Inspiring and Enriching Communities
Enhancing Local Environments
Inspiring and Enriching Communities
Enhancing Local Environments
Meet the Team
Chiltern Rangers was founded in June 2013 by John Shaw and Tony Speight. We are a social enterprise delivering practical woodland management and advice. Since then we have expanded our team of staff which also includes a number of volunteers.
We aim to provide enriching experiences with local communities to conserve and enhance the local environment. We are based in High Wycombe and operate in and around the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
What is a CIC?
A Community Interest Company is a limited company, with special additional features, created for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage.
In our case, the purpose is to improve the local environment and to enrich the lives of the local community through practical conservation work and volunteering opportunities.
I have led Chiltern Rangers since we spun out from Wycombe District Council in Sept 2013 – how time flies when you’re having fun!!
Setting up a new social enterprise has been something of a learning curve, which in reality more closely resembles the north face of the Eiger than a curve especially in those early years.
The learning never stops but hopefully is more Marlow Hill than North Face…
I really enjoy the time I spend working in our woodlands and nature reserves, improving them for wildlife but crucially doing that conservation work with people from all walks of life, from all parts of our community. That much has never changed.
Today for example, we spent a fantastic autumn morning at one of our bigger, long term projects at Deangarden Wood in High Wycombe, an ancient semi-natural broad-leafed woodland in need of some TLC. It’s a Carington estate site and we are helping restore it as part of a brownfield redevelopment agreement. We are starting with opening up the paths and creating small glades and scalloped edges.
Sessions like these and others we run, give me such a buzz, working with the Green Thursday volunteers having fun outdoors in nature and giving back – it’s just so good for our health & well-being.
As MD, much of my time is putting the three Ps (people, places and pounds) in place which make a project, like the one above, come to life. Once we line those up, we can set about making the people and the places better – that is the true power of social enterprise.
We are about to launch our next 5 year plan which includes our single biggest challenge to date, a relocation to a new, purpose built and environmentally-friendly community hub serving and supporting the wider community and environment. Beyond that there are conservation projects with young people, the military and more in the pipeline.
It’s a really exciting time and will unlock our future potential at the heart of the community.
It’s really important to me that as an organisation, we are as inclusive as possible and engage people of all ages and abilities. We give lots of volunteering and work experience opportunities to young people and people who may struggle in the mainstream ‘system’ for a number of reasons. Inclusivity has always been important to me, however this is driven even more so by my gorgeous daughter Holly (9) who has Angelman’s Syndrome – a rare neurological genetic disorder, learn more at www.angelmanuk.org
Away from the office, I enjoy spending time with my wife Louise and Holly – who happily loves being outdoors – nature/nurture? We often can be seen scooting around Burnham Beeches.
Apart from lattes and gallons of tea to keep me going, I enjoy real ale particularly the legendary IPA from our local brewery Rebellion in Marlow and red wine from, well, anywhere really!
In sport, I love/endure watching Wycombe Wanderers at football, Beaconsfield RFC at rugby and playing cricket for Penn & Tylers Green.
Thanks for checking out our website keep up to date on our projects and ramblings on Twitter & Facebook, I look forward to meeting you at one of our sites very soon.
I have always enjoyed the outdoors and spent a lot of my childhood cycling through the countryside. Admittedly it was partly through necessity. When you are too young to drive, buses arrive only once or twice a week and the nearest shop is nearly four miles away it does become the only reasonable way to travel. Luckily it was South Lincolnshire, an extremely flat part of the country (although it can be very windy).
There may well have been fields at the front of my house and fields to the rear of my house and generally a landscape that is almost devoid of trees and hedges but I did get to see on a regular basis Starling murmurations, hares in the fields, Tawney Owls, Little Owls, Stoats, Weasels and Barn Owls as well as a wide range of farmland birds. Something that I never really appreciated until I moved away so I want to make sure that people do appreciate the wildlife on their doorstep. You don’t know how long it will be there for and without help a lot of it will be lost.
After leaving the flat lands, getting a degree in Zoology and doing some travelling around Europe I eventually moved to High Wycombe and volunteered to gain some practical experience in conservation management and an NVQ in Environmental Conservation. Since then I have always worked in conservation with an emphasis on community engagement.
I have been part of Chiltern Rangers CIC since its inception, helping to make sure that the business is a success. I have quite a mixed role within the organisation generally trying to make sure that the business is on an even keel and we are delivering everything that we’ve promised. That means I can be doing a day of practical work, followed by a day of chasing up invoices and planning, followed by a day of discussing business strategy and how we can ensure we’re a viable business for many years to come. It has been hard work but worth it and plan to be here for many years to come as we continue to improve The Chilterns and surrounding areas for the people and wildlife that live here.
I still enjoy the outdoors and luckily my work gives me the opportunity to get out more than most people but I do find myself sitting in front of a desk more than I would like. The cycling stopped for a long time but I am now back in the saddle cycling to work when the weather isn’t too bad and go on the occasional weekend ride through the Chilterns where the hills make the rides a bit more challenging!
I have always felt passionate about the natural world and am constantly amazed at the feelings of peace and calm it gives me. My working life began at the Grassland Research Institute in Hurley where I had my first bird ringing experience. Seeing a flock of linnets so close up made quite an impression. In between marrying my husband, Francois and having children I ran my own ceramics business which was a fascinating insight into what one could do with a bit of mud and sand!
I then worked in Human Resources for some years and, seeking a change, I spent 8 years as a volunteer advisor at the Citizens Advice Bureau. Both these previous positions were great preparation for working at Chiltern Rangers where I have worked as office manager since May 2014. At last I found a position working with other people who were interested in conservation and nature. Being part of the Chiltern Rangers’ team has been very rewarding and enjoyable for me.
I have lived in the Chilterns for most of my life and have spent many hours observing, painting and photographing the wildlife around me. My other main interests are playing tennis, gardening and walking all over the Chilterns with my dog, Nala, often catching up with friends or family at the same time.
Education and Community Projects Manager
I have had a varied and interesting career that has now led me into working for Chiltern Rangers. I worked in the commercial side of the Biotech industry before training to be a primary school teacher. I spent sixteen years teaching in schools, the last six years as a headteacher. I have always loved the outdoors, my interest in conservation grew over the last few years where I found myself spending more and more time working at my ranger aunt’s croft in Inverness during the holidays. I Ieft teaching at the end of 2014 and spent a year gaining lots of new experience. I worked with our friends at BBOWT as a conservation trainee where I learnt so much. On a lighter note we built up our fitness from time to time running around trying to round up their very jumpy Hebridean Sheep. To continue the working with animals theme I spent a few months milking cows on the evening shift.
As an all-rounder, I love my role at Chiltern Rangers and that we have the focus of both communities and conservation. I work with teachers and pupils helping them to set up and run their Forest Ranger Schools, enjoy using my new found skills in practical conservation work with lots of lovely volunteers, putting together project funding bids and working with communities so that they can make the most of and look after our beautiful nature reserves and river.
One of my favourite projects so far was working with the amazing team of young people and staff at Harlow House CAMHS day hospital. We transformed a disused garden courtyard in to a vibrant place for patients and staff to relax in. The project seemed to encapsulate everything that motivates me: working with lovely people in need of encouragement, designing and then building something special together, creating a beautiful habitat for plants, animals and people, plus I get to play with power tools!
For those of you who might be confused by the surname, I was Paul New but changed to my wife Amanda’s name Stack when we married a little while ago. Away from Chiltern Rangers, I enjoy spending time with Amanda and step children, cooking for family and friends, a nice pint of real ale, a woodwork project, playing tennis and golf (I like to say to myself that the banter is more important than winning!) I am about a year and a half away from being a black belt in Taekwondo – if my memory for the increasingly complex patterns holds up and I survive the increasingly fast and furious sparring!
Growing up in the countryside (briefly in the Cambridgeshire Fens then the slightly more hilly area of the Herefordshire / Worcestershire border) I’ve always had a love for nature and the outdoors, especially the links between people and place and the arts and the environment. Having the Malvern Hills on one side of the village and the small orchards, fields and lanes of east Herefordshire on the other clearly made an impression – another favourite part of the world that I’m very lucky to spend time in is rural Jutland.
After finishing my MPhil I lived and worked in Staffordshire and Cheshire – a good few years on my narrowboat (now no longer with me). I then moved to Wycombe – it was only supposed to be for a couple of years but have now been here for over twenty.
After a long spell working in bookselling I took the life-changing decision to abruptly leave my job and stepped off the cliff – luckily there were good people at the bottom to catch me!
I started with Chiltern Rangers as a volunteer, firstly with the Green Thursday group and then on a more full-time basis before joining the team as a Trainee Ranger. I qualified as a Forest School Leader and now spend a lot of my time working with community groups and schools and I also work as a Community Ranger in partnership with Marsh & Micklefield Big Local. Working with a diverse range of people is a hugely rewarding experience and Forest School is a highlight of the week (although the children find it hard to imagine a primary school where there were only 30 people, including teachers…)
Outside of work I enjoy walking, art and photography and firmly believe that in life there cannot be too much music, too much cider or too many books…
I grew up in Wantage, Oxfordshire next to the wide open tree-less spaces of the Berkshire Downs and The Ridgeway. First volunteered for – then Worked for – The Ridgeway National Trail after graduating. Smuggled into woody High Wycombe in 1993/4 as part of British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) invasion of Bassetsbury Manor to run “weirdy beardy” (thanks, Dad) community / conservation projects. Married local girl Marion from (office) chair-making family in 1996 to prevent deportation back to Oxfordshire (and for love, obviously). Briefly sighted running national BTCV membership and leadership training programmes. Then I had a “sensible” phase of 10+ years, spent fiddling full-time with computers for money in open plan offices, server rooms and datacenters. Since 2008 I have variously juggled looking after our daughter Naomi, managing a local Furniture Re-Use Project, running a small IT consultancy business and keeping my allotment (from reverting to grassland).
Chiltern Rangers: I came to Chiltern Rangers in 2013 as John needed someone tall to paint the ceilings in the depot (for beer). Somehow I have ended up driving the Green Thursdays minibus, mowing / brushcutting / chopping trees down, and fixing equipment at the depot. Most likely to say: “What’s the plan for tomorrow, Tony?” Least likely to say: “No biscuits thanks, I’m on a diet.”
Ranger and work experience co-ordinator
Like a lot of people, it took me a while to work out what I wanted to do in life (I haven’t got all areas covered yet either). I have been a successful imposter along the way and my route to becoming a Ranger is fairly convoluted with most of what I was doing beforehand being totally disparate to where I am today! There are thousands of clichés I could insert here but I’m definitely a believer in staying patient, trusting the journey and, however hard it seems, never giving up.
I worked as a Lifeguard whilst I collected a few A-levels; had a fun-fuelled few years at Sussex Uni studying English and Media; graduated and spent a couple of years working for a local Solicitors pretending that I was blissfully happy being shackled to a desk from 9 to 5…
Next step was my PGCE at Reading Uni. Teaching is brilliant but exhausting and after teaching English in a secondary school for 5 years I was more than ready for a new challenge (and a long nap).
One of the kids’ favourite sayings was ‘YOLO’ and as much as it annoyed me as an excuse for the slightest misdemeanour; they were right… You Only Live Once. So I took a massive (and frightening) leap of faith and left my job and started a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Conservation and Wildlife Management at Sparsholt College, Hampshire.
As part of the study programme at Sparsholt, I needed to arrange a Work Placement. You know the Universe is giving you opportunities when things just seem to fall into place. There I was, walking my dog through Penn Woods (one of my favourite local places), wondering if I was doing the right thing; worrying I’d made a terrible mistake (I wasn’t always very good at trusting the process), when I happened across a poster nailed to the gatepost…. it was a Chiltern Rangers poster advertising a volunteer session. I took down the number and later that day phoned John. Work Placement organised, I then started volunteering on my day off from college. Without a doubt, volunteering is one of the best ways of getting into conservation careers – I learnt so much extra from being out with the team – it was a great way to consolidate my studies and get experience in the practical delivery of habitat management.
I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world in that I truly love coming to work each day and I look forward to being outside in our beautiful local countryside. It is great working with so many different people: I like the people element alongside making our local environment better for wildlife.
Outside of work, I love walking and exploring with my dog Scout; keeping tropical fish and swimming (not with the tropical fish – the tank is too small). I recently swam the distance between Dover and Calais – 22 miles! All done in the pool – none of that dodging container ships business.
Local boy born and bred, I was bought up in the countryside just out of town and spent a lot of time outside as a kid, nature was, and still is, fascinating to me. After leaving school, I’ve floated around different jobs with no real plan; some general handyman labouring, window fitting and fabricating, and retail management.
Having considered conservation volunteering before, when I heard about Chiltern Rangers through a friend (who highly recommended them) I decided to take the frankly terrifying plunge in 2016 and quit my job to start some volunteering. I very quickly realised that I loved it and increased the days to three or more a week. It’s very interesting seeing some of the places I spent as a youth through fresh eyes, and to now have an active role in their management. I’ve learnt, and am still learning, so much, and after eighteen months of this hugely rewarding experience I’ve got a job out of it! It’s a lot of fun and all with a lovely bunch of people. It’s very gratifying to be able to protect and enhance our natural places, and to give something back to the community that I spent a lot of my years growing up in.
Our wonderful volunteers
Chiltern Rangers would not be the successful organisation it is without our many fantastic and loyal volunteers. Thanks to their hard work and enthusiasm we are able to make a significant difference to the local environment and our beautiful Chiltern woodlands. Some of our volunteers work with the rangers in outdoor conservation and have been with us for years. Anne works tirelessly on our finances, Louise is on the spot for sending posts to our social media and has greatly raised our presence in this area and and if we want a poster designed or have other marketing needs.
Huge thanks to all our volunteers, however many hours you put in.