CCC Kingswood Landscape Connections project 2020

A landowner near the Lee contacted Chiltern Rangers to discuss how to use their land to create a legacy for the community.  This opportunity has fitted in perfectly  as part of the Chiltern Conservation Board’s ‘Chalk Cherries and Chair’s Landscape Connections’ project; a National Lottery funded landscape scale endeavour to create and/or restore large-scale habitats on farm and other private land; and helping landowners to improve their land to benefit wildlife.   Chiltern Rangers and our volunteers helped to get the project off the ground. 

Lee Common Squirrels go Planting

 The start of the project Autumn 2020 with Chiltern Rangers

It was a drizzly Thursday morning when Ranger Steph, plus volunteers Karina and Jean headed off on a countryside adventure with the pupils and teachers at Lee Common Church of England School.

Thirty-five children from Reception, Year One and Year Two, (better known as Wrens, Robins and Swallows), appropriately suited and booted, gathered in the hall ready to be squirrels for the day. Ranger Steph talked about what we would be doing whilst we walked, keeping safe whilst we were out and the local trees and plants we would see. Gloves were issued to protect tiny hands against nature’s thorns along with bags to collect the seeds and nuts.

After leaving the school, our damp but happy band of squirrels walked along the public footpath to the field and spread out with their adult leaders and began collecting from the hedgerows.  Bags were getting wet, but our squirrels were not deterred, and we continued our walk through Old Plantation Wood, then into the paddocks, where the horses who usually reside there had been relocated for the morning. The hedgerows in the paddock gave everyone another picking opportunity and after crossing the road, we began the long steady uphill walk along the bridleway which lead to our final stopping point and lunch!

After lunch, everyone spread out into the planting field. Armed with dibbers and small trowels, we set about planting the gathered seeds and nuts.  Our cache of buried treasure included acorns, rosehips, crab apple seeds, field maple keys, bright red haws from hawthorn and juicy sloes from blackthorn.  The excellent planting by the children will give the seeds the absolute best chance of growing into strong saplings.  It is definitely an experiment but it was definitely worthwhile and a great learning opportunity for the children.

Despite the drizzle and mud our squirrels did an outstanding job of collecting and planting the seeds and are looking forward to returning in years to come to watch the plants grow and thrive – a legacy left for their own future children and grandchildren.

Our thanks to the landowners and also to the children of Lee Common School for their enthusiasm and energy throughout the day.

To find out more about the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs project and ways that you can get involved, visit the Chilterns Conservation Board website.

Hedge planting at Kingswood December 2020

After a few fairly bleak days weather-wise, it was a pleasure to finally see the iron skies make way for brilliant rays of sunshine on a crisp and chilly winter’s morning.  It was a beautiful day for a spot of tree-planting, the sort of day you find yourself listing things you’re grateful for – the stunning countryside of the Chilterns being top of the list. 

At 10am on 5th December 2020, local volunteers gathered, eager to get planting and be outside together as the most recent lockdown had just been lifted – at least with planting a linear hedge it was easy to keep socially distant!  Many of the volunteers (27 in total) were from the local community and villages close to Swan Bottom answering the landowner’s plea for assistance, along with 8 Chiltern Rangers volunteers all coming together to create something special. 

And special it was.  The landowners’ home has been here for decades and 2020 marks a change in the way their land will appear in the local landscape from now on.  Fields and paddocks which must have given great pleasure to generations of their friends and family are changing.  

The landowners are bequeathing their land to wildlife, to the planet and to future generations who will enjoy the charming countryside in a more ‘natural’ way.  With the help of Nick Marriner and Harriet Bennett from the Chilterns Conservation Board, the land is being ‘rewilded’.  Mowing regimes will change and trees will be planted to create new woodland connected to existing woodland – our hedgerow planted today will connect the new to the old; a wildlife highway to guide, link and navigate all sorts of species of British wildlife.  The key word in all of this is ‘connect’.  The overarching aim of the Landscape Connections project is to link-up existing habitats and create new ones – as Professor Sir John Lawton called for in ‘Making Space for Nature’, the 2010 review of England’s wildlife sites, we all need to work together to achieve his mantra of “more, bigger, better and joined up”. 

How did our volunteers fair?  It’s safe to say we were pretty blown away by the collective effort.  Almost 600 trees were planted and guarded in about 3 hours!  A mixture of British grown species will create the hedge: Field Maple, Hazel, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dogwood, Dog Rose and Oak – a lovely mixture to appeal to the palates of a wide range of native species!  Eight Hornbeams were also planted as standards and will be left to grow tall to tower along the hedge line in years to come.  A Public Footpath runs parallel to the newly planted hedge and walkers are welcome to check on the health of the hedge and let us know if it needs attention.

What wildlife will the hedgerow attract?  Well, there will be the usual suspects but to really know, we need your help to record and monitor wildlife across the Central Chilterns.  Training is available for anyone interested in learning more about wildlife – you really don’t have to be an expert to get involved!  For more information please email Nick Marriner at the Conservation Board

Our thanks go to all involved in this project and we are excited to see how the landscape responds.  Biggest thanks of all to the landowners – it was an absolute pleasure.