...

Winter Newsletter 2019  

Winter is a busy season and we have lots of project updates for you in this issue, plus our Volunteer Awards and a special offer for our fan...