Whether you dream of photographing the stately magnificence of a herd of elephants on the open savannas of Africa, saving sea turtles in the shallow seagrass beds of the Indian Ocean or dedicating your life to the prevention of further reckless deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest, we all need to start somewhere and that place is here and the time is now.
We aren’t all lucky enough to spend gap years and holidays in far flung tropical destinations but, do you know what? We are lucky enough to live in or close to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Chiltern Hills. It’s one of the most enchanting places in England and it’s a great place to start learning more about the natural world and British wildlife. Think global and act local is a pretty good mantra to have in our minds as we kick-start our very exciting Chilterns New Shoots project!
We’ve listened to what other young nature enthusiasts would love to do and have come up with a programme of 10 exciting sessions from June 2021 - March 2022 to take you through a year of British wildlife across all four seasons. Do you want to get better at knowing your Great Tit from a Yellowhammer? Tell your Bee Orchid from Bird’s Foot Trefoil?
If you're aged 15-20, we're giving you your chance to visit some of the Chilterns’ best wildlife habitats to learn from nature professionals about how to identify plants and animals and how best to look after the landscape to give nature its best chance to flourish into the future.
Read on below to find out more about the programme and why YOU should get involved!
What will the programme include? Designed for young people, by young people…
We’ve worked with local BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) Youth Representatives Megan and Luke to develop this programme for other young people who are interested in wildlife and conservation.
The spring and summer months will be glorious! We will spend time helping you develop your species identification skills: think searching the skies for birds, watching butterflies and insects flitting about in the sun and looking at specialist chalk plants of the Chilterns, all in some outstandingly beautiful places. We will have a go at some more structured species surveys but in a relaxed and chilled out way – a picnic with a wildlife focus!
In the autumn and winter, we will focus on how we keep the habitats right to ensure we don’t lose the species we have been looking at in the summer. You’ll get stuck in with practical work and learn why cutting down scrub and trees might sound destructive but is a necessary part of wildlife management.
You will be working with experienced local Ranger teams to work in the woodlands and reserves of the Chilterns to maintain wildlife habitats. You’ll be using hand tools to have a go at ‘scrub bashing’, coppicing, river restoration and habitat creation and restoration, often with a bonfire to keep us warm and chat about what we’ve seen and why we are doing what we do.
One highlight will be trips further afield and we have lined up an awesome trip to RSPB Otmoor; an incredible wetland nature reserve near Oxford. The RSPB Reserve Team will take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of the reserve, talk through how they manage the habitat for wetland birds and other wildlife, followed by a great opportunity for birdwatching at the reserve.
The programme gives you the chance to visit and work on a range of special places in the Chilterns so that you get a deeper understanding of the different habitats in the local area including chalk grassland, ancient woodland, farmland and chalk streams.
One of the best things about the programme is that you will get to work alongside experts and professionals who work in the Chilterns and you will meet other interested people and teams from Chiltern Rangers; Chilterns Conservation Board; Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust; Chiltern Society and the National Trust. Working with these partners gives you plenty of opportunities to learn from experienced people, soak up their knowledge and ask questions – they really are keen to share with you and help where they can!
Provisional Session Dates and Details*
Species identification and surveying covering birds, butterflies, plants and riverflies:
Saturday 26st June
Saturday 31st July
Saturday 21st August
Saturday 25th September
Behind the scenes tour of the fantastic RSPB Otmoor Nature Reserve near Oxford:
Monday 20th December
Habitat management for wildlife covering chalk grassland, chalk streams, farmland and ancient woodland:
Saturday 26st October
Saturday 31st November
Saturday 21st January (2022)
Saturday 25th February (2022)
Final wrap up session looking at everything you have learned and delivered:
Saturday 26th March (2022)
*Please note, dates and locations are subject to change, due to partner availability and your availability too! We want to give you the full breadth of experiencing practical conservation and exploring different habitats and species, so some flexibility to achieve this may be required.
If you sign up for Chilterns New Shoots, you’ll have loads of fun without the pressure of tests and exams. Just come along and have a go and you never know where it will lead you….
The programme is FREE and all of the equipment you need will be provided, we will even give you a cosy fleece to keep you warm when we are out and about plus helpful nature guides for you to keep.
Interested and want to find out more? Steph Rodgers who will be leading the programme will be hosting 2 online drop in information sessions on: Tuesday 18th May (18.30 – 19.30) and Saturday 22nd May (10.30 – 11.30). If you would like to come along and find our more please let Steph know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested and want to sign up? Click here to fill in our simple sign up form and tell us a little bit about yourself and why you want to be involved in the programme. Closing date for completing your sign up form is Friday 28th May and we will let you know by Friday 4th June if you have a place.
When is the programme running? When does it start and end?
There will be 10 monthly sessions (on a Saturday, for 3-4 hours) between June 2021 and March 2022
Where will the sessions be held?
The sessions will be held at various sites across the Chilterns, within easy access of public transport or car. In some cases, we may arrange mini-bus transport from a central point for more remote sites
Can anyone apply?
Yes, so long as you live in or close to the Chilterns and can get to all of the sessions from where you live you are more than welcome to apply.
How much does it cost?
There is no fee for the programme, it is FREE, and we will provide drinks and snacks for each session. We can help arrange transport or cover the cost of transport to and from each of the sessions. Please don’t let this stop you applying.
What do I need to bring?
We will provide all of the kit and equipment you will need for each session as well as a pair of binoculars for you borrow if you need them, as well as a Chilterns New Shoots fleece and some field ID guides. All you need to wear are clothes suitable for the weather and sturdy boots. We will provide drinks and snacks but you will need to bring your own lunch.
Can I just attend one session?
No, we do expect a level of commitment from our New Shoots members and hope you will be able to attend at least 7/10 sessions.
What happens if I miss more than 3 sessions?
If you are unable to make more than 3 of the sessions, we will unfortunately have to re-assign your place to someone else on the waiting list.
Chilterns New Shoots bought to you by Chalk, Cherries and Chairs, and Chiltern Rangers. Delivered in partnership with Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, Chiltern Society and National Trust.
Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund