Not just volunteers – M&S team goes the extra mile
Phil Townsend of the Berks Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) encourages his colleagues to spend the day helping wildlife
It was lovely to work out in the fresh air and the team made great progress
APART from being a volunteer warden at Aston Clinton Ragpits, near Wendover, my day job is working for Marks & Spencer. My colleagues decided to use their charity volunteer day to come and help out at this beautiful BBOWT reserve.
Aston Clinton Ragpits is a prime area of chalk grassland, scrub and woodland. The reserve is relatively small in size but between the end of May through to July it provides one of nature’s most colourful spectacles when thousands of native wild orchids come into flower. The site is also important for many invertebrates including bees, butterflies and moths as well as Roman snails, slow-worms and red kites.
The UK’s chalk grasslands are in decline and so these remaining pockets are extremely important reservoirs of biodiversity. The team were keen to come out to this reserve nestled in the picturesque Chilterns escarpment and lend a helping hand with our habitat management.
Every year the grassland has to be cut and the cut material raked up and cleared. This is to keep the more aggressive plant species from becoming dominant and crowding out the less competitive flowers, thus maintaining the floral biodiversity. The grassland is then grazed by sheep.
After a brief introduction we met Chris Trew, Buckinghamshire assistant reserves officer, took up our rakes and pitchforks and began clearing the cut material.
The weather was on our side and we had fantastic views of the Chiltern hills as they stretched out towards Ivinghoe Beacon and on into Bedfordshire.
It was lovely to work out in the fresh air and the team made great progress by the time we stopped for a wellearned break.
We had our packed lunch on the brow of one of the hills and, while we were enjoying the views, we noticed red admiral and brimstone butterflies on the wing. We spotted a common darter dragonfly and a large toad wandering over the grassland.
We also saw a slowworm and field vole, and most surprising of all we saw a bat feeding along the edge of the woodland!
It’s not unheard of for these bats to be out in broad daylight, especially if they are trying to fatten up before their long winter hibernation.
So even on an autumn day we were lucky enough to see some of the best wildlife that this region has to offer and over a glass (or two) of refreshment the team reflected on an enjoyable day’s work helping to conserve a special part of the UK countryside.
Managing the grassland means thousands of wild orchids bloom at Aston Clinton Ragpits each spring and summer
The team from Marks and Spencer making a difference for local wildlife