Enjoy nature on your doorstep

Several local parishes include land which is very rich in wildlife, much of it managed by BBOWT, the Wildlife Trust for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Two nature reserves, in particular, are easy and amazing places to visit where you can also help with conservation in winter.

Aston Clinton Ragpits is an area of old chalk pits at the bottom of the road that climbs towards Wendover Woods and Aston Hill from the B4009. Although only 6 acres in size, it features a wealth of wildlife typical of the chalk landscape of the Chilterns. Towards the end of June there is always a spectacular display of wild orchids – 2019 was a record year with over 46000 plants counted.

In contrast, Dancersend at 211 acres is the largest BBOWT reserve in Buckinghamshire and one of the oldest, having been established in 1940 by the Rothschild family to commemorate Charles Rothschild, founder of the whole Wildlife Trust movement. The main entrance and car park can be found by following the narrow, winding lane south past Dancers End House to the ornate Victorian pumping station at the top of the valley (HP23 6LB). From here you can walk north through meadows, beech woods and mixed woodland to clearings where rare flowers and butterflies can be found in summer. This autumn has seen a fine display of Chiltern gentians, with over 4500 counted across the reserve, followed by many different species of fungi.

Now is the time when winter work parties take place to mow and rake grassland, cut back invading scrub, coppice and thin areas of woodland and maintain paths, steps and fences … so that the reserves will be in splendid condition for their special wildlife and for visitors to enjoy. If you can help please contact either of the volunteer wardens. Phil Townsend (philjtownsend@yahoo.co.uk) will be leading sessions at the Ragpits on Saturday 22nd February and Saturday 28th March, both starting at 10am. Mick Jones (jonesmick365@gmail.com) leads sessions at Dancersend on the second Sunday of every month throughout the year, starting at 10am. Tools are provided but get in touch to hear how to find the work sites.

There will be field visits and guided walks at Dancersend during the winter and spring: ‘End of Year Invertebrate Hunt’ on Sunday 29th December, ‘Explore the Woods in Winter’ on Sunday 19th January and ‘Signs of Spring’ on Sunday 29th March.

There is also a programme of illustrated talks through the winter months on a range of wildlife topics, held at Great Missenden Memorial Centre on the third Tuesday of the month, admission £4.  Coming up on 21 January is ‘Ancient Woods in the Chilterns’ by John Morris. For details of all BBOWT events in your area go online to www.bbowt.org.uk/events .

Wendover contact: richardbirch60@yahoo.com