A Year with the Chiltern New Shoots - our young conservationists

A Year with the Chiltern New Shoots – our young conservationists

The Chilterns New Shoots programme is now coming to the end of its first year. Sixteen inspirational young people have had their first taste of conservation in the Chilterns, and it’s been an action packed and eventful year. Here’s a snapshot of what they’ve been up to.

Logo of chalk, cherries and chairs project

Designed by young people, for young people

The programme was designed by young people for young people. Our two British Trust for Ornithology Youth Reps (Luke Marriner and Megan McCleverty) have helped us to better understand the reasons why there are so few 15–20 year-olds actively involved in practical conservation.

They told us that young people wanted to explore a range of habitats across the Chilterns, have access to some experienced mentors who can share their knowledge, help their bird, butterfly and plant ID skills and to get stuck into some practical sessions. No tests, no textbooks, no homework just lots of fabulous Chilterns sites, wildlife and local experts.

They also said that they don’t have access expensive kit such as binoculars, hand lenses and field guides so we teamed up with Opticron to provide free equipment for the group to use. We also teamed up with BBOWT, Chiltern Society, Bucks Bird Club, National Trust, Butterfly Conservation and local farmers who have shared their skills and experiences with the group.

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Learning butterfly identification

What have the New Shoots been doing this year?

So far Chilterns New Shoots has run ID and surveying sessions on birds, butterflies, plants and riverflies – all led by fantastic volunteers giving their time for free to share their skills and experience.

The group have also carried out practical scrub bashing sessions on chalk grassland sites, been for a behind the scenes tour of the RSPB’s Nature Reserve at Otmoor, carried out reptile surveys, been shown round a local farmer’s incredible wild orchid displays, and been treated to a bird ringing demonstration.

Creating a buzz: As seen on on BBC Countryfile...

The programme has triggered the interest of the BCC Countryfile Team who gave five of the group their TV debut, when John Craven came to BBOWT’s College Lake Nature Reserve to film a feature that was broadcast in their New Year episode.

Watch again on BBC iPlayer

Bethan and Freddie were interviewed by ex-BTO (British Ornithology Trust) Chief Executive and Natural England Board member, Andy Clements, at a recent online conference of 70+ local volunteers. Hear what they and Steph had to say about their experiences at the link below.

Watch the Video (New Shoots at 54 minutes)

What's next?

Woodland management, chalk stream restoration and woodland bushcraft sessions are still to come for the class of 2021/22 before their programme finishes in March – hopefully leaving them inspired to get involved as volunteers, study a conservation related course at college or university and maybe even follow a career in conservation.

The Chilterns New Shoots programme is delivered by Community Ranger Steph Rodgers from Chiltern Rangers as part of the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership Scheme, with funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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Could you be our next Chiltern New Shoots?

Applications for a place in the second year of the programme will go live in April. If you or someone you know (aged between 14-18) is interested, then please contact Steph for more information: steph@chilternrangers.co.uk

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