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Welcome to the Winter issue of the Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership newsletter.


We have been very busy since the autumn working on several key projects and publications, some of which are included in this issue and a few others which will be launched soon. This issue is also packed with updates from our partners, ways to get involved, and an introduction to a new group in our patch: the Chalk Rivers Action Group. Enjoy!

Responding to Climate Change: NEP Long-term Environmental Challenges Workshop


Last month, we organised a workshop to consider how we respond to one of the biggest challenges currently facing our natural environment: climate change. Representatives from many of our partner organisations and other interest groups gathered together to debate, discuss and input into future NEP strategy surrounding this important issue. We will be using your feedback to inform our Strategic Workplan going forward. Thank you to everyone who took part and contributed to the lively discussion.
 
If you would like to learn about similar events in the future, please contact us: nep@buckscc.gov.uk

Doubling Nature in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc: Strategic-scale Environmental Opportunities Mapping


The Local Nature Partnerships covering Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, along with representatives of the Oxfordshire Environment Board and local authorities, have produced collaboratively a map to illustrate the priority strategic-scale environmental opportunity zones in the Oxford-Cambridge Growth Arc. Alongside the opportunity zones, we have endorsed an aspiration to double nature in the Arc, and have identified at the very large-scale, how and where such efforts should be focused.
 
The final vision document and landscape-scale opportunities map will be available soon on our website. It will be used to engage decision-makers an influence policy to achieve our aspirations for nature.

Thank you to all the Local Nature Partnerships, organisations and individuals who have contributed to this important piece of work.

Biodiversity Updates


We are currently developing some key projects that will benefit the biodiversity of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

The NEP is working with its partners on a Biodiversity Accounting system for Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes to ensure net biodiversity gains as a result of development. We will soon be releasing the relevant scheme process documents on our website to facilitate this, including a model supplementary planning document for biodiversity accounting, and the Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Biodiversity Accounting Tool. Watch this space! 

Forward to 2020: the Biodiversity Action Plan for Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, which runs to the end of this year, is currently being revised, so that we can launch a new plan to run to 2030. The current Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) is hosted on our website and we are working with our partners and a wider audience in putting together the new BAP targets and objectives. As part of this process, we are seeking case studies that can help illustrate changes in priority habitats from 2010-2020. If you would like to submit a case study for consideration, please contact us.

Did you know there are 23 Biodiversity Opportunity Areas in Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes? We have recently updated our website with a new map of these areas. You can find out more about each Biodiversity Opportunity Area (BOA) and why they are important by visiting the BOAs page on our website.


Orchid in a wildflower meadow, Aston Clinton Ragpits, located in the Wendover Woodlands BOA.

Updates from our partners


BMERC


Annual Recorders’ Seminar – Connecting the Dots, 14th March 2020
There is a new addition to BMERC 2020 Recorders’ Seminar programme:  the inaugural BMERC Recorders’ Seminar photograph competition! Entry is free and open to all amateur photographers. There will be three categories and winners will be announced at BMERC seminar; each winner will receive a small prize. BMERC are accepting entries from now until 20th February, so start picking out your favourite snaps! For full details of how to apply and the rules of entry, please contact erc@buckscc.gov.uk.
 
And there is still time to book your place at the Seminar if you haven’t already! Email BMERC on the address above or visit their website to download the application form.


 
Scrub Bash, Barn Field, Olney – 16th February 2020
Join us on Sunday, 16th February to help clear scrub and ash from this Local Wildlife Site. Barn Field is a valuable chalk grassland habitat, which in the summer is rich in wildflowers and a perfect habitat for many species of invertebrates, birds and mammals. The session will run from 10 am to 12 noon. Unfortunately, no under-16s can attend this event.
 
For more information, please contact erc@buckscc.gov.uk.

BBOWT


Ash die back
There has been a lot of activity recently within BBOWT to address ash dieback, which will affect a large proportion (possibly up to 95%) of our ash trees. On many of our nature reserves, ash is one of the dominant tree species.  Ash dieback therefore has significant implications for people’s safety, the ecology of our woods and the species which depend on the habitat they provide.  BBOWT’s Land Management teams are busy organising works for this winter as we start to address the issue so that we can comply with our legal obligations for public safety as well as manage the impacts upon protected species such as bats and dormice.
 
Bitterns and bearded tits return to BBOWT’s Calvert Jubilee reserve
Extensive works carried out by volunteers this autumn to improve the reedbed area at Calvert by clearing willow scrub and opening up wet and muddy channels which have been cut into the reedbed. This immediately produced results with Bittern showing on site very soon after the work was complete. This was followed closely by a pair of bearded tits and 2 further bittern. This has given visitors to this reserve an excellent chance to see these rare and elusive species. More information.

BBOWT’s College Lake islands receive their annual “hair cut”!
Towards the end of 2019, College Lake volunteers were busy manually clearing the islands in the marsh of vegetation. This is part of the crucial annual work aimed at creating suitable breeding habitat for the following years breeding season. The site is one of the best in the region for breeding wading birds and terns, so this work is important to support these ground-nesting species. More information.
 
New scrapes at BBOWT’s Gallows Bridge
Funding from Siemens has been used to pay for the cutting of over a kilometre of new wader scrapes at Gallows Bridge Farm. This work was carried out by hiring in the RSPB’s spoil spreader which has been used extensively at their Otmoor reserve. These scrapes will form essential extra feeding habitat to support overwintering waders such as Lapwing and Golden Plover and the breeding Curlew for which the site is so important in our region. More information.


Chilterns Conservation Board


First issue of the Farmer Cluster Newsletter out now
As part of the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership, CCB has been working with local farmers to set up a Central Chilterns farmer cluster. Regular meetings are being held to discuss key issues and initiatives, to support our farmers undertake key conservation activities, support local wildlife and build new habitats on their land. Learn more about what 2020 will bring and reflect on the successes of 2019 by checking out the first issue of the Farmer Cluster newsletter here.

New Project Launched: Tracking the Impact
Have you ever wondered just how many species of plants, birds or butterflies you would find within 1 square km? Are you passionate about wildlife surveying? Tracking the Impact is a brand new project that offers volunteers the perfect opportunity to help us answer important questions about the state of nature in the Chilterns and gain new skills and experience. Visit the website to learn more: www.chilternsaonb.org/tracking-the-impact



Aylesbury Vale District Council & River Thame Conservation Trust


Aylesbury Vale District Council has authorised funding to the River Thame Conservation Trust to deliver natural flood management measures in the area of Buckingham and upstream. Working in collaboration the project will run for a minimum of two years from February 2020 and will be managed by a full-time Project Officer. Measures such as creating leaky dams, woodland planting in the floodplain, reconnection of the floodplain with the river and creation of backwaters/storage ponds will be implemented to reduce the flood risk within Buckingham. These measures will also improve the water quality of the river, increase biodiversity and resilience to climate change.
 

Aylesbury Garden Town


Design a Parklet Competition
Enter the Aylesbury Garden Town Design a Parklet Competition and see your design on a street near you! The Parklet Competition is a chance to reimagine how a car parking space could brought to life with a temporary alternative use that could benefit the community. It’s a great opportunity to get creative and transform a kerbside area into a place to rest, relax and watch the world go by.
 
The competition is open to all Buckinghamshire residents over the age of 16 and closes at 5pm on Thursday 13 February 2020. For full details and how to apply, visit: https://www.aylesburygardentown.co.uk/parkletcomp



Community Funding Pot
Aylesbury Garden Town are currently accepting applications from local community groups for funding up to £3,000. Applications are open until 14th February. To find out more, download the PDF guidance document from the AGT website or contact: contactus@aylesburygardentown.co.uk

The Chalk Rivers Action Group


An introduction to this initiative by its Chairman, Doug Kennedy
I became Chairman of the Chiltern Society Rivers And Wetlands Group in 2018 and, through working with people like Feargal Sharkey and Paul Jennings, and exploring the Chiltern streams, soon realised that a more fundamental approach to their conservation was needed if they were to be restored to any useful degree. The funding and resources available to the Chiltern Chalk Streams Project was far too little for it to be effective across the entire AONB, and projects sponsored by the water companies were small, local and piece-meal.

As the streams declined during the dry summer of 2019, the urgency became inescapable and the Chiltern Society Trustees offered to dedicate their annual conference to the chalk streams crisis. I got to work and, with the help of Tom Beeston, their Chief Officer, the event was attended by a large audience and addressed by directors of OfWat, the Environment Agency, the AONB, Thames and Affinity Water. When the speakers agreed to the event, they were also asked to sign up to devoting resources and personnel of sufficient seniority to influence policy to secure long-term improvements to the streams across the region.

They were as good as their word, and on December 3rd the first meeting of The Chalk Rivers Action Group took place in Chesham. This brought the main stakeholders together in one room to:

Stop the decline of the English chalk streams and find ways to reverse the decline so their flows, health and ecological status recover and are protected in the future.

There is a plan in place for the building of large infrastructure to secure water supplies for London and the South-East known as RAPID, but its results will not be in place until 2037 at the earliest, so CRAG is about conserving the chalk streams during the intervening 27 or more years. This is quite a challenge, but the Group has already started work on a properly resourced plan of action which will include:

  • A campaign to reduce consumption from 170 litres per day per head to 110 litres per day and improve awareness of the value of water,.
  • Thames and Affinity Water cooperating to share resources more and to reduce abstractions from the Chiltern aquifers,
  • Reducing leaks in the water system.
  • Developing standards for what can be regarded as ‘good ecological status’, and how these will apply.

CRAG will initially focus its efforts on the Chilterns AONB, but we hope to take what is learned from this and apply it more widely, to cover all of the chalk streams from Somerset to Yorkshire.


At Verulaneum, September 2019. Photo courtesy of Chalk Rivers Action Group.

Get involved with Colne Valley Regional Park


The Colne Valley Regional Park is the first real taste of the countryside immediately west of London, comprising 43 square miles of farmland, woodland and water. The Regional Park stretches from Rickmansworth and The Chalfonts in the north to Staines and the Thames in the south.
 
The Regional Park has much to offer including; beautiful woodlands, natures reserves, country parks, water ways and lakes. Hugely important for leisure and recreation of not just only the local people, but for many travelling from far and wide to visit and enjoy. Our role in protecting this precious Landscape from many threats of building developments to major new infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and the Heathrow expansion is relentless and crucial in helping to ensure the Regional Park is preserved for future generations to come.
 
The Landscape Partnership Project has gained funding to help protect this fragile landscape.
  • The Funding totals £2.5million from the Heritage Lottery fund and other local funders
  • The project is implementing a wide-ranging scheme and is a partnership of wildlife organisations, local authorities, community groups and water companies,
  • It is being led by community charity Groundwork South.
  • The Landscape Partnership project features a diverse and ambitious range of initiatives and programmes, including; measures to help threatened water voles to thrive, conserve wildlife habitats, raise awareness among local people of the need to reduce water consumption and conserve wetland habitats, improve access routes into the area for local people, support local conservation groups, and encourage residents and visitors to celebrate their landscape by getting out and about in it.
  • Click here to view our newsletter, “Explore your Colne Valley Park,” to share both the joys of the Regional Park and updates on the important projects.
If you would like us to include your community conservation organisation or project in our next newsletter, please get in touch: nep@buckscc.gov.uk

Our next issue will be the Spring Issue in March, so please submit your item by Friday, 13th March if you would like to be included.
And one final item...

Regretfully, one of our Green Infrastructure & Health Task Group members David Jarman passed away last autumn. Representing CPRE, he was a valued and passionate member of the task group. His voice in our meetings will be missed.

An obituary has been published by the Great Kingshill Residents' Association.

That's all for our Winter Issue


To keep in touch with the NEP while we watch for spring, you can follow our project Bucks Buzzing on Twitter and Instagram, drop us an email, or visit our website to read more about our projects, consultation responses, and other news:
 
www.bucksmknep.co.uk
Copyright © 2020 Bucks & Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership, All rights reserved.


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