Discover the best of the Chilterns

Bourne End Community Association kindly carried this feature about The Beyonder in the Christmas 2020 edition of their Target magazine

IT’S a glorious November day at Burnham Beeches and journalism lecturer Andrew Knight is enjoying a morning walk in the woods.

The yellows and golds of the falling leaves provide a colourful backdrop that’s perfect for photography and he’s on the lookout for anything that could make an interesting feature for his website.

Recent posts have focused on the extraordinary range of fungi on display this year or unusual wildlife – like the busy wood ants in these woods or an adder stumbled across by chance at Stoke Common.

As well as listing dozens of ideas for things to do across the Chilterns, the website explores local history and folklore, colourful characters living in the area and local businesses and artists who share a fascination for the great outdoors.

The magazine stemmed from a conversation on a journey to the Lake District in 2017, a couple of years after Andrew moved from London to Buckinghamshire to be closer to fiancée Olivia, who grew up in Gerrards Cross.

“I had spent a lot of time in the Chilterns over the years but it was really starting to feel like home,” Andrew explains. “As we explored all over the region, we became more and more fascinated with the history, the landscape and the people.”

The pair returned from their holiday with a firm idea of the shape of the magazine, but there was a lot of work to do – and over the past couple of years more than 200 articles have been added to the website.

“As a journalist, I know only too well that you need to have some good quality content to make it worthwhile for people to come back again and again,” says Andrew.

“We wanted to share our love of the outdoors and encourage families to venture outside, to fall in love with the landscape we call home, and in turn, to take responsibility for their patch in whatever way they feel inspired – big or small.”

Earlier this year, the magazine was looking ahead to launch a comprehensive What’s On listings service for families looking for ideas of where to go for a great day out, designed to tie in with all the events and openings in April. But within days, the country was in lockdown.

“Suddenly everyone was very limited in where they could go and what they could do, with all the attractions, pubs and hotels shut. But it was encouraging to see an enormous upsurge of interest in the natural world, with more families than ever out and about together walking, rambling or cycling,” Andrew recalls.

“We may be in lockdown again but we can’t wait to see those places reopening in 2021. It’s been an incredibly difficult time for everyone, but so many people have spoken about nature and wildlife helping them cope.

“Since launching the magazine we’ve met some wonderful people, all passionate about the local area, and it’s allowed us to write about everything from highwaymen to hillforts and find out more about the natural world.”

The What’s On pages contain dozens of ideas about where to go when everything reopens in 2021, as well as lots of ideas for walks other free activities.

Andrew admits he gets upset by the huge amount of litter scattered along local roadsides, as well as the amount of fly-tipping in local woodland, the decline of wildlife species and the impact of HS2 building work.

“It’s very upsetting to see beautiful places under threat, but people need to know what’s out there in order to enjoy it and become enchanted by it. Education is the key. Once young people in particular are out there enjoying the outdoors, they are more likely to want to fight to protect it.”

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