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June news from the Chilterns AONB

In this Issue

Top image: Manor Farm Local Wildlife Site, Bradenham. Credit: Nick Middleton

Chilterns farmer achieves Local Wildlife Site status for Manor Farm

Chilterns based farmer, Andrew Stubbings, has been turning his farm into a stronghold for nature and wildlife for more than 20 years. His farm has recently been designated a ‘Local Wildlife Site’ – a recognition given to the most exceptional and valuable wildlife areas in the UK. Manor Farm is now one of the biggest Local Wildlife Sites in Buckinghamshire, with an impressive 225 hectares of land achieving designation.  

It is very unusual for farmland on such a large scale to be designated – it’s more common for specific fields or smaller areas on farms to gain designation so the scale of this award in Buckinghamshire is unprecedented. 

Find out more about Andrew and his amazing farm!

Six reasons not to feed red kites

The spotlight's been on the red kites of the Chilterns this month. Following a spate of complaints to the Chilterns Conservation Board, we've issued advice encouraging people not to feed the red kites of the Chilterns.

These magnificent birds have been a conservation success story ever since they were reintroduced in the 1990s, following decades of persecution pushing them almost to the point of extinction. When they're regularly fed, they can become too bold for comfort - diving to steal food out of people's hands. Feeding stops them dispersing to find new territories and causes greater concentrations in one area - which discourages smaller birds.

Feeding (by licensed feeding centres) can be helpful in areas such as Wales where numbers are still low, but here in the Chilterns red kites are thriving and well equipped to scavenge for dead animals to feed on which is their best diet. This fantastic photo by Steve Gozdz of GG Wildlife Experiences shows three kites fighting over a dead squirrel. Enjoy red kites in their natural environment on a walk in the Chilterns. 

Read our advice

Save Water, Save our Chalk Streams

We're lucky in the Chilterns to have nine chalk streams. A drought in 2019 saw some of the lowest flows across these streams - by September of that year 67% of the total length of chalk stream habitat in the Chilterns AONB was dry. Chalk streams support a wide diversity of plants and animals, including fast declining species such as the water vole. Low water flows are one of the biggest threats to the biodiversity of the Chilterns’ chalk streams, affecting its fish populations, invertebrates, plants and mammals.

If we all work together, we can make a difference, whether this be having short showers, shallow baths, and campaigning for water companies to switch off abstraction from chalk streams. Affinity Water has now stopped abstraction from the River Chess, for example, with plans to stop abstraction in other areas, too. They also offer advice and water saving equipment on their website.

Read more

New monthly Volunteering Blog series launched

For Volunteers Week 2022 we launched a new monthly blog series celebrating volunteers in the Chilterns. Behind every beautiful protected landscape is an army of volunteers! Volunteers are key to caring for the Chilterns special habitats and heritage sites and making sure they survive and thrive. 

The first in the series is 26 year old Jacob Pestana, a regular volunteer for Chiltern Rangers for the last eight years.
Jacob shares the huge variety of skills he's learnt, from planting hundreds of trees to building a bird box, putting branches through a woodchipper to using a lopper and how to safely fell a tree.

Conservation volunteering has helped Jacob’s confidence and independence in the face of bereavement, autism and dyspraxia, and he describes how calm and relaxed he feels when he gets outdoors. Thank you, Jacob for your amazing dedication to the Chilterns landscape.

Look out for our upcoming Outstanding Chilterns Magazine article on volunteers.
Read Jacob's inspirational story

Royal Tales of the Chilterns: Murder, Lost Treasure and Pole Vaulting

To celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, we've shared some stories about Royals in residence in the Chilterns throughout history and the dramatic rise and fall of Chilterns towns and villages, with tales of battles, murder plots, royal pole vaulting disasters and lost earrings. You can visit all the places mentioned for a great day out!
This photograph shows Wallingford Castle, once one of England's most important castles. 
Take a step back in time

New partnerships forge future plans for the River Chess 

On the 20th May our CEO Dr Elaine King, was delighted to meet with the Chairman of Natural England - Tony Juniper, local MP - Sarah Green, Chiltern Society CEO - Tom Beeston and Chairman of the River Chess Association - Paul Jennings. The topic of the day (aside from the picnic) was to discuss plans for the future of the River Chess.

The team made some great progress and it really highlighted how partnerships and collaboration are so important when it comes to solving complex problems and we're now looking forward to working together to put the plans into practice. 

'Mind the Gap!' Exploring Tring's countryside during the Chilterns Walking Festival

Joe Stewart, the CCB’s newest Board member, recounts an ever-changing springtime walk in the northern Chilterns...

We met on the hot tarmac outside Tring station, which sits amongst fields away from the small town it serves. Our destination wasn’t London, Milton Keynes, Birmingham or Crewe, but the surrounding hills, which rise here from the ‘Tring Gap’ as it splits the Chilterns escarpment in two. We’d come for a walk - part of the Chilterns Walking Festival, and the perfect opportunity to explore this part of Hertfordshire and the Chilterns AONB on a blue-sky May day.
Our 20-strong group was a mix of genders, ages, and backgrounds, with a range of walking experience from first-timers to long distance hikers. Several were members of Stag Walkers - a Ramblers group aimed at 20s and 30s in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and south Cambridgeshire - including our walk leader, Alastair Melville, who’d plotted us a 7-mile route. Register taken, briefing complete, and names shared, it was time to lace up our boots, slap on our sun cream, and get walking.
Follow the rest of Joe's adventure

Whipsnade giraffes chow down on Chilterns willow! 

Meet Bashu (male) and Ijuma (female), two giraffes from Whipsnade Zoo, pictured here enjoying a tasty snack of willow from a property located beside the River Misbourne.

The willow on the property had become unmanageable and so a group of Chiltern Society volunteers cleared all the willow and were wondering what to do with all the cut shoots, which can quickly start to grow again if not removed.

A great suggestion came from our new Project Support Officer, Fran Crowther, who used to work at Whipsnade Zoo. Fran explained that some of the animals feed on willow, so the conservation volunteers bundled it up and the zoo staff came and collected it. The giraffes made the most of the willow, as did the elephants. Willow is most animal's favourite browse (what zoo-keepers call ‘pieces of tree’), and has antibiotic properties in its bark, which can also be good for the animals. It's a great example of finding a useful purpose for vegetation that has been cleared by a conservation project!

Chalk Cherries and Chairs - summer events, project news and upcoming festivals

Our Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Project team has got events, festivals and exciting news coming out of their ears at the moment! You can read all about the fantastic work they are doing in their dedicated newsletter. Click the link below to read it.

From amphibian and reptile surveys to orchard restoration, the Rough around the Edges project is in full swing with so many fantastic community-based activities in place. Find out about a hedgehog project being run by Prestwood Nature and how the children of Widmer End school have been discovering the wildlife in their pond. 

This week we have a few spots left on our chair bodging pub tour with lunch, and a guided walk through Castlefield and Rowliff Woods with afternoon tea - read more and book here. Our festival plans are coming together nicely, and will provide lots of opportunities for everyone to get involved and discover more about the local wildlife and heritage of the Central Chilterns. Read more about the festivals in the newsletter below!
Read the newsletter

What's on in June and July

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter. You can also keep up to date with the latest news and information on our website or by following us on social media.


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