Managing our landscapes
The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a living, working landscape whose character has been shaped by the interplay between people, the natural environment and geology for centuries.
Key landscape-scale projects
Chalk Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership
Chalk Cherries and Chairs is an ambitious five-year Heritage Lottery-funded project that addresses the real and immediate challenges facing the landscapes of the Central Chilterns. With three main themes of wildlife, heritage and people, 18 interweaving projects will leave a legacy of improved conservation and land management, closer partnership working, better skill-sets, motivated volunteers, and engaged communities who care for the future of their nature and heritage.
Mend the Gap
Mend the Gap is a cross-boundary project that aims to mitigate the damage caused by the electrification of the Great Western Railway. Funded by Network Rail, around £750,000 will be spent on tree planting to shade the gantries, and around £3 million will be given to projects that enhance and enrich the landscape that spans the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs AONBs, benefiting nature, residents and visitors.
The Chilterns Chalk Streams Project
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project is a real force of change and advocacy for the nine chalk streams of the Chilterns and their rare and threatened habitats. Much has been accomplished across a wide range of themes, including advising landowners on managing chalk stream habitats; overseeing award-winning river restoration and conservation projects; involving citizen science volunteers in monitoring river health; and tackling the over-abstraction of groundwater from the streams for our water supply.
Chalkscapes is an exciting new project delivering landscape-scale conservation and community engagement in the Luton and Dunstable area of the Chilterns. It will give urgent support to the wildlife, heritage and communities of the region that face unprecedented levels of development, infrastructure growth and environmental pressures.
Staying on track – ensuring challenge for HS2
As a statutory body, it is not appropriate for the Chilterns Conservation Board (CCB) to campaign against government initiatives. However, where projects and developments directly impact upon the natural beauty and special qualities of the Chilterns AONB, we actively challenge those responsible for them to fulfil their statutory obligations to conserve and enhance the AONB. As an example, the CCB has been involved in the High Speed 2 (HS2) project since it was first announced in 2010. Alongside many other local groups and individuals, we have argued that the route should not pass through the middle of the protected landscape of the Chilterns AONB.
Chalk Streams First
We are part of Chalk Streams First, a coalition of conservation and water organisations who are working together to tackle a major threat to chalk streams in the Chilterns: the abstraction of groundwater for our water supply. Chalk streams are fed by water stored underground in the chalk aquifer. Pumping water from the aquifer (abstraction) for homes and businesses can cause low flows – or completely dry streams in drought years – threatening the rich diversity of plants and animals chalk streams support.
The Chalk Streams First coalition is proposing the almost complete cessation of groundwater abstraction in favour of surface-water abstraction. This plan would restore chalk stream flows, protect the streams’ ecology and improve resilience to climate change, while ensuring continuation of public water supply.
The Green Recovery Forum
In October 2020, we convened an expert panel of leaders in the environment sector to discuss how we can all work together for a green recovery. The panel included: Marian Spain, Chief Executive, Natural England; Pauline Walsh, Chief Executive, Affinity Water; Jonathan Smales, Founder and CEO, Human + Nature; Dr Prue Addison, Conservation Strategy Director, BBOWT.
The session covered many issues, including:
- What does ‘green recovery’ mean and what are the key ingredients to making it happen?
- What can the environment sector learn from the way communities responded to Covid-19?
- How can we inspire everyone to take positive action for the environment?
Watch the video of this session: Green Recovery Forum October 2020.
To progress these discussions, and address arising issues, this panel event will take place every year.
Electricity cable undergrounding projects
Since 2005, Ofgem has been providing an allowance to electricity providers to move their electricity infrastructure underground in protected landscapes. We supported a £2.06 million cable undergrounding project at Dunstable Downs resulting in 7.72 km of overhead power lines being undergrounded and 22 steel pylons dismantled, providing benefits to the natural beauty, landscape character, wildlife and people of the Chilterns. A similar project is underway at Latimer and Chenies, and we’re working with the Chiltern Society to identify future undergrounding projects.
National Recovery Network Initiative Pilot in Buckinghamshire
In August 2020, Buckinghamshire Council was selected by DEFRA and Natural England to be one of five local authorities to pilot a key part of the government’s national Nature Recovery Network initiative – a scheme to address alarming declines in the diversity and abundance of species. it is hoped that the initiative will strengthen and renew the natural environment across England by eventually creating Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRSs) in every county area.
Buckinghamshire was chosen for the pilot because Buckinghamshire Council has well-established and collaborative relationships with many partners, including the Local Nature Partnership and the CCB. It also has an emerging Biodiversity Action Plan, an award-winning Environmental Record Centre, a well-developed biodiversity net gain scheme, and has made good progress with natural capital mapping.
PROVIDING ADVICE, SUPPORT AND TRAINING
Key ways we offer support
Chess Smarter Water Catchment project
The pilot Chess Smarter Water Catchment project is being funded by Thames Water and delivered by multiple partner organisations, including Affinity Water, Buckinghamshire Council, TheChiltern Society, Environment Agency, Hertfordshire & Middlesex Wildlife Trust and The River Chess Association. The project focuses on the River Chess – a precious chalk stream – and the land around it (its catchment), which comprises semi-natural habitats, agricultural land, and urban areas. It is using a landscape-scale approach to tackle multiple issues and realise multiple benefits for those inside and outside the catchment. The project’s new Farming Officer is supporting the set-up of a farmer cluster, and promoting joined-up management of the River Chess and the farmland habitats surrounding it.
Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster
A group of 18 Buckinghamshire farmers have gone from strength-to-strength with understanding and supporting the wildlife on their farms, and reducing their farms’ carbon footprints. Achievements include:
- Planting more than 50,000 new hedgerow trees.
- Planting or improving 13.5 km of hedgerows to create ‘green corridors’ to allow wildlife to move through the landscape and to capture carbon from the atmosphere.
- Carrying out farm carbon assessments on each farm.
- Reducing the carbon footprint of each farm by putting into place the direct drilling of seed, reducing the number of tractor passes, and improving soil health to help sequester carbon.
- Setting up cattle-grazing systems and clearing large areas of scrub to improve chalk grassland management.
- Building up an important body of data from wildlife surveys on all 18 farms, which willaid in important conservation decisions.
Christmas Common Farmer Cluster
The CCB is providing support and training to a new group of farmers in the Southern Chilterns who want to aid nature’s recovery and reduce their carbon footprint. The 10 farms in the proposed cluster will each undertake carbon audit sessions with funding from Wessex Farm Wildlife. This will help each farmer to identify actions they can take to change their carbon outputs, such as the management of natural habitats to sequester carbon or improving soil organic matter. Group members will collaborate and share experiences to achieve benefits at a landscape scale.
Chalkscapes Farmer Cluster
A North Chilterns Farmer Cluster is being set up in the Luton and Dunstable area through the Chalkscapes project, in the hope that we can emulate the success of the central Chilterns cluster. One gathering has been held so far, and 14 farms were represented, with approximately 20 people in attendance.
Farming in Protected Landscapes – funding available
DEFRA’s Farming in Protected Landscapes grant programme enables farmers and land managers to carry out projects that support nature’s recovery, mitigate the impacts of climate change, provide opportunities for people to discover the landscape and cultural heritage, or support sustainable farm businesses. We can help you with accessing this funding, from developing an initial project idea to introducing partners and supporting the application process.