Bedfordshire Chalkscapes

Warden Hill, Beds, Chris Lowe

The Chilterns Conservation Board has received funding to design Chalkscapes, an exciting new landscape project inspiring a wide range of communities to take action for nature and wildlife, in which the Trust will play a part

The Chilterns Conservation Board has been awarded £232,600 of development funding by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to design Chalkscapes. This exciting new landscape project looks to inspire a wide range of communities to take action for nature and wildlife.

The project aims to undertake landscape-scale conservation across five focus areas whilst inspiring communities to learn about, explore and take action working with urban communities in Central Bedfordshire, Luton and Hertfordshire, finding new, creative ways of inspiring more people to understand and care about the landscape on their doorstep. The Development Phase will run for 24 months between 2021 and 2022 led by a small Development Team: a range of pilot activities and survey work will be undertaken in preparation to submit a full bid for the Delivery Phase to the National Lottery Heritage Fund late 2022.

Chalkscapes will feature a suite of complimentary projects connecting people and communities with the landscape and nature around them:

  • Community Chalk is an outreach project to connect a greater range of people with our special landscapes, with a focus especially on young people, black, and minority ethnic groups and people of all ages who tend not to venture into our landscapes and enjoy nature.
  • Routeways & Waysides will help discover the network of ancient trackways, once important trade routes and the lifeblood of communities in the North Chilterns, including the Icknield Way. Many of these historic routes run through urban centres.
  • Chalkscapes Champions is a community volunteering project where local people will design and lead projects which care for the landscape, wildlife and heritage. Conservation and environmental partners will support community groups to develop projects and activities meaningful for them, inspiring a more diverse range of people to get involved.
  • Tales of the Chalk will be a programme of arts activities inspired by the North Chilterns landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage, bringing stories of the landscape and its people to life.
  • Wild Chalk will be practical conservation and land management work at the heart of the project. Landscape-scale, creating larger, more diverse habitats for plants and animals – many rare and in decline – that uniquely live in chalk habitats. Tied closely to community engagement this will bring people the chance to get involved and take action for threatened species.

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, connection with nature never mattered more, and the opportunity to engage with a range of local urban communities is one which this project plans will be fully explored.

The Trust's Living Landscape Manager Laura Downton says: "I helped lead on developing the ‘Wild Chalk’ project that tackles the practical conservation and land management element at the heart of Chalkscapes. This project will deliver landscape scale conservation helping to create bigger, more joined up, more diverse and better outcomes for chalk habitats and species in decline, which make this area so special. This is a really exciting time for the North Chilterns and provided we get the development right, this £2.8 million project will bring a much needed resources to this area between 2023 and 2027. We look forward to future involvement."

On the community side the Trust will be working with the project team and delivering focus group sessions with young people at Tokko Youth Space, providing information and seeking feedback on opportunities to engage with nature conservation. Louise Rackham, Head of Communities and Wildlife, says: “This will be a fantastic opportunity for our team to engage with more diverse new audiences and inspire them about the natural environment and their local environment, the health benefits of the natural environment, the work of the Wildlife Trust. Through this consultation/development phase we want listen and learn from them about barriers that they face and their ideas for the future of our natural heritage. Through creative activity sessions in the outdoors we want to inspire other people in their communities to also take positive action and encourage them to become future ‘champions’ spreading the word, inspiring others and helping to safe guard special chalk landscapes for the future.”