Vivid memories of a year in pictures

IT’S been a year since we launched our Picture of the Week series – and what a year it’s been.

Inspired by the open studios events staged across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire each year, the series was launched at a time when months of lockdown had prevented artists from getting out and meeting potential customers face to face.

Such events offer a great opportunity for artists and makers to throw open their doors and showcase their work, but if the lockdown put paid to such intimate contact, it certainly did not the cramp the enthusiasm and ingenuity of creative souls from all over the Chilterns.

MAUREEN GILLESPIE
LOCKDOWN WALK: Blenheim by Maureen Gillespie

Some turned to local walks near their homes for inspiration, while others took the opportunity to go back through old sketchbooks, sort out old photographs and revisit settings which had never quite made it on to canvas.

STOCKTAKE: Beaconsfield artist Tim Baynes searched old sketchbooks for inspiration

And many seized the chance to improve their virtual galleries and reach out to customers through blogs, instagram posts and online shops.

PERSONAL TOUCH: Dorset artist Sam Cannon launched a monthly newsletter

Of course that’s not quite the same as getting to meet your customers in person, but as lockdown restrictions started to ease, those exhibitions, pop-up displays and working studio visits soon began to emerge again.

PERSONAL TOUCH: self-taught artist Sabbi Gavrailov from Hemel Hempstead

For wildlife and nature lovers, highlights of the weekly series have included many works inspired by or reflecting the natural world, including animal portraits and sculptures, and paintings rooted in the local Chilterns landscape, from the Ridgeway views of Anna Dillon and Christine Bass to the colourful Oxfordshire scenes captured by Alice Walker, Jane Peart and Sue Side.

VALE VIEW: Inchombe Hole, Buckinghamshire by Anna Dillon

We have ventured out into the parks of Harpenden with Andrew Keenleyside, explored the wetlands of Oxfordshire with Jane Duff and delved deep into Wytham Woods with Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley.

ROSIE FAIRFAX-CHOLMELEY
WOODLAND FORAY: a reduction linocut by Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley

A score of those local artists can be accessed through our Local Landscapes page, and their subject matter ranges from portraits to seascapes and abstract works.

SUE GRAHAM
CORNISH VISIT: Sundown, St Ives by Sue Graham

Further afield, Chilterns artists have taken on us on journeys from Cornwall to West Wales, while guest artists have hailed from as far afield as Dorset and the Lake District.

Photographers have featured too, patiently waiting for the perfect wildlife shot, whether otter or kingfisher, red kite or dragonfly.

FAIRGROUND FUN: handpainted gallopers at Carters Steam Fair

Over 52 weeks, the collection has grown into a formidable showcase of local talent, punctuated by occasional more unusual contributions, ranging from the fairground art of Joby Carter and family to a step back in time to enjoy the 1930s art of Eric Ravilious, the “happy little trees” of TV art legend Bob Ross or the stunning works of Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon.

Do you have a nomination for an artist who should be featured in our weekly series? Write to editor@thebeyonder.co.uk explaining the reasons behind your choice.

Songs can bring our landscape to life

 A “SONIC postcard” celebrating the landscape of the Chilterns has been released by a young singer-songwriter from High Wycombe.

The music video features an original song from local artist Jazz Dylan celebrating what makes the Chilterns special to her.

It forms part of the ongoing Echoed Locations project highlighted in The Beyonder last February, which has already seen students from Bucks New University using simple recording skills to bring the local countryside to life.

Now other musicians are being encouraged to follow Jazz’s example and produce some more original tracks.

Says Jazz: “I am a bit of a hippie. I’m an over-thinker and for me getting out into nature lets me just be myself. I feel very lucky to have the Chilterns on my doorstep and spend a lot of time there. I still come across things I’ve never seen before.”

She says the song is a condensed portrait of her experience of the Chilterns.

“There is so much I could say about this gorgeous place that I call home,” she adds. “One of my favourite things about the Chilterns is the amount of sky we have and getting to see all the birds flying. I don’t know what it is about red kites that I love so much, I just think they are awesome.”

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Jazz says that during lockdown, she came to fully appreciate how close she was to nature and the huge impact it can have on one’s mental wellbeing – and of course her video is not all about sunny days and soaring red kites: “Keeping with true British style, I had to include the rain,” she says. “Being drenched in rain then having a hot chocolate. That’s perfection isn’t it?”

Get On Your Boots is the first of what the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs project hopes to be many original songs that will be added to Echoed Locations, and the team is calling for more artists and musicians to fcontribute with their own songs, poems or sounds that will help people connect to the Chilterns landscape.

Chalk streams get timely cash boost

THE Chilterns’ precious chalk streams are to benefit from a £294,000 grant from the government’s Green Recovery Challenge fund.

The money will pay for an important initiative balancing practical restoration work with education and engagement projects.

The Chiltern Society and Chilterns Conservation Board are partners in the project, entitled: “Chalk stream and wetland meadows: guarding the irreplaceable for people and nature.”

RARE HABITAT: the River Chess at Latimer Park

Schemes developed by the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project focus on wetland habitats across the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The globally rare habitat supports a wide diversity of plants and animals and offers opportunities for recreation and relaxation as well as providing fresh water to local communities. Yet chalk streams are under threat from pollution, urban development, invasive species and climate change.

The grant will enable the creation of two jobs with the Chiltern Society and will indirectly benefit other NGOs and voluntary groups, including Revive the Wye, Benson Environment Group and Chiltern Rangers CIC.

Elaine King, chief executive officer of The Chilterns Conservation Board, said: “We are delighted to be awarded this funding. By connecting nature and people, we aim to secure a healthy future for chalk streams and for the people, communities and businesses of both the Chilterns AONB, and nearby urban areas.”

Tom Beeston, Chiltern Society chief executive, said: “It provides a much-needed and immediate boost in activity of works to protect our internationally rare and endangered chalk stream habitats. Longer term, it facilitates the building of volunteer capacity to continue that much-needed protection and awareness building for chalk streams and wetlands over the coming decades.”

In the first phase of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, the government announced grants between £62,000 and £3.8 million to help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The projects, spread across England, will see trees planted and protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored, alongside wider conservation work. The projects will also support environmental education and connecting people with green spaces.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “The sheer breadth and potential of these projects to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create employment is tremendously exciting.”

Step this way for outdoor adventures

THE Chilterns Walking Festival returns this month with a programme of more than 80 walks and outdoor events.

Running from May 22 until June 6, the walks help people explore the landscape, villages, nature and heritage of the Chilterns. 

The activities and events are designed to appeal to different age groups, interests and levels of fitness, from those wanting to sample local drinks and produce to families finding out more about local heritage or explore nature reserves, churches or film locations.

All walks must be pre-booked at www.visitchilterns.co.uk/walkingfest and numbers are limited to make them Covid-safe.

Highlights include bushcraft events and nature-spotting walks, a chance to step back in time on a Hedgerley Deep Time Walk or costumed Tudor walk and opportunities to explore some old drovers routes, enjoy a George Orwell or Charles Dickens literary tour or some local produce tasting.

Whether it’s mastering tree identification, practising map and compass navigation, or having a go at Nordic walk, while healthy options include mindfulness walks, gentle Nature Connectedness sessions, a challenging trail run or a beautiful 25-mile walk around the Chess Valley.

Chilterns Conservation Board People & Society Officer Annette Venters said: “After months of lockdown we are delighted to be offering such a full programme of events. It will be a chance to explore and enjoy the beautiful landscape of the Chilterns in small groups, led by experienced guides.”

Details of all guided walks, events and activities available in the spring programme can be found at www.visitchilterns.co.uk/walkingfest. Most are free, though some require a small fee.

The festival is being sponsored by Brakspear, a family owned and run Henley brewer and award-winning pub company which has been at the heart of British life for over 200 years. Many of the company’s 132 pubs are located in picturesque rural and town centre settings across The Chilterns. www.brakspear.co.uk.

TV detectives return to The Lee

THERE were more dark deeds afoot on the village green on Sunday night when the Midsomer Murders team returned to the Buckinghamshire village where the whole grisly detective series began.

GRISLY PAST: The Lee has featured in several episodes of the crime series

There could hardly be a more picturesque setting that The Lee near Wendover, and 24 years ago it was transformed into Badger’s Drift for the pilot episode of what would become the UK’s longest-running crime drama and most popular drama export.

Followers of the series might recall how the atmospheric Cock & Rabbit pub on the green because the Rose & Chalice for DCI Barnaby’s first outing back in 1997.

This week the pub was back at the heart of the action as a line-up of guest stars joined the regular cast for the second of six feature-length episodes making up Season 22 of the drama, with Neil Dudgeon enjoying his tenth year in the starring role.

CRIME SCENE: Neil Dudgeon and Nick Hendrix investigate PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

Tension mounts after a local outcast controversially acquitted of a brutal murder years previously returns to the area – and a death on the village green means Barnaby and sidekick DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) are called in to investigate.

Prime suspects include John Thomson as Cooper Steinem (best known as Pete from Cold Feet) pulling pints behind the bar, Lily Allen’s dad Keith Allen as Harry Marx and The Queen’s Gambit star Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as the ambitious Gideon Tooms.

Welsh actor Allen has played a variety of “baddie” roles in the past, with a CV that ranges from Shallow Grave and Trainspotting to Kingsman and Marcella.

But undisputed star of Sunday’s instalment, filmed in 2020, was Hannah Waddingham from Game of Thrones in a bravura performance as larger-than-life Mimi Dagmar, Midsomer’s most flirtatious estate agent, whose suggestive asides left even DCI Barnaby looking a little uncomfortable.

ON THE CASE: DCI Barnaby and DS Jamie Winter PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

Chilterns residents get an additional delight from spotting local venues used as a backdrop for the series, as Joan Street can testify – over the past 20 years she has chronicled more than 120 locations on her Midsomer Murders website.

Says Joan, who lives in London: “I was inspired to start the site having recognised some of the locations in a very early episode called Written in Blood.  Initially it was only going to be a website for the locations but somehow or other it grew and grew! 

“I launched the first pages way back in 1999, never envisaging the series would still be going on in 2021.  It was a bit of fun but gradually almost became like a second job.  Midsomer’s popularity increased every year with more and more locations being used; something that fascinated many viewers.”

LOCAL LANDMARKS: historic pubs across the Chilterns have featured in the series

It wasn’t long before the site had more than a million hits, with more than 2,300 members joining a forum linked to it.

“A friend and I used to go out on weekends trying to track down some of the locations used,” Joan recalls. “We were very naive at first but soon learnt that a lot of detective work needed to be done in advance to find them.  The quirkiness of Midsomer was also a huge appeal.  We became totally addicted.”

The series became such a worldwide success that a series of guided and self-guided tours have been launched across the region showing tourists favourite locations, from Henley and Marlow to Thame and the Hambleden Valley.

WINNING FORMULA: Season 22 launched on April 4 PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

Joan admits: “Prior to Midsomer I’d never visited any of the places used in the Chilterns.  It was a voyage of discovery.  I now know almost every town and village and we both ended up loving the area.”

The Lee has featured in at least four other Midsomer episodes, and Sunday night saw its picturesque cottages back in the public eye, this time as Tamworth Springs, home to an ill-fated social and health club for recovering heart bypass patients.

POPULAR SPOT: the picturesque village green at The Lee has been a favourite TV location

The Stitcher Society was broadcast on Sunday April 11 on ITV and is still available to watch on ITV Hub. Midsomer Murders is made by Bentley Productions, part of ALL3Media.

Young and old join the big clean-up

VILLAGERS across the Chilterns turned out in force to fight back against litter louts and fly-tippers this weekend.

Volunteers of all ages turned out to clean up hedgerows, streets and paths around Cookham, Wooburn Green and Fulmer, with many other communities planning similar spring clean-ups.

In Cookham and Cookham Dean some 80 villagers came together to clean up across four locations, aged from three to 75+.

Organiser Jus Moody said the clean-up included a “disgusting fly tip” on Cookham Dean Common comprising whole car panels, wheel trims and even an entire lamppost.

She said: “We have no explanation for this or the hundreds of coffee cups, pieces of food packaging or other weird items that folks think they’re entitled to dispose of in our village hedgerows.”

In nearby Wooburn Green, Karen Savage Townsend praised the efforts of more than 140 litter pickers who managed to fill some 87 bags of rubbish during a day-long community clean-up.

And in Fulmer village, another village team of conservation volunteers were busy clearing rubbish off Stoke Common Road, Fulmer Road and part of Fulmer Common Road, their haul ranging from discarded face marks, alcohol bottles and cans to car parts.

The clean-ups came as Iceland supermarket boss Sir Malcolm Walker said the rise in litter was making Britain look ‘like an impoverished Third World country’, where thoughtless drivers tossing litter out of windows were among the worst culprits.

The 75-year-old was quoted in the Daily Mail in the run-up to a nationwide litter-picking event organised by Keep Britain Tidy, which starts on May 28.

But local campaigners want to see more done to tackle the upsurge in littering, from tougher punishments to launching a nationwide deposite return scheme and insisting on fast food retailers printing car registration numbers on packaging.

Enforcement officers like David Rounding have had considerable success in ensuring Buckinghamshire has a zero-tolerance approach to illegal waste dumping, but the scale of the problem can sometimes seem relentless and some local farmers feel under siege.

Long-time campaigners like Peter Silverman, John Read and Danny Lucas have repeatedly called on individual councils and bodies like Highways England to do more to fulfil their legal responsibilities, a view echoed by Sir Malcolm Walker, who urged the public to put pressure on elected officials to clean up roadsides, and backed tough action against countryside litterers. 

More than 6,000 members have signed up to a Facebook group representing litterpicking groups across the UK, but while many remain upbeat and determined, others have confessed to feelinhg“disheartened, dispirited and disgusted” after seeing crowds trash popular parks and beaches during rare breaks between lockdowns.

Deadly locations lure the tourists

THERE are more dark deeds afoot this weekend in Britain’s deadliest county when Midsomer DCI John Barnaby is back on the murder trail.

The Stitcher Society is the second of six feature-length episodes making up Season 22 of the popular crime drama, with Neil Dudgeon enjoying his tenth year in the starring role.

CRIME SCENE: Neil Dudgeon and Nick Hendrix investigate PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

Tension mounts after a local outcast controversially acquitted of a brutal murder years previously returns to the area – and a death on the village green means Barnaby and sidekick DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) are called in to investigate before the body count starts to rise.

Locals may not be expecting an early solution to the mystery – since the show launched 24 years ago the area has witnessed more than 400 deaths.

Renowned for its dark humour, stunning scenery and high-profile guest stars, the show is not only the country’s longest-running crime drama but also its most popular drama export.

ON THE CASE: DCI Barnaby and DS Jamie Winter PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

Chilterns residents get an additional delight from spotting local venues used as a backdrop for the series, as Joan Street can testify – over the past 20 years she has chronicled more than 120 locations on her Midsomer Murders website.

Says Joan, who lives in London: “I was inspired to start the site having recognised some of the locations in a very early episode called Written in Blood.  Initially it was only going to be a website for the locations but somehow or other it grew and grew! 

“I launched the first pages way back in 1999, never envisaging the series would still be going on in 2021.  It was a bit of fun but gradually almost became like a second job.  Midsomer’s popularity increased every year with more and more locations being used; something that fascinated many viewers.”

LOCAL LANDMARKS: historic pubs across the Chilterns have featured in the series

It wasn’t long before the site had more than a million hits, with more than 2,300 members joining a forum linked to it.

“A friend and I used to go out on weekends trying to track down some of the locations used,” Joan recalls. “We were very naive at first but soon learnt that a lot of detective work needed to be done in advance to find them.  The quirkiness of Midsomer was also a huge appeal.  We became totally addicted.”

The series became such a worldwide success that a series of guided and self-guided tours have been launched across the region showing tourists favourite locations, from Henley and Marlow to Thame and the Hambleden Valley.

WINNING FORMULA: Season 22 launched on April 4 PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

Joan admits: “Prior to Midsomer I’d never visited any of the places used in the Chilterns.  It was a voyage of discovery.  I now know almost every town and village and we both ended up loving the area.”

The latest episode sees the detectives return to The Lee near Wendover, scene of numerous earlier investigations over the show’s 24-year history.

The picturesque village was Badger’s Drift in the very first pilot episode back in 1997, when the Cock & Rabbit village pub was rebranded the Rose and Chalice.

This week the famous village green was the location for more murder and mayhem, this time as Tamworth Springs, home to an ill-fated social and health club for recovering heart bypass patients.

The Stitcher Society is broadcast on Sunday at 8pm on ITV. Midsomer Murders is made by Bentley Productions, part of ALL3Media.

Barnaby’s back on the murder trail

FANS of the ITV detective drama Midsomer Murders can anticipate another spate of bizarre deaths across Middle England this weekend when the show returns to the small screen for its 22nd series.

The Wolf Hunter Of Little Worthy will premiere on Sunday April 4 at 8pm as Neil Dudgeon returns as DCI John Barnaby is his 10th year in the role.

MURDER MOST FOUL: Neil Dudgeon and Nick Hendrix PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

Chilterns residents get an extra frisson of anticipation from spotting local venues used as a backdrop for the series, which is now in its 24th year and is both the country’s longest-running crime drama and top-rated drama export.

More than 40 towns and villages across the Chilterns, Thames Valley and Vale of Aylesbury have featured in the series and over the past 20 years Joan Street has chronicled more than 120 locations on her Midsomer Murders website.

Renowned for its high body count, dark humour, stunning scenery and a plethora of high-profile guest stars, the show launched with a pilot in 1997, with seasoned TV detective John Nettles in the starring role.

Nettles had been a household name in the 1980s during his 10 years as the fictional Jersey detective Jim Bergerac, but his first outing in Midsomer, probing a murder in the sleepy village of Badger’s Drift, proved such a hit that would go on to play Barnaby in another 81 episodes spanning 14 years.

WINNING FORMULA: Season 22 launches on Sunday April 4 PICTURE: ITV/Mark Bourdillon

By the time Neil Dudgeon took over (ostensibly as Tom Barnaby’s younger cousin John), original sidekick DS Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey) had been replaced after six seasons by DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). For the past three series the role of DS Jamie Winter has been played by Nick Hendrix.

Filming on series 21 was halted mid-season by the coronavirus pandemic, but Sunday’s show is the first of six feature-length episodes, also featuring Annette Badland in her role as pathologist Dr Fleur Perkins.

Midsomer Murders is made by Bentley Productions, part of ALL3Media.

Walkers urged not to trample crops

FARMERS and conservation groups are urging people to keep to the paths and keep dogs under control when walking in the countryside.

Farmers’ livelihoods are at risk, with one farmer claiming to have lost the equivalent of 9,000 loaves of bread due to trampled crops.

MUDDY MESS: path widening at Penn Street Farm near Amersham

The latest lockdown has coincided with a period of particularly high rainfall making paths extremely wet and muddy. This, combined with far greater numbers of people using their local paths is damaging both paths and crops.

Paths have widened to several metres across, with people trying to social distance from each other, or seeking drier ground. Some people have abandoned the waymarked paths altogether and followed field edges instead to avoid the worst of the mud, damaging field margin habitats which are important for wildlife.

Georgia Craig form the NFU said: “Mud can’t be avoided at the moment, so your best bet is to put your wellies on and follow the signposted paths. People are welcome on the signposted rights of way but straying off those paths means crops will get trampled, affecting farmers businesses. At this time of year the crops might still be below the surface or look very similar to grass, but walking on them will compact and damage the growing plants.”

Daniel Hares, who farms at Buckmoorend Farm near Wendover, is one of the many Chilterns farmers affected. Walkers widened a path through one of his wheatfields to 10 metres across, equivalent to losing six tonnes of wheat, enough to make around 9,000 loaves.

Seventh-generation farmers in Lane End, the Lacey family, report a big surge in the number of walkers on the land they manage.

Ed Lacey said: “We have ongoing problems with people letting their dogs off the lead and out of control. We have had sheep killed and injured by dogs.”

Chilterns Conservation Board’s chief executive Dr Elaine King, said “It’s great that more people are getting out and enjoying the nature and the beauty of the Chilterns during lockdown, and we want that to continue.

“However, the Chilterns are also a place where people live and work, including the farmers that produce our food. We are working with a wide range of farmers, landowners and conservation partners to raise public awareness of this special landscape and ensure that everyone can enjoy the Chilterns safely.”

Tim Bamford from the CLA added: “It is perfectly natural, in times such as these, for people to want to enjoy the countryside. They are genuinely welcome and we encourage people to enjoy the thousands of miles of footpaths available to them. But we need to work together to ensure the public can have an enjoyable time while also protecting farmland, animals and wildlife.”

The Countryside Code sets out some simple guidance to ensure that people can enjoy their visit to the countryside while being safe and respectful of others.

Seek out the best of Chilterns art

OXFORDSHIRE artist Anna Dillon has become the latest local painter to take the spotlight in our regular Picture of the Week feature.

Whipsnade by Anna Dillon

Since August we’ve been able to focus on the work of a dozen different creative folk working in a variety of different formats, from oils and watercolours to photography, linocuts and textiles.

Mill End, River Thames by Katie Cannon

The formats and materials may vary enormously, but what all our guest artists have in common is a love of local landscapes and wildlife, which frequently provide them with sources of inspiration.

Sue Graham in her Buckinghamshire studio

In some cases that inspiration has proved a life-changing experience, as for Sue Graham, whose reflections on the disappearing dawn chorus ended up with her family buying a croft and planting hundreds of trees on a remote Scottish island.

Red Woods, a reduction linocut by Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley

Other artists whose work is inextricably bound up in local landscapes include Jane Duff, a volunteer for The Earth Trust and an avid supporter of their efforts to create new wetlands and improve water ecosystems, and Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley, who with colleague Robin Wilson has a permanent base among the trees of Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire.

A Walk in the Woods by Rachel Wright

From windmills to bluebell woods, local landscapes provide a visual escape for many artists, whether working in textiles like Rachel Wright or acrylics like Christine Bass, who spends many hours outside among the whistling red kites before developing paintings from her drawings back in the studio.

Pulpit Wood by Christine Bass

If Chilterns landscapes from Ivinghoe Beacon and Pulpit Wood to Hertfordshire parks have provided many of the settings featured in the weekly articles, there have been occasional forays further afield too, with Tim Baynes providing our most recent online escape from lockdown restrictions with his portraits of Kent marshlands and West Wales shorelines.

Dungeness Afternoon by Tim Baynes

There has even been a chance to learn the secrets of fairground art in the company of Joby Carter from Carters Steam Fair, whose family were the subject of a recent profile feature on our People & Places page.

Hand-painted steam gallopers at Carters Steam Fair

We’ve already had plenty of nominations of artists across the Chilterns whose works should feature in future instalments of the series, but keep them coming.

Times are tough for artists in the current climate and we’re eager to do all we can to help promote such a vast array of local talent – particularly in a year when so many of the local open studios events have had to be cancelled.

To nominate an artist or painting we might feature in the future, simply drop a line to editor@thebeyonder.co.uk with a link to the work and the reason for your choice.

New friends and fresh perpectives

IT’S BEEN a month of meeting new friends and embarking on fresh adventures, despite the restrictions of a second national lockdown.

Competition solving can be thirsty work – so we were delighted to be able to offer a tasty tipple as our first ever picture quiz prize.

The quiz has been running for over a year now but our friends Kate and Ben Marston at Puddingstone Distillery near Tring kindly stepped in to make the contest a little more enticing by offering a 10cl bottle of artisan gin worth £10 to the winner of our November quiz.

The story behind the success of the couple’s small Hertfordshire distillery was the subject of a feature on our Rearing & Growing page, where we would like to feature more stories about local growers, smallholders, farm shops and food producers in the future.

Previous articles included an item on Cornish forager Rachel Lambert, while Olivia’s hunt for rosehips and subsequent rosehip syrup recipe featured in another post.

Roaming a little further afield, we were delighted to be able to write about Adam McCulloch’s website featuring walks across Kent, although our most popular recent posts have been those focusing on local adventures, hunting down fungi in local woods and enjoying the spectacular colours of the fall.

Meanwhile guest writer Lucy Parks has continued to entertain readers with her adventures with Cypriot rescue dog Yella over in Amersham. Lucy and other members of the 50-strong Beyonder Facebook group have also been sharing pictures from their autumn rambles.

It has also been a real delight this month to expand our range of local artists featured in our Picture of the Week series.

Hot on the heels of the local landscapes of painters and printmakers like Jane Duff, Christine Bass and Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley, it was a pleasure to be able to feature the photography of Anne Rixon and the extraordinarily intricate embroidery of textile artist Rachel Wright.

Apart from giving us a chance to support local artists during this difficult time, it has been fascinating to find out all the different ways in which they respond to local landscapes and wildlife in their art.

Watch this space for some more treats over the next three weeks as we embark on a lockdown adventure with Beaconsfield artist Tim Baynes.

In the meantime, our interest in the history under our feet was piqued by earthworks in a corner of Burnham Beeches which hark back to medieval times.

Following similar journeys into the past in search of highwaymen and the heyday of stagecoach travel, our latest trip back in time explored the story of Hartley Court, a medieval moated farmhouse buried deep in the woods.

There’s still time to enter the November competition if you fancy a sparkling G&T – and if you have any time to spare, our features archive now includes dozens of articles about some of the people and places we’ve had the honour to during the past couple of years preparing for the formal launch of the website.

Where to find those secret gardens

A TIMELESS children’s story returns to the big screen in a new guise this week – featuring some spectacular locations around the UK.

Starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters, the retelling of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel The Secret Garden opens in the cinemas here on October 23, after the launch was delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown.

From the producer of Harry Potter and Paddington, the new version of the evergreen classic about an orphaned girl finding refuge in a neglected garden takes audiences to some extraordinary locations, including the flowering laburnum of the National Trust’s Bodnant Garden in North Wales (above).

Other scenes range from the twisted woodland of Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean to Iford Manor in the Cotswolds, stopping off along the way at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire and Trebah Gardens in Cornwall, where Mary is towered over by Triffid-like rhubarb.

The Secret Garden tells the story of Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), a 10-year-old girl sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven (Colin Firth), under the watchful eye of Mrs Medlock (Julie Walters) with only the household maid, Martha (Isis Davis) for company. The film is set in 1940s England at Misselthwaite Manor, a remote country estate deep in the Yorkshire moors. It opens in cinemas and on Sky Cinema from October 23.

Fans of the 1993 version can check it out on DVD.

Chris celebrates citizen science

TV presenter, author and naturalist Chris Packham has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for an online Chilterns conference celebrating citizen science.

Leading policy makers and practitioners from a wide range of organisations across heritage and wildlife are due to speak at the full-day event on October 24.

The ardent environmental campaigner will thank volunteers for their work in making citizen science in the UK the envy of projects around the world and showcase ways in which the data they gather can make a real difference.

The day includes Q&A sessions and a youth panel looking at how to get the next generation engaged in the world of conservation and volunteering.

“I never cease to be amazed when I hear about the efforts many thousands of volunteers go to in supporting conservation projects in the UK,” said Chris.

“Citizen science is hugely powerful in helping us not only better understand our wildlife and heritage but also informing decisions made by government and decision makers.”

Other expert speakers at the conference include Gavin Siriwardena from the British Trust for Ornithology, Michael Pocock from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Mick Jones from Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre, Allen Beechey from the Chilterns Chalk Streams project, Wendy Morrison of the Beacons of the Past project and John Shaw from Chiltern Rangers.

The conference is presented jointly by the Chalk Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership and the Beacons of the Past project, both projects of the Chilterns Conservation Board and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

For more information and to book a free place at the conference, click here and for a full schedule of events organised as part of the Chilterns Celebration and details on how to book your place, click here.

Festivals put nature centre stage

NATURE is in the spotlight next month when a programme of outdoors events, walks and activities is being held across the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Chilterns Conservation Board hopes the nature-based activities will inspire families, young people and adults of all ages to get out and explore the AONB.

A new October festival marks a month-long ‘season of celebration’ aiming to bring communities together and inspire people to explore and enjoy the heritage and landscape on their doorstep.

Naturalist, TV presenter and environmental campaigner Chris Packham will be the keynote speaker at the first ever ‘Chilterns Champions’ conference, discussing the importance of citizen science and how everyone can get involved.

There’s a chance to explore a new heritage trail around the Wycombe Rye, get creative in art workshops with local wildlife champions the Chiltern Rangers and enjoy a range of walks, talks and local produce tastings.

The festival runs from October 1-31 and is also designed to help support communities and businesses following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also in October, the Chilterns Walking Festival is now in its seventh year and boasts more than 50 guided walks, activities and events over 16 days, running from October 17.

The walks, all guided by experienced leaders, provide opportunities to meet countryside rangers, farmers, archaeologists, historians, food producers and storytellers of the Chilterns.

Annette Venters, the Chilterns Conservation Board’s people & society officer, said: “We are delighted to be offering lots of new walks that showcase the best of our stunning landscapes, wildlife and local producers.

“There are still plenty of challenging hikes, but we’ve included a greater number of shorter walks too, with the emphasis on learning and discovery, meeting the people and producers of the Chilterns, and spending time in our inspirational landscape.”

Find the full schedule of Chilterns Celebration events see www.chilternsaonb.org/ccc-fest. For walking festival details and bookings see www.visitchilterns.co.uk/walkingfest. Most events are free, though some require a small fee.

The Chalk, Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership Scheme is a five-year project which aims to connect local people to the wildlife and cultural heritage of the Central Chilterns.

The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated in 1965 and stretches from Goring in Oxfordshire to near Hitchin in Hertfordshire. It is one of 38 AONBs in England and Wales and has a resident population of 80,000.

The Chilterns Conservation Board is an independent public body set up to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and increase awareness and understanding of the Chilterns AONB.

Back on the murder trail in Thame

GUIDED walking tours of Midsomer Murders locations in Thame have restarted for the first time since last year.

Tour organiser Tony Long said: “We are delighted that the ever-popular Midsomer Tours can start again. We will be ensuring that the now smaller tour groups comply with social distancing guidelines.”

The move came after the tourism and hospitality industry was given the government green light to reopen this month.

ON LOCATION: Neil Dudgeon plays DCI John Barnaby

The tour runs on Wednesdays until October 28 and has proved a big success since its launch in 2017.

Guides take small groups on an hour-long tour around Midsomer filming locations in the town used in episodes of the popular ITV series.

Thame is one of the most frequently used places for filming, appearing in more than a dozen episodes and with 22 locations in the town centre. Among landmarks featured are Thame Museum, Thame Town Hall, Market House, Rumsey’s Chocolaterie, the Spread Eagle and Swan Hotels, the Coffee House, and the Black Horse Pub & Brasserie.

Midsomer Murders is still going strong after more than 20 years. Mr Long said: “Over six million people watch Midsomer Murders in the UK and millions more worldwide. It’s one of our biggest TV exports, and when people see it on TV, they want to come and visit the beautiful towns and villages of Midsomer, such as Thame.

“When they are here, they spend money in our restaurants, pubs, hotels, and shops – which has got to be good for the town and its economy, especially following the lockdown.”

The series is based on the novels of Caroline Graham and the original pilot programme, The Killings at Badgers Drift, was aired in 1997. John Nettles played DCI Barnaby for the first 81 episodes, stepping down in 2011 at the end of series 13. Neil Dudgeon has played DCI Barnaby ever since.

The tour costs £7.50, with funds going to charities. Tour start at 11am on Wednesdays from outside Thame Museum (79 High Street, Thame, OX9 3AE), one of the filming locations but must be booked online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/thamemidsomer.

Fans of the detective series can pick up a free Midsomer Murders leaflet about the deadly town locations from the Town Hall Information Centre or Thame Museum (from September 1).

Litter heroes need our help

“DISHEARTENED, dispirited and disgusted”. Britain’s army of volunteer litterpickers have been feeling under siege since lockdown…

Peter Ryan, founder of the Dorset Devils (@dorsetdevils), a 600-strong litterpicking group on the Dorset coast, summed up the mood in a letter to his local paper, the Daily Echo.

The problem has been worse since lockdown, he says – with vast numbers of beach visitors leaving their rubbish behind them, now increasingly including face masks, disposable gloves, wet wipes and gel bottles, some of which could be infected.

It’s a horror story which has been repeated around the country – and exhausted and dispirited locals are at their wits’ end.

From Scotland and the Lake District to Cornwall and the Jurassic coast of Dorset, beaches, parks and other public spaces have been besieged on a daily basis, with councils and volunteer clean-up crews struggling to keep pace with the deluge, especially around popular beauty spots.

With temperatures soaring and lockdown restrictions eased, many families have headed to the beach to enjoy the sunshine, with the tabloids showing crowded scenes at tourist hotspots like Southend, Brighton and Bournemouth.

Despite pleas from local councils and frustrated residents, much of their rubbish has been left behind. As one Brighton resident wrote: “Brighton beach is an absolute state yet again this morning. It’s very sad. Apart from being lazy and gross it’s detrimental to our environment and wildlife.”

In Bournemouth council leader Vikki Slade said she was “absolutely appalled” at some of the scenes witnessed on local beaches.

Further along the coast local litter-picker Anna Lois Taylor (@annieloistaylor) tweeted: “So much litter. I’m done sacrificing my own time to clean up an area that’s repeatedly abused. We cleared it yesterday evening and returned today to find ourselves right back at the beginning. I cried all the way home.”

Elsewhere locals reported finding discarded tents, human excrement and the debris from family picnics and birthdays – including disposable barbecues that could pose a major fire risk in wooded areas.

In Cornwall, environmentalist Emily Stevenson (@PlasticWaive) spoke about finding 171 pieces of PPE discarded on the ground during a one-hour litter pick, compared to six items previously.

Meanwhile over in Ipswich, wildlife enthusiast Jason Alexander (@WildlifeGadgets, @UKrubbishwalks) was up at 6am clearing Bramford Meadows of litter after a group of young adults spent an enjoyable day drinking, having fun and some somersaulting off the bridge into the river.

Unfortunately little attempt to clean up after themselves, he says. “There desperately needs to be a serious national discussion to try to tackle the issue of littering and large chunks of the population taking responsibility for their actions,” he added on his Facebook page.

In an earlier video, he spoke about changing patterns in littering, with discarded wrappers from fast-food outlets declining during the lockdown to be replaced with an upsurge in PPE, wet wipes and fly-tipping.

Campaigners are divided in their support for national campaigns like Keep Britain Tidy (@KeepBritainTidy) and about potential solutions, with some calling for bigger fines and tougher enforcement, like John Read from Clean Up Britain (@cleanupbritain).

Others want to see registration numbers stamped on packaging issued at drive-in fast-food outlets, the introduction of deposit return schemes on bottles and cans or a return to more community service sentences involving litter-picking for those caught littering.

The Beyonder (@TheBeyonderUK) has highlighted littering and fly-tipping problems in the Chilterns, but believes the solution lies in a co-ordinated local approach that includes schools, churches, councils, landowners and other organisations.

Editor Andrew Knight said: “It’s tragic seeing local groups desperately trying not to lose heart when they see their efforts trashed day after day.

“Nature lovers shouldn’t have a feeling of dread every time they go out for a walk about what new horror they will discover. And the really good news is that the number of people who genuinely care about this is growing.

“The trouble is that once you see litter, it’s very hard for some of us to ignore – and of course it can totally ruin your day if you see a favourite beauty spot trashed by picnickers or fly-tippers.”

But he added that although the extent of the problem could often appear soul-destroying, campaigners, litter-pickers and nature lovers needed to keep helping each other to stay upbeat.

“The problem can seem overwhelming at times and in some cases there are big problems with enforcement, but there are signs of hope too, ” he said. “If Afroz Shah can achieve what he has in India, we can turn the tide here.

“At the moment the scale of the problem in the UK is incredibly depressing, but at least it is still hitting the headlines in the national papers and on TV. That shows people really do still care: the vast majority find such selfish disregard for the environment deeply upsetting.

“Some people have learned nothing from lockdown and are still oblivious to the impact of their actions, whether that’s flinging a plastic bottle out of their car window, leaving all their rubbish on a beach or dumping an old fridge at the side of the road.

“But there are millions of people working hard to protect our countryside and we really have to stop trashing our planet before it’s too late.”

He pointed to the national initiative launched by Clean Up Britain in it’s Don’t Trash Our Future campaign, praised the fly-tipping enforcement team at Buckinghamshire Council (@BucksFlyTipping) and urged schools and church groups to do more to get young people interested in the natural world.

“Part of the problem is that some young people simply don’t relate to the natural world at all,” he said. “There are some incredible young ambassadors out there helping to spread the word – for example @naturalistdara, @HollyWildChild, @BellaLack and @MyaBambrick1, not to mention @GretaThunberg – but for a lot of young people in our cities, the countryside is an alien world you just drive through to get somewhere.

“Lessons learned in school can last a lifetime, and faith groups are strong communities which can help spread the message too.

“We need young people to be getting out there and enjoying the countryside, and telling their parents it’s not acceptable to drop litter – that would be a massive step in the right direction.”

Farmers and landowners were often on the front line as victims of rural crime, he said.

“It’s hardly surprising that farmers are suspicious of strangers around their property with the upsurge there’s been in rural crime,” he said.

Recent articles in the farming press (@NFUtweets, @FarmersGuardian, @FarmersWeekly) say the cost of rural crime in the UK has reached an eight-year high with organised gangs targeting tractors, quad bikes and livestock.

“If it’s not fly-tipping or trespassing, it’s dogs attacking livestock, poaching, hare coursing or crop damage,” he said.

“But ramblers, cyclists, horse riders and dog walkers can all do their bit to keep their eyes open and help protect remote rural properties. They are often the eyes and ears on the ground who might spot something suspicious.”

Tourists welcomed back to Bucks

TOURISTS are being welcomed back to the Chilterns as lockdown restrictions start to ease – with the emphasis firmly on enjoying the great outdoors.

The region’s official tourism website Visit Buckinghamshire & The Chilterns is promoting walks, parks, camping and water-based activities as families make plans for their summer holidays.

And The Beyonder has dozens of family days out listed on its What’s On pages, many of them healthy, outdoors – and free.

The Chiltern Conservation Board and the Chiltern Society are promoting more than 20 social distance friendly walks which avoid crowded well-known locations and narrow paths where possible.

Visit Buckinghamshire identifies a number of family friendly walks with guides and fun quizzes included, while The Beyonder has collated a range of nature guides families can use to identify flowers, insects and birds they spot on their wanders.

Lucy Dowson, of Visit Buckinghamshire & The Chilterns, said: “Buckinghamshire is the perfect year-round destination for memorable visits.”

Parks range from Campbell Park in the centre of Milton Keynes with its impressive sculpture to Willen Lake, Black Park, Langley Park and Denham Country Park.

Campsites are slowly re-opening and include Home Farm in Radnage; Shillingridge Glamping; Chadwell Hill Farm, Hedsor Field Camping and Orchard View Farm.

And for water-based fun the The Little Boat Trip starts in the Aylesbury basin and takes you and your family (one household or bubble only at the moment) on a canal boat from the Exchange Theatre through several locks to the Aylesbury marina.

Willen Lake has all sorts of water sports for you to enjoy and the Longridge Activity Centre offers a great range of activities, including canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding and dragon boating, while Salters Steamers, which starts at Higginson Park Pier in Marlow, travels down the river to Temple Lock taking in the beautiful Thames scenery.

‘Give litter louts £1,000 fines’

SELFISH litterbugs should face the prospect of £1,000 fines, say campaigners.

With tourists trashing beaches and beauty spots around the country in the wake of the lockdown easing, InYourArea and Clean Up Britain joined forces to launch a nationwide anti-littering campaign called Don’t Trash Our Future.

Spearheaded by a number of famous faces including JLS singer JB Gill, the campaign encourages people to organise local clean-ups, push for higher fines and put pressure on councils to enforce penalties.

The campaign calls for volunteers to organise neighbourhood clean-ups in August and September tackling “grot spots” from parks and beaches to scrubland or messy roadsides.

Supporters are also being asked to sign a petiton calling for the maximum fixed penalty fine for dropping litter in the UK to be raised to £1,000.

Councils are called on to play their part too. Research by Clean Up Britain found the vast majority of local authorities in the UK were not using their enforcement powers enough – with 72% of councils in England and Wales either not enforcing the law at all, or not enforcing it effectively.

Those questioned said littering had got worse since lockdown began to ease and made them miserable, angry, sad or depressed. And the vast majority (97%) thought councils should enforce the law properly.

Don’t Trash Our Future has been backed by a number of high-profile names including JLS singer-turned-farmer JB Gill, a passionate advocate for farming and the environment who has made numerous appearances on Springwatch and Countryfile.

He said: “It’s great to see that people recognise that litter is a public health concern and a major problem.”

The campaign has also received the backing of broadcaster and animal rights campaigner Clare Balding and her partner Alice Arnold, along with TV presenter Gabby Logan and her husband, former Scottish international rugby star Kenny.

Journalist and television presenter Jeremy Paxman is Clean Up Britain’s patron. He said: “It depresses people because mucky surroundings make them feel worthless. It’s expensive – councils across the UK spend over a billion pounds a year trying to clean it up.”

Packham loses HS2 legal challenge

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigner and TV presenter Chris Packham has lost his Court of Appeal challenge over the legality of the HS2 high-speed rail scheme.

He had argued there were failings in the way the government decided to give the project the go-ahead but judges have refused permission for a judicial review into the cabinet’s decision to give the multibillion pound project the “green signal” in February.

Expressing his disappointment in a 10-minute video to his 434,000 Twitter followers, Packham said: “Today is a dark day for us, our wildlife, our environment and our planet. And darker still for our government.”

But he added: “Winning is not giving up – and we’re not giving up.”

Environmentalists say the high-speed rail project is leading to irreversible destruction of ancient habitats and woodlands.

Packham said the case for HS2 should be revisited despite Friday’s ruling. He argues the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on public finances and the need for a green recovery has undone the business and environmental case for the line.

“Obviously we are deeply disappointed by today’s ruling. But the fact is, we are a world away from the place we were when we issued the original claim for judicial review,” he said.

“People now see that a scheme for a railway which will tear up the countryside so that we can shave a few minutes off a journey time, makes no sense in the contemporary workplace.”

HS2 is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. A spokesman for HS2 Ltd told the BBC it took its commitment to the environment “extremely seriously” and there was “safeguarding in place to protect wildlife and other natural assets”.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the project was “crucial to rebuilding our economy from coronavirus”.

Farmers face fly-tip nightmare

FARMERS around the UK are under siege from fly-tippers.

But campaigners and councils across the country are stepping up the fight to outlaw the waste criminals.

The issue gained national exposure after a dramatic increase in fly-tipping in rural areas reported after the Covid-19 lockdown.

TARGET: Andrew Ward found 40 tons of rubbish dumped on his land

Targets included Lincolnshire farmer Andrew Ward, who hit the national news after finding 40 tons of rubbish had been dumped on his property, costing thousands of pounds to move.

Some areas of the country saw a 300% increase in dumping as householders saw the lockdown period as an ideal time for a spring clean but found local tips closed or busy.

Rural and environmental organisations stress that fly-tipping has a significant impact on rural areas and pose dangers to wildlife.

Another victim was beef and arable farmer Richard Heady, who runs WF Heady and Sons near Milton Keynes in partnership with his father and uncle, and discovered a lorryload of household waste strewn across part of an emerging crop of spring oats.

Although many local authorities had to shut waste recycling centres at the height of the crisis, most have now reopened and initial long queues have reduced. But farmers’ fields, laybys and lanes have become hot spots for DIY remnants, unwanted furniture and garden waste.

One group of concerned organisations in Scotland said: “At a time when farmers are working around the clock to provide food for the nation and trying to keep their businesses running despite being short-staffed, it is heartbreaking to see their land being used as a giant tip.

“Fly-tipping is illegal, ugly and dangerous. It can be harmful to lambs, calves and other animals and wildlife too. But for farmers and other landowners, it is also costly to clean up.”

The National Farmers’ Union says two-thirds of farmers and land owners have been affected.

Andrew Ward told Sky News: “It really makes my blood boil to think that people will probably get away with this. The fact that they can do this to a lovely area, where we have families walking, we have children walking down here, we have wildlife.

DUMPING GROUND: fly-tipping on Andrew Ward’s farm included commercial industrial waste

“It’s on an absolutely huge scale; this is not your one man and a van who turns up at a house, this is probably three lorry loads of commercial industrial waste.”

Mr Ward’s partner, Rhonda Thompson, an NFU adviser in the county, said: “Fly-tipping needs to be regarded as a much more serious crime and I think the penalties have to be fairly hefty. The fines that are currently around just aren’t enough to deter people from doing this.”

DETERRENT EFFECT: campaigners want to see tougher penalties for fly-tipping

The Department for Food and Rural Affairs said that fly-tipping can lead to unlimited fines and a prison sentence of up to five years. But campaigners maintain prosecutions are rare in some areas and have called for heavier punishments for less serious littering offences.

Buckinghamshire County Council enforcement officer David Rounding confirmed fly-tipping in the county increased during lockdown, particularly smaller dumping incidents which might involve householders dumping their own waste.

But he added: “We have also seen even higher rates than previously of cross-border offending and we have been working in partnership with neighbour authorities where appropriate to address and seek to reduce this. It is still the case that most of the waste dumped in Buckinghamshire was transported into Bucks from outside.”

CALL FOR WITNESSES: offences across Buckinghamshire are pursued through the courts

He said surveillance work and eyewitness reports had helped in an ongoing programme of detection and enforcement through the lockdown period. Offences in the county are regularly prosecuted and in future warnings will be replaced by £400 fixed penalty notices.

He said: “The council has recently adopted powers to serve fixed penalties of £400 (the maximum rate allowed by Government) against people fly-tipping waste and also against people transferring their waste to unauthorised waste carriers.   These powers will be used in addition to the existing use of court prosecution and will replace zero penalty simple cautions in the enforcement mix at the lower end of the scale.  This means that people who were previously cautioned will now be fined.”

Householders are warned that when using waste carriers they make payment only online or by other traceable means so that they are able to provide the waste carrier’s details should their waste be found later to have been fly-tipped.

“Enforcement work by definition always follows offences and we will see many fixed penalties imposed and court cases which follow later through the usual process,” said Mr Rounding.

Walkers warned about hairy hazard

WALKERS at Stoke Common are being urged to watch out for dangerous caterpillars which can be a hazard to humans and animals.

 The caterpillars of the oak processionary moth are pests of oak trees and have been found on the site.

TOXIC: caterpillars of the oak processionary moth nest on an oak PICTURE: Falko Seyffarth

OPM was first accidentally introduced to England in 2005 and is subject to a government-led programme of survey and control to minimise its spread and impact.

The caterpillars have the distinctive habit of moving about in late spring and early summer in nose-to-tail processions, from which they derive their name.

Walkers have been warned to steer clear of the caterpillars, whose hairs contain a toxin that can cause itchy skin rashes as well as eye and throat irritations.

Residents can report sightings but that the caterpillars should only be removed by pest control operators because of the health risk.

Pets, children and forestry workers who come into close contact with the caterpillars are most at risk and anyone who experiences an itchy skin rash or other allergic symptoms after being near oak trees in these areas should phone NHS111 or consult their GP.

Each caterpillar has around 62,000 hairs, which they can eject. The brown moths, which are harmless, live for only two to three days in July or August.

Action is taken to screen trees imported from Europe, but the species is established in most of Greater London and in some surrounding counties and there are restrictions on movements of oak plants from this protected zone.

HAIRY HAZARD: each caterpillar has thousands of hairs which can be ejected

The Forestry Commission and Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) have been working to identify infestations and spray infected trees.

Large populations can strip whole oak trees bare, leaving them more vulnerable to other pests and diseases, and to other stresses, such as drought.

Older caterpillars develop tiny hairs containing an irritating protein which on contact can cause skin rashes and eye irritations, as well as sore throats and breathing difficulties, in people and animals.

The caterpillars can shed the hairs when threatened or disturbed. The hairs can be blown by the wind and they accumulate in the caterpillars’ nests which can fall to the ground.

Signs have been erected at Stoke Common to warn visitors about the risk.

What to spot by the waterside

WILDLIFE lovers who live near water can pick up a free spotter’s guide to birds, insects and animals they might look out for on a waterside wander.

The Canal and River Trust has put together a free family nature guide to what walkers might find on, in and by the water.

The trust encourages families to take a trip to their nearest waterway and see how many different species they can spot.

The guide complements an online introduction to more than two dozen species that can be found by water, from bees and dragonflies to owls and kingfishers, newts and water voles.

The charity safeguards some 2,000 miles of wildlife-rich waterways which form a “green-blue ribbon” between hundreds of wildlife habitats, and looks after hundreds of bridges and aqueducts to ensure boats can move freely around the network.

For more information about the work of the trust, or how to volunteer with them, see their website. Apply for the free nature guide using the link above.

Bookshops begin a fresh chapter

BOOKSHOP business has been booming as desperate readers have flocked back to browse the shelves for the first time in three months.

But times are still tough for small independent booksellers across the Chilterns as they fight to bounce back from weeks of lockdown.

Almost four million books were sold in the first six days after bookshops reopened in England on June 15 – a jump of over 30% on the same week last year.

But in one survey more than a third of regular customers said they still felt unsure about returning to bricks-and-mortar premises now lockdown has eased.

Booksellers were forced to shut up shop on March 23 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and were unable to reopen for 12 weeks.

During that period, they were only able to offer online or click-and-collect services – and while the amount of time people spent reading books almost doubled during lockdown, much of that custom was picked up by online retailing giant Amazon.

The good news for retailers was that 3.8m print books worth £33m were sold in England in the week to June 20, the best performance for that week of the year since the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix back in 2003.

Independent bookshops have been thriving in recent years, with numbers growing for three years on the trot to almost 900 in 2019, including local newcomers like Books On The Hill in St Albans.

The Booksellers Association’s managing director Meryl Halls described the increase as “heartening” and predicted bookshops would roar back once the coronavirus pandemic had passed.

Speaker in a live Twitter chat hosted by The Bookseller, she said: “Book lovers will return from this crisis hungry for human connection, desperate for conversation, stimulation, inspiration. Booksellers will be there, arms open.”

Antonia Mason, who runs Books On The Hill with her mum, Clare Barrow, said: “We as a team have been overwhelmed with our community’s kind words and support over the last few months. It’s been incredible, especially considering we had only been open a few months prior to lockdown.”

Although many bookshops were able to respond quickly to the shutdown, some had a weak online presence and were unable to compete with the service provided by Amazon – with the crisis undermining the advantage of small local businesses being able to provide personal contact, relaxed browsing and advice.

Worries about maintaining rental payments, coping with supply chain problems and having to furlough staff added to the pressures but Meryl Halls added: “I am unutterably proud of booksellers at the moment—they are weathering a historic battering and we will do all we can to keep the sector intact.”

Asked what the first week back in business would look like, she responded: “We will return from this with a new appreciation for each other, for human endeavour, for writing, for community. There will be lots of hugging. Lots of tears. Some wine. Many parties.”

Back in April on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Waterstones managing director James Daunt echoed Halls’ assertion about the importance of books and bookshops.

He said: “Books are important, they help people isolate, they help mental wellbeing and we are in fact experiencing huge numbers of sales, particularly of children’s books and educational books.”

Prior to lockdown, bookshops had been enjoying a growth in trade spurred on by a thriving “shop local” movement and environmental considerations, helping them to weather the Amazon “firestorm” – the astonishing success of the trillion-dollar company able to promise overnight delivery and customer reading recommendations at the touch of a mouse. 

Since June 15 bookshops around the country have shared their delight that “lovely customers” have come “racing back”, but have been forced to cope with reduced opening hours, social distancing challenges and in some cases the need to continue delivering to customers who are shielding or reluctant to venture out.

Booksellers have also had to introduced a range of safety measures for customers, including hand sanitiser stations, plastic screens and one-way systems. Footfall predictably remains lower than before the pandemic, with few able to boast outside seating areas like The Book House in Thame.

Nonetheless Meryl Halls believes consumers are understanding that high streets are more than just shops and transactions, with savvy shoppers also anxious to reduce waste and shop more ethically. 

“Food miles, gratuitous expenditure, waste, re-use and recycling are all aspects of the decision of how and where to shop,” she said. “It has to be better for many reasons to go to your local high street and pick up goods that have been transported en masse to shops, than to have individual parcels thundering up and down the country in huge trucks from online companies.”

Retailers continue to face stiff online competition and unequal business rates, but shop owners have spoken of receiving wonderful comments from customers. One children’s bookshop owner said: “The conversations about books are joyous and experiencing the excitement from children in our space will never get old.”

Booksellers say books bought by customers in store have been more varied than those purchased online, where the chains’ lockdown charts were topped by Sally Rooney’s Normal People, thanks in part to a timely 12-part BBC dramatisation.

Thrillers, rom-coms and crime novels proved popular, with less appetite for dystopian fiction. Some wanted to be absorbed, others favoured escapist reading, but booksellers expressed delight at the appetite for personal recommendations, boosting sales of books which might not pop up on algorithms, including those from local authors.

Although Covid-19 dealt a heavy blow to publishers, it has also witnessed a frenzy of innovation, with the industry sharing Zoom invites to “visual author events”, podcasts and virtual festivals and some pundits predicting the end of lockdown unleashing a new wave of “interesting and exciting” writing – some perhaps based on people establishing a new relationship with the natural world during their three months of lockdown, not to mention their revised expectations of what kind of “new normal” will emerge on transport and in the workplace.

‘The adventure starts here!’

BEYONDER supporters are being asked to help spread the word about the magazine as part of an August What’s On promotion.

The outdoors magazine was due to launch its What’s On pages properly in April – but the March lockdown stopped people from going out for more than a short exercise walk each day, and meant most attractions having to shut their doors to the public.

Now that museums, zoos and country parks across the Chilterns are beginning to open their doors again, The Beyonder is starting to boost its coverage of local attractions.

Editor Andrew Knight said: “We’ve done what we can to highlight virtual open days, online classes and other things that people could do from their own homes, but it’s exciting to see some of the region’s main attractions opening their doors again.”

But the magazine doesn’t want to encourage visitors at any cost – and has been happy to see the slow, incremental growth of its small Facebook group and Twitter following.

“We’ve seen such an increase in littering, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour since the end of lockdown that the last thing we want is for the Chilterns to be swamped with selfish visitors who don’t care about our local landscape,” said Andrew.

“It’s been important to us that those joining the Facebook group or following us on Twitter share our love of the countryside and desire to look after it.

“We want a lively following of families who appreciate the natural world and want to do what they can to protect it.

“Tourism is important to our economy, but it has to be responsible. We want visitors to our parks and special places who are anxious to protect the environment for future generations too.”

The Autumn motto is “The adventure starts here” – which reflects the fact that the What’s On pages already provide a one-stop guide to dozens of local attractions, many of them free.

From nature reserves to country parks, steam railways to palaces and zoos, the site allows visitors to click through to the home websites of key attractions, including woods, parks and gardens open for charity under the National Gardens Scheme.

The site also includes more than 100 features covering different aspects of local life, from the area’s history and heritage to the wildlife of the Chilterns.

Reviews focus on TV programmes and books which focus on nature, along with local artists and photographers capturing the beauty of the local landscape.   

There’s even a page with links to attractions slightly further afield, like Chartwell, Legoland and Hever Castle.

Says Andrew: “The original idea of the website was to offer a perfect starting point full of ideas for families looking to get out and about in the area.

“The focus is on enjoying the great outdoors and we’ve tried to focus on free options wherever possible, given how expensive it can be for a family of four to visit a major attraction.”

Now the magazine is calling on its friends to help spread the word about the site, to encourage more contributions from fellow outdoors enthusiasts and to appeal to advertisers.

Says Andrew: “Getting the site to this point has been a labour of love over the past two or three years and we’ve met some wonderful people along the way and discovered a great deal about the area.

“Now we want to spread the word to find more like-minded Beyonders – and of course that includes business like pubs, farm shops, vineyards and bookshops that share our interests and values.”

New members can join the magazine’s Facebook group or Twitter feed, while advertisers and potential contributors can contact Andrew direct by email at editor@thebeyonder.co.uk.

HS2 challenge goes to appeal

TV presenter and environmental campaigner Chris Packham has taken his fight against the HS2 high-speed rail scheme to the Court of Appeal after losing his High Court bid to stop the clearing of ancient woodlands. 

“Enough is enough. It’s time we pulled this absurd vanity project. It’s time to Stop HS2,” Packham told his 400,000-strong army of Twitter followers.

His lawyers maintain that the Government gave the green light to the scheme based on a ‘complete misapprehension’ of the environmental impact.

The presenter took his case to the High Court in April seeking an emergency injunction to stop works he claimed would cause destruction or irreparable loss to ancient woodland sites.

His application was unsuccessful, but now his lawyers hope to convince Court of Appeal judges that there were failings in the way the Government reached its decision to give the HS2 project the go-ahead.

The presenter used his Twitter feed to explain 11 key reasons behind the legal challenge, claiming the scheme was “obsolete before it’s even started”.

The Government is opposing the challenge but Packham’s supporters are concerned that the building work will damage hundreds of wildlife sites and destroy dozens of ancient woodlands.

The presenter argues that the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary failed to have regard to the implications of the Paris Agreement when they took the decision and that the business case for HS2 had not taken the impact of coronavirus into account.

He said: “I am delighted that the Lord Justices see merit in hearing the appeal and that they have acknowledged the ‘considerable public interest’ in the case – a public interest which spans the heinous and irreparable damage done to ancient woodland, breeding birds, badgers and bats this Spring, the complete incompatibility of this project to the government’s obligations to address climate change, the appalling conduct of HS2 Ltd and its employees in a time of global crisis, and the future drain that the project will be on that public’s purse, which due to the pandemic is empty.”

Supporters providing witness evidence include the RSPB and the Woodland Trust. Meanwhile members of the Chiltern Society have been taking pictures across the Chilterns since 2010 and monitoring the impact of construction work on the landscape in an HS2 photo diary.

Meanwhile Greenpeace launched a Twitter campaign ahead of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s keynote speech in parliament about the economy calling on him to invest in a green recovery.

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Campaigners altered road signs on the chancellor’s route to work to get the message across that they believe the government must do more to tackle the climate emergency at the same time as trying to grow the economy.

Walkers get to keep their distance

THERE’S good news for walkers worried about bumping into crowds of other people who had exactly the same idea about trying to get away from it all.

The Chilterns Conservation Board and Chiltern Society have developed a series of 23 walks across the Chilterns which are social-distance friendly, avoiding crowded ‘honey-pot’ locations and narrow paths where possible.

Between two and six miles long, the walks start in market towns or villages with good public transport links or parking facilities and are being launched to coincide with the re-opening of many pubs and cafes.

The Chilterns has some outstanding food and drink producers and these walks highlight the many farm shops nearby that are open for business and selling Chilterns local specialities to enjoy on a picnic, or to take home – everything from local honey and beer to cheeses, charcuterie and grass-fed lamb.

The walks were developed by 18 volunteers, all experienced walk leaders who are passionate about the Chilterns and keen to share some of their favourite walks away from the crowds.

All the routes take in the beautiful rolling landscapes of the Chilterns, picturesque villages and plenty of historic interest too, from old drovers’ routes to iron age hillforts.

Discover places with wonderful names like Nanfan Wood, Lilley Hoe and Cobblershill. And some walks start on commons or at recreation grounds with lots of open space, making them ideal for families or friends to combine with a picnic and for kids to run around safely.

Annette Venters of the Chilterns Conservation Board said: “During Lockdown the Chilterns countryside has been used and enjoyed as never before, bringing comfort and joy to many. The well-used honey-pot sites can get very crowded, making social distancing difficult and putting pressure on the landscape. Luckily, the Chilterns has over 2,000km of footpaths, so there are plenty of quiet places to enjoy. We hope these walks will encourage people to explore the Chilterns and discover new places.”

Many of the walks are stile-free and most are under four miles long, making them accessible to many. But walkers are warned to take their litter home and avoid lighting fires and barbecues.

Highlights include pub walks from Great Offley and Pegsdon in the northern Chilterns. The Pegdson walk passes through Knocking Hoe and Hoo Bit nature reserves with outstanding views and witchcraft-sounding plant names like fleawort, eyebright and harebells.

Many of the walks take in famous TV and film locations. The Hound of the Baskervilles walk from Binfield Heath takes in the historic Crowsley Park.

Le De Spencer Arms on Downley Common, the Red Lion on Peppard Common and the Cock and Rabbit on Lee Common are just some of the wonderful country pubs along our routes.

The walks can be downloaded free of charge.

The Chiltern Society was established over 50 years ago and is supported by 7,000 members. It manages 12 conservation sites and has 500 volunteers who work to maintain and improve the Chilterns for the benefit of both residents and visitors alike.

Bucks reopens for business

BUSINESSES across the Chilterns are preparing to welcome visitors back to high streets across the region this week.

Visit Buckinghamshire & The Chilterns, the region’s official tourism website, is excited about the chance to welcome guests back to the area’s market towns, as well as key tourist attractions and outdoor spaces.

But the organisation is keen to encourage local residents to #SupportLocal, #LoveWhereYouLive and #StaySafe, as well as opening their doors to day visitors from neighbouring areas.

Historic gems such as Waddesdon Manor, Hughenden Manor, Stonor Park and Stowe gardens are open for online booking with timed slots. Chiltern Open Air Museum has plenty of open space to enjoy too while exploring (but not entering) their collection of historic buildings.

Zoos and animal parks including Kew Little Pigs, Green Dragon Rare Breeds Eco Farm and Odds Farm Park are preparing to show off the baby animals which have been arriving during lockdown.

All attractions have strict social distancing guidelines in place to keep families and staff as safe as possible.

Buckinghamshire is also blessed with many bustling historic market towns, such as Marlow, Beaconsfield and Amersham where a range of independent shops are now able to welcome customers back, but with restrictions on numbers entering their premises at any one time.

For refreshments, some resourceful cafes and restaurants are providing takeaways until they get the all-clear to fully re-open.

Lucy Dowson of Visit Buckinghamshire & The Chilterns said: “Locals already know that Buckinghamshire is the perfect year-round destination for memorable day visits, stretching from the banks of the River Thames through the glorious rolling Chiltern Hills, and on into the verdant Vale of Aylesbury.

“Its close proximity to London, coupled with excellent road links, means that you can easily access exciting new destinations, discover fabulous attractions and enjoy the beautiful scenery.”

Country parks and nature reserves like Black Park, Langley, Stoke Common and Burnham Beeches offer miles of woodland trails to explore for the price of a car park ticket, while footpaths across the region offer a range of spectacular scenery, from a Thames Path ramble to a windy walk on Dunstable Downs or Ivinghoe Beacon.

During the coronavirus crisis, many local firms have survived by adapting to offer click-and-collect services or local deliveries, while some attractions have provided virtual tours during the lockdown weeks, from Waddesdon Manor to Beckonscot model village and the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway, whose steam and diesel train usually does a seven-mile round trip from Princes Risborough to Chinnor.

Now, those firms and attractions are looking forward to welcoming visitors back properly for the first time, if suitable social distancing arrangements can be put in place.

The Beyonder’s What’s On pages provide links to more than 50 attractions across the region for easy access to full details of opening arrangements as these develop.

Fifty fantastic family adventures

FROM stately homes to steam railways and spooky caves, from wildlife sanctuaries to woodland walks, The Beyonder’s What’s On pages have been updated to include more than 50 of the Chilterns’ top attractions.

The at-a-glance array of picture buttons offers ideas for days out that range from free museums and rural rambles to palaces and zoos across four counties.

The buttons link directly to the websites and Facebook pages run by various organisations from the National Trust to town museums.

Attractions for animal lovers range from the Living Rainforest or Beale Park in Berkshire to Whipsnade Zoo and Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire.

If rescued hedgehogs are of more interest than lions and tigers, there’s always the Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hsopital in Haddenham, and youngsters wanting to get up close and personal with lambs and baby goats can visit Odds Farm or even foxes and ferrets at the Green Dragon Eco Farm.

History lovers aren’t forgotten, either – from stately homes like those at Stonor Park, Waddesdon or Hughenden, not to mention the majestic delights of Blenheim Palace or Hampton Court.

Museums include those in Amersham, Stevenage, St Albans, Tring and High Wycombe, while those preferring a steam trip can venture out to Chinnor or the Bucks Railway Centre at Quainton Road.

If youngsters need to escape from their smartphones and get the wind in their hair, they can always connect with nature at one of the country parks scattered across the region – or blow away the cobwebs with a walk in Wendover Woods, Penn or Burnham Beeches.

For something that little bit different, there’s always the model village at Bekonscot in Beaconsfield, the gloriumptious Roald Dahl museum at Great Missenden, the mysterious Hellfire Caves at West Wycombe or the exotic attractions of Kew Gardens.

Or what about stepping back in time at the Chiltern Open Air Museum, finding out more about science at the Look Out Discovery Centre or discovering more about the lives of writers like John Milton or CS Lewis by visiting their homes in Chalfont St Giles and Headington, Oxford.

Many of the websites featured offer a regular programme of special one-off events, displays and attractions too, so there’s always more to discover – with further buttons linking to the National Trust, English Heritage, Wildlife Trusts, Chiltern Society and National Garden Scheme for more ideas about places to visit and things to do.

With a host of additional events listed in the monthly What’s On pages too, there’s something for everyone who loves the great outdoors. For more information, click on What’s On whenever you need a little inspiration about how to make the most of your free time.

The website has also launched a “Where to go” section on its Further afield pages, which in the past have featured attractions which might involve Chilterns readers driving just a little further afield, to London, Surrey and Sussex.

The first half-dozen attractions listed include Winston Churchill’s family home at Chartwell, nearby Hever Castle in Kent which was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and the steam railway centre at Didcot, much loved by railway enthusiasts.

Feeling left out? If we have inadvertently missed an attraction out of our listings, get in touch.

Kids just love to go wild

WHEREVER you live in the Chilterns, kids love to get outside and let off steam whatever the weather.

That’s why we will be including more free events in our What’s On pages, starting with a monthly reminder about the plethora of woodland walks on the doorstep.

LETTING OFF STEAM: take the family on a woodland walk PICTURE: National Trust / Chris Lacey

Or between now and July, why not make a really early start, pack a picnic and go out to discover the beauty of the dawn chorus?

In the winter months it’s only too easy to stay glued to the TV, computer or smartphone on dull days where the threat of rain is heavy in the air.

But it’s surprising how quickly the clouds lift when you get outdoors and get the wind in your hair. Youngsters love to get their wellies and bobble hats on for a good old stamp around in the puddles.

BUG HUNT: hunting for insects PICTURE: National Trust / Chris Lacey

There’s always plenty to see and do, but in case you are short of inspiration, the local BBOWT wildlife trusts have produced a great downloadable Go Wild Guide for the kids to add an element of adventure to the outing.

The free guide includes a scavenger hunt, puzzles, advice on how to make your own bird feeder or insect hotel and an I-Spy Challenge with two dozen birds and insects to look out for in a local park or on the way to school.

National Trust members are spoilt for choice with a wide array of historic estates on the doorstep, including Cliveden, Hughenden and Waddesdon.

SPOILT FOR CHOICE: a spring walk at Cliveden PICTURE: National Trust / Chris Lacey

But the country parks are all worth a visit too, from the tree-lined pathways of Black Park to the sprawling deer park at Langley – and free to enter apart from the cost of parking.

Why not plan a walk in the Colne Valley Regional Park or a longer trail to explore the River Colne and the Grand Union Canal towpath, stopping off for a coffee or bite to eat, enjoying a mix of wildlife, industrial buildings and narrowboats, depending on your route.

Across the Chilterns from Dunstable Downs and Ivinghoe Beacon to Wendover Woods, Winter Hill and the Thames, there’s no shortage of places for that perfect ramble, come wind, rain or shine.

And a number of organisations offer special events and trails to coincide with half-term and other school holidays, including local councils, the National Trust, widllife trusts and museums – check out our What’s On pages month by month for the latest organised events for young people.

Four go wild in the Highlands

BBC’s Winterwatch team return to the Cairngorms next week for another four nights of chilly wildlife watching.

Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Gillian Burke and Iolo Williams host the eighth series of the live show from the Scottish Highlands, starting on Tuesday January 28 at 8pm.

Winterwatch 2020 comes from the programme’s new, year-round home in the Cairngorms National Park, which covers more than 1700 square miles and was established in 2003 by the Scottish parliament.

Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan join forces again to renew a partnership forged more than 25 years ago on the Really Wild Show.

The children’s wildlife programme ran for 20 years from 1986, although the pair were only co-presenters for a couple of years in the 1990s before Chris moved on to other work.

They were reunited on Winterwatch and its sister programmes in 2009 and joined by Gillian Burke in 2017.

Gillian has long been involved with nature TV programming after studying biology at Bristol University. Welsh nature observer and TV presenter Iolo Williams became a regular member of the team in 2019.

Winterwatch runs from Tuesday to Friday next week.

Classy refuge on the Chess

VISITORS TO the stunning Chess Valley are getting the chance to stay in brand new self-catering accommodation this year, with the opening of a new holiday cottage at Watercress Farm in Sarratt.

The farm is home to the Tyler family, who have worked the land alongside the River Chess for more than a century. In fact this is now the only working farm of its type in the whole of the Chilterns, one of 19 which once existed between Sarratt and Chesham.

Jon Tyler’s great grandfather set up the business in 1896 and Jon recalls how in previous generations the men would travel by steam train from Chorleywood to London to sell bunches at Covent Garden Market.

Now Jon and his wife Sarah have launched a new business venture, offering high-end self-catering holiday accommodation at the farm in a converted barn originally used for watercress seed drying.

Sarah announced this week on the Chiltern Tourism Network’s facebook page that they are now taking bookings via their new website.

Costs range from £250 for a two-night weekend break to £700 for a week’s stay from Friday to Friday, complete with welcome pack and fuel for the wood-fired hot tub.

The cottage provides a perfect base to relax, walk, cycle, birdwatch and fly fish brown trout in the River Chess or carp in the farm’s private lake. It’s only half an hour from Harry Potter world and easily accessible from London for those wanting an escape from the city.

From here there are stunning walks along the Chess Valley to neighbouring villages. Sarratt itself boasts a range of good pubs, a small village shop for groceries and a stunning 12th Century church, the Holy Cross, one of the locations used in the Hugh Grant film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Watercress is one of the oldest green vegetables known to man and the peppery green leaves have been recognised as highly nutritious since Victorian times when they were eaten to help kept scurvy at bay. The River Chess, with its clean mineral-rich spring water, is still ideal for growing the cress, in gravel beds bathed in the flow of pure spring water .

Visitors to Crestyl Cottage can do their own basking in fresh spring water too, with a soothing soak in the wood-burning hot tub after a wintry walk up the valley.

Jon took over the farm when his father Terry died in 2014 and runs it with the help of his sister Suzanne Burr and his nephew Henry Cooper. But though you won’t find watercress any fresher than buying it at the farm gate, the business has its own red tape challenges at the moment, says Sarah.

“The holiday let is a diversification to support the business at the moment,” she says.

Final weekend on the history trail

DOZENS of venues across the Chilterns have been throwing open their doors this month as part of the country’s largest free celebration of history and culture – and there’s a last chance this weekend to join in the fun.

The annual nationwide event boasts a dynamic programme of more than 5,000 events where public, private and community spaces host tours, talks and open days.

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From open churches to family fun days, doors are flung open at some of the country’s best-known tourist venues, as well as monuments and buildings which do not normally allow visits.

Attractions range from churches, country houses, museums and gardens to theatres, wildlife reserves, distilleries and even recycling centres.

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To celebrate the festival’s 25th anniversary, 25 new venues are opening their doors. “It’s always exciting when new places join Heritage Open Days,” said national manager Annabelle Thorpe. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by sharing it with these iconic places.”

Behind-the-scenes visits include theatres, bell towers and sports stadia, with a full searchable list of all 5,000 atractions available at the main Heritage Open Days website.

Other popular options include National Trust properties opening their doors free for the day and local churches, museums and other venues staffed by thousands of volunteers eager to share their knowledge of local heritage.

This year’s event runs until September 22 and local highlights across the Chilterns are listed on our What’s On pages.

Established in 1994, Heritage Open Days is England’s contribution to European Heritage Days – launched in 1991 – and has grown into the country’s largest heritage festival.

Exotic sights in St Albans

VISITORS get a last chance to savour some spectacular floral displays and exotic butterflies this weekend as Aylett Nurseries’ “autumn festival” draws to a close.

The Hertfordshire family nursery has long been associated with cultivating dahlias, and has won awards for decades for its stunning displays of the bushy perennials which first arrived in Britain from their native Mexico more than 200 years ago.

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A marquee in the main nursery contains a magnificent splash of colour with its array of home-grown dahlias on the travel theme of “The Way To Go”, while the Celebration Garden and dahlia field where the plants are grown are also open for charity as part of the National Garden Scheme.

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Dahlias were a great passion of the late Roger Aylett, who started the business on the same 7½ acres of land at the age of 21 and was soon dispatching the stunning plants to all corners of the country.

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Inside the marquee this year are more than 55 dahlia varieties freshly cut from the dahlia field, where visitors can use ribbons to pick out their favourites.

The “flagship” of the nursery for over 60 years, since 1961 Aylett displays have picked up 55 gold medals at Royal Horticultural Society annual shows – and it’s not hard to see why.

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Declared the national flower of Mexico in 1963 and grown as a food crop by the Aztecs, there are 42 species of dahlia, with hybrids commonly grown as garden plants.

The official RHS classification lists 14 different groups and there are more than 57,000 cultivars providing an extraordinarily diverse array of colours and shapes.

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For younger visitors less overwhelmed by the displays in the dahlia marquee, there is a last chance to visit “Butterfly Corner”, an enclosed area housing an array of tropical plants and exotic butterflies.

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These include the postman, flambeau and stunning blue morpho, one of the largest in the world. Guests can learn about the fascinating life cycle of the butterfly and watch butterflies feed and fly.

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There is a puparium where new butterflies emerge and younger gardeners can enjoy spotting the different species, caterpillars and butterfly eggs. The butterflies, eggs, caterpillars and plants will be relocated to the Butterfly House at Whipsnade Zoo when the exhibition closes this weekend.

Visitors to the nursery this weekend also get the chance to vote in the Around the World Crate Competition where individuals, schools, clubs and associations were invited to compete for £100 of gift vouchers.

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The competition focuses on the theme of transport and travel and entrants were encouraged to create a miniature world inside a wooden crate which could be displayed during the festival.

Winners will be decided by public vote, with the winner announced on Monday.

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Communities answer call to arms

LITTER-PICKERS across the Chilterns have been rallying local communities to help clean up local neighbourhoods this month.

Within minutes of the launch last week of The Beyonder’s “ripple effect” campaign, local groups had been in touch about their activities.

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In Chalfont St Peter, Jodie Burridge organised a clean-up day in the village, with another planned for October 5.

In Wycombe Marsh, Jean Peasley was in touch about the Wycombe Marsh Environment Group, which organises a monthly litter pick around the area (below), as well as gardening and planting on small uncared-for patches of land.

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In Beaconsfield, the Considerate Beaconsfield group organised a litter pick in August and have another planned for the New Year, while Wooburn Green residents also have a litter-pick planned for September.

Nationally, dozens of such like-minded groups have been keeping in touch via the UK Litterpicking Groups page on Facebook, which has more than 2,000 members.

There are also dozens of similar local initiatives, including the two-minute beach clean movement, the zero plastic lobby and national climate change protests.

The Beyonder’s “ripple effect” campaign was designed to unite the hundreds of like-minded local organisations already doing their bit to keep their neighbourhood clean and spread the word about what more can be done locally to tackle the problem.

The campaign coincided with another international call from action from the Pope on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

Pope Francis has made many calls for environmental protection and has clashed over climate change with sceptical world leaders such as US President Donald Trump, who has taken the United States out of the Paris accord.

At a local level, his call may resonate with church communities across the Chilterns, many of whom can also organise small-scale local events from litter-picking to education in schools.

This week sees hard-hitting TV anti-litter advocate Jeremy Paxman addressing a two-day conference in Birmingham attended by thousands of recycling and waste business and local authority professionals.

Paxman is patron of the Clean Up Britain campaign, a national campaign specialising in changing anti-social environmental behaviour like littering and fly-tipping, and will be delivering a keynote speech on what he sees as the “national embarassment” of how filthy and run-down Britain looks.

He will tell his audience: “There’s only one sustainable solution, and that’s changing the behaviour of people who do litter. Government-supported initiatives have failed – we need a new joined-up, courageous and innovative approach to win the War on Waste.”

Another national campaigner has also called more a more proactive approach. On Twitter, Quentin Brodie Cooper of Zilch UK has spent the past five years building up a network of more than 12,000 followers working together to eliminate littering.

But he expressed disappointment that the Beyonder campaign focused “entirely on picking up litter rather than trying to do more to prevent it”.

His website lists a number of actions which he believes can make a positive and incremental contribution to the war against littering, including encouraging people to act as human camera-traps in car parks and other places where they can witness and report littering from vehicles.

But Beyonder editor Andrew Knight responded: “We do welcome all contributions to the debate and actively work to promote the work of those campaigners who are co-ordinating the fight.

“But we believe that communities working together can make a real difference in changing attitudes towards this problem. It’s not always safe for members of the public to confront litterers or try to prevent anti-social behaviour themselves, for example.

“However working together communities can help spread the word that littering is unacceptable, and Jeremy Paxman is right about the scale of the problem nationwide.

“It’s not just picking up a few bits of litter that makes the difference, but about thousands of local people spreading the word about how much they genuinely care about the local environment and about leading by example.

“Every week on the UK Litterpicking Groups web pages there are heartwarming stories of small triumphs that show many people do care and want to do their bit to help.”

Locally the National Trust rangers’ team based at Cliveden are still looking for more local litterpickers to help keep paths and car parks clean across 843 acres of land at Maidenhead and Cookham commons.

Campaign issues a call to arms

THE Beyonder has launched a “ripple effect” campaign calling on communities across the Chilterns to join forces in a local war on litter and fly-tipping.

The move follows months of research into existing initiatives, speaking to campaign groups, rangers, councils and enforcement teams.

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“It’s clear to anyone driving around our area that there is a major problem with littering,” says Beyonder editor Andrew Knight. “It’s becoming an epidemic on our back roads and roundabouts and it has become a national scandal. It’s the same problem we see on bank holiday beaches and people leaving their tents and camping equipment at festivals.

“A significant minority of selfish individuals are acting with complete disregard for our countryside. It’s costing a fortune to clean up, it’s killing our wildlife and it’s leaving us knee-deep in plastic which eventually ends up in our oceans.

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“Thankfully the tide is really turning in terms of people’s awareness, but there’s still a long way to go.”

He points to the impact of programmes like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series and praised teenage campaigners like Greta Thunberg for pushing environmental concerns higher up the political agenda.

“It’s easy for people to get angry or disheartened about the sheer scale of the problem, but during the past year we’ve been impressed with the positive news stories from all over the country,” he says.

“From joggers to dog walkers, community groups all over the UK are getting together to clean up public spaces near their homes. It might start with their own garden and spread to their street, estate or village.

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“And that shared sense of achievement is very infectious – there are dozens of such groups on Facebook and sharing their experiences helps them cope with the negative things. It keeps people fit, it gets young and old and families out doing something good for the community and the cleaner an area is, the less likely people are to drop litter – the effect really does spread….”

The “ripple” campaign is based on the same principle, he explains, because dotted across the Chilterns are dozens of places where the tough clear-up work is already being done – in country parks and National Trust properties, by scores of parish and town councils, by ordinary farmers and landowners.

“Where property is owned by the Woodland Trust or local wildlife trusts, rangers and volunteers are already on the case, with local families, ramblers and dog walkers all doing their bit to help,” he says.

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“The big problem is that the minute you go outside Black Park or Cliveden or a remote footpath and reach a main road, you are confronted with all sorts of rubbish just being chucked out of passing cars,” he says.

“We can’t change people’s habits overnight, but we think the “ripple effect” campaign can make a real difference once the word gets out. We have to get the message out there that this type of behaviour is unacceptable, anti-social and criminal.

“But if most people in the community are behind it and want to keep their town, village or street clean, it will make life a whole lot harder for those few selfish souls who don’t understand or don’t care what they are doing to the planet.”

Enforcement is part of the package too, as the magazine explored in an interview last year with enforcement officers like David Rounding (below) and his colleagues at Buckinghamshire County Council.

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The online magazine encourages people to get involved in the campaign in any way they can, whether than means picking up a few items of litter when walking the dog, organising a community clean-up or taking steps to reduce the amount of plastic they buy and use at home.

“We hope people will want to get involved and tell us what they are up to,” says Andrew. “We know this will take time and determination and that nothing will change overnight, but our countryside is under siege and igoring the problem is simply not an option.”

For full details of the campaign, and how to get involved, follow the link.