By Ilona Livarski & Steph Rodgers


On Friday 11th March 2022, Chiltern Rangers celebrated our wonderful volunteers by having a party! It was a case of “better late than never” as we were celebrating 2021 as a whole, as well as awarding our volunteer of the Autumn season (which runs for September – December for us).

In true Chiltern Rangers’ style, we were also there to make somewhere better for people and for wildlife. The wonderful West Wycombe Parish Council were keen to turn the burial ground into a better space and place for wildlife and the community. It is not often we get a blank canvas where our improvements can have an instant impact for biodiversity but this project showcases how partnership working can make a difference. The Parish Clerk, Sharon Henson has been instrumental in ‘making things happen’ and we saw the site as the perfect place to deliver objectives as part of the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Connections Project. What, until now, has been an unsympathetically managed square of grass, now has the potential to be a thriving haven for wildlife (and local residents!) Previously, the grass has been mown and the cuttings left in situ leading to a nutrient-rich soil. In turn, this creates the perfect conditions for dominant grasses, nettles and thistles to out-compete the more delicate wildflowers which need less fertile soil and the space to germinate (almost impossible with a thick thatch of dominant grass). Last summer, we spent two days cutting and collecting the grass arisings, using our ride-on mower as well as brush cutters to tackle the thick sward. Our volunteers then gave it a thorough raking to break open the thatch, creating bare soil and better conditions for wildflowers.

This work was followed up in the autumn/winter by grazing. Sharon liaised with a local herdswoman for a flock of sheep to graze the area. After discussions and planning with Ranger Steph, the plan was put into action. Fast-forward to our volunteer day and it was time to get some trees in the ground and prepare for spring sowing!


The day was fantastic, so thank you for everyone that came! We invited all of our volunteers, as well as Year 5 from West Wycombe Combined School to improve West Wycombe Burial Ground for wildlife. We had a brilliant turnout, and got lots of work done!

Overall, 3 wildflower beds were prepared – we will return in May with West Wycombe School to plant wildflower plug plants and sow wildflower seed. 15 bird boxes were created and 12 put up around the site to encourage hole-nesting birds. 40 whips were planted to create a scrubby edge between the grassland and mature trees. Finally, the children planted a new Community Orchard. Ten fruit trees included species of apple, plum and pear, and were chosen specifically for Buckinghamshire’s landscape. It was a brilliant effort from all that came, and it was lovely to work hard for all the food that we ate at lunchtime!

Projects like this are made possible through partnership working so thank you to the Heritage Lottery Fund who have funded the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership Project, managed by the Chilterns Conservation Board.

Onto our award winners! Choosing our award winners was extremely difficult, as we have so many fantastic volunteers who give up so much of their time to support and work with us. 2021 was a challenging year; we were restricted by Covid until July, and even now we are still seeing the effects of Covid through cancellations. Despite this, over 5000 volunteers came out with us and over 13,000 volunteer hours were given. In simple terms, we exceeded our targets for the year, and we couldn’t have done it without all of our wonderful volunteers. So thank you to each and every one of you.

Green Thursday Volunteer of the Season (Autumn 2021) – Peter O’Brien
Our first award was volunteer of the season! Many of our Green Thursday volunteers are regulars, who come week in week out. So in actual fact, most of our Green Thursday volunteers could have won this award.
However, Pete has been volunteering for a very long time with Chiltern Rangers, possibly from when Chiltern Rangers was established in 2013. He comes every week and works incredibly hard, and often stays past 1pm when everyone else has left. We usually have to force him to stop working, usually when I get hungry and want to eat my lunch! Thank you for all your hard work Pete!

Other nominees include, but are not limited to:

  • Pete Adams – who shows up every week and just cracks on without complaint. Pete works incredibly hard and we are super grateful for him!
  • Brian Gibbons – again, Brian comes along every week and has earned the status of our champion litter picker. Brian often finds litter that you didn’t know was there, and regularly ends the session with 2+ bags of litter.

Volunteer of the Season (Autumn 2021) – Ashley Ing
Volunteer of the Season was chosen from the pool of our volunteers who come out in our other sessions during the week. We have a variety of volunteers who often volunteer for a variety of projects! From our Monday & Friday volunteers who often join us at Wycombe sites, to volunteers who work with schools or corporate groups. We do a lot of things at Chiltern Rangers and all our volunteers make up a vital part of this.
We chose Ashley for our volunteer of the season for many different reasons. Ashley has been volunteering for a long time and has become a very familiar and reliable face at Chiltern Rangers. He works hard, has a real enthusiasm for the work that we do, and is always excited about new sites. He is not just keen to work out on site, he is also incredibly helpful back at the depot, and is always looking to help until the end of the work day. Lastly, it has been lovely to watch him grow in confidence, even in the last year that I have known him. So, thank you Ashley for everything you do!

Other nominees include, but again are not limited to:

  • Perry Hayward – for always being on call for such a variety of projects. Pretty much any time we ask Perry if he’s available to help, he is. And he is such a mighty help – particularly when working with schools and young people.
  • Andy Hyde – Andy joined us towards the end of the year, having recently moved to Wycombe. He has proven himself to be committed, very helpful and full of good suggestions – since he is a landscape gardener by trade!

Work Experience of the Year – Alice Baldwin
We have had lots of work experience students over the last year, but none stood out as much as our winner this year. Alice came to us through our stepping stone project, and so started as a work experience student every Friday, and then carried on volunteering with us over the school holidays whenever she could. Alice grew in confidence tenfold and it’s been wonderful to see over the time she’s volunteered with us.

Green Thursday Volunteer of the Year – James Harris
James has been volunteering with Chiltern Rangers since before Chiltern Rangers was established, when they were still part of the council. He comes along every week, very enthusiastic about wildlife, and loves to learn about the subject at home. Although he can be a very cheeky chappie, he works hard and it’s been a pleasure working with him!
No other special mentions for this category, because our other nomiees for Green Thursday volunteer of the season, could also have been nominees/winner for the volunteer of the year!

Volunteer of the Year – Jonathan Cains
As I said previously, it’s been a strange year (although I don’t know what Chiltern Rangers was like before covid), but I know that we wouldn’t be the same without our wonderful volunteers. The year has been very disjointed but whenever they could, so many of you volunteers came out when you could. So thank you!
Jonathan has been volunteering with Chiltern Rangers for a couple of years now and it’s been great to see him develop over that time. He’s not only gained his brushcutter qualification, but he also has a really good knowledge of species and clearly invests time in reading around the subject. He’s safe and reliable on site and always works hard too. So thank you for all that you do for us Jonathan!

Other honourable mentions include:

  • Karina O’Meara – Karina has been amazing working with Alfriston School so regularly, but also coming out to weekday and weekend sessions too. She’s been a fabulous help brushcutting and we really appreciate Karina spreading the word amongst her friends too!
  • Richard Bock – Richard is a legend at Chiltern Rangers. He comes out regularly, and is always willing to help when we specifically ask him to! He works so hard, and anyone that is younger than him is always in awe of how hard he works!
  • Jean Peasley – Jean is such a reliable volunteer and is vital to many of the sessions she helps with. She is very responsible and so often helps sessions go smoothly! She often helps with unpacking at the end of the day at the depot, which we are very grateful for!

So, to all our volunteers, nominees and winners, we cannot thank you enough for all that you do for us. Thank you for a fantastic 2021, and here’s to a brilliant 2022!