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

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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

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