Be a heath hero

Round & About


Join a scavenger hunt, go on a wildlife walk, get up close with reptiles and ‘take a trip to the movies’ all as part of this year’s Heath Week

There’s no need to go abroad to find rare and amazing wildlife, fascinating history and beautiful landscapes. They’re right here, on your doorstep.

This year’s Heath Week, July 29th to August 4th, is timed for the beginning of the school holidays and is packed with free activities to get kids and the young-at-heart outside, enjoying the countryside and discovering local nature.

Celebrate a precious wilderness that’s home to flora, fauna, butterflies, nightjars, insects, reptiles and join scavenger and treasure hunts as you discover how precious our heathland is and why we all need to play our part in protecting it.

Put the dates in your diary and join in:

Sensory Scavenger Hunt – Monday 29th, 11am-3pm. Lightwater Country Park & Wednesday 31st, 11am-3pm, Horsell Common.
• Bring the family and try out the Sensory Scavenger Hunt. Discover heathland in a different way and get all of your senses tingling. No booking required.
Butterfly Walk – Monday 29th, 2pm-4pm. Hazeley Heath.
• Join Hazeley Heath’s RSPB Warden for a gentle stroll to see what Heath Week butterflies are around. If the weather’s warm and there’s not too much wind, we should be able to see Silver-studded Blue butterflies, and that master of disguise, the Grayling. Booking essential.
Nightjar Walk – Monday 29th, 8pm-10.30p. Whitmoor Common & Wednesday 31st, 8pm-10.30pm, Chobham Common.
• Nightjars are almost impossible to see during the day, but at dusk there’s more than a chance of seeing and hearing them in their natural habitat. Join the wardens to learn more about these stunning birds and hopefully see one or two in flight. Booking essential.
Three Churrs for Horsell Common, Nightjar Walk – Monday 29th, 8pm-10.30pm.
• As the sun goes down, the magic begins… Explore Horsell Common with Education Officer Michael and discover the secret twilight world of the Nightjar! Booking essential.
Insect Walk – Tuesday 30th, 2pm-4pm & Thursday 1st, 2pm-4pm, Horsell Common.
•An opportunity for a leisurely walk with entomologist and Horsell Common Preservation Society trustee, Andrew Halstead, and a chance to see some of the insects that make heathland such a special habitat. Booking essential.
Wildfire Roadshow: Crowthorne – Tuesday 30th TBC. Wildmoor heath.
• Meet the folk that fight the fires! Come along to Wildmoor Heath and find out how the brave firefighters of Crowthorne keep our countryside safe from fires. Clamber into the cab of a fire engine and have a go with some of the equipment they use. Chat to a firefighter about how you can keep your countryside, and your home safe. No booking required.

Butterflies and other things with wings – Tuesday 30th, 10am-3pm. Chobham Common.
• Butterfly walks and arts & crafts activities available all day! Discover the butterflies and other invertebrates you might find on heathland in summer. If the weather is right, Chobham Common offers excellent opportunities to observe and learn about butterflies, bees, hoverflies and other flying insects, and learn about their special relationships with flowers, grasses and trees etc. In addition to some common butterflies, two rare heathland butterfly species are usually seen. No booking required.
Guided walk: Dragons and more of the marshlands – Wednesday 31st TBC, Thursley National Nature Reserve.
• Leisurely walk with the Reserve Manager at Thursley National Nature Reserve. Learn about this very special heathland nature reserve and the wildlife of its marshes. Booking essential.
Reptile & Amphibian Roadshow – Thursday 1st, 11am-3pm, Ockham Common.
• Come and meet the team from Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (ARC). They’ll be showcasing some of our amazing native species with live amphibians and reptiles! There’ll also be a craft table where you can enter the ARC’s Heathland Art Competition and take a look at last year’s winners. No booking required.
Heathland History Walk – Thursday 1st, 2.45pm-4.30pm, Hazeley Heath.
Join us with Hart District Council for a walk exploring one of the rarest habitats in the world. As we walk, we’ll learn about the heathland and the history of this beautiful place. Booking essential.
Golden Letter Trail – Friday 2nd, 10am-4pm, Wildmoor Heath.
• Collect the golden letters to discover a secret word as you journey across the heath. Learn about this rare habitat as you go, and once your quest is complete, come and tell us the golden word… No booking required.
History Walk – Saturday 3rd, 10am-12.30pm, Chobham Common.
• A visit to Chobham Common, on a tour steeped in history. With Chobham Commons Preservation Committee. Booking essential.
Reptile & Amphibian Roadshow – Sunday 4th, 10am-3pm, Yateley Common.
• Say ‘hello’ to native reptiles and amphibians! Meet some of the amazing wild creatures that inhabit your local heath, with the team from HIWARG – Hampshire & Isle of Wight Amphibian & Reptile Group. They’ll be showcasing some of our amazing native species with live amphibians and reptiles! Or you can step into our arts & crafts gazebo for a spot of colouring. No booking required.
Forestry Fun – Sunday 4th, 10am-4pm, Bramshill Plantation.
• Discover the history of Bramshill Plantation and the birds, reptiles, butterflies and wildflowers that depend on forest’s habitats. There’ll be a nature trail to explore or you can step into our arts & crafts gazebo for free crafts such as ‘make your own Nightjar nest’ or stone decorating. No booking required.
Guided Walk: A Trip to the Movies – Sunday 4th, 10am-12.30pm, Chobham Common.
• Join Warden Steve on his Trip to the Movies… and a bit of TV… as he explores film and TV locations at Chobham Common. From Dad’s Army and Carry on Cowboy, to early 2000s science-fiction series Primeval and more recently Taboo. There are so many to mention! Booking essential.

All events are free. Some are suitable for all ages and some for over 12s only. Dogs are welcome on some activities. Full details and booking at Thames Basin Heaths Partnership. Heath Week – Thames Basin Heaths (

Stonesfield open gardens glory

Round & About


In need of gardening inspiration? Visit Stonesfield open gardens and pick up some tips

Enjoy the glory of nine open gardens in Stonesfield on Sunday, 23rd June, including some which have never been open to the public before.

Organised by Stonesfield Gardening Club, a number of gardens are opening in aid of local charities. There are a variety including a mix of flower beds with a productive vegetable garden including soft fruits and apple trees. The lawns are slowly being left to become meadows.

A garden for wildlife where you are asked to pause a while, maybe sit for a few minutes, smell the roses, listen to the bird song and the waterfall. Stepped gardens with shrub and herbaceous borders, wildflower orchard, fruit cages and kitchen garden and a peaceful, work in progress garden, full of labours of love from lockdown learnings. Come for the view not the gardening knowledge.

Entry is £6 per person, cash only (accompanied children under 16 free). Tickets and maps will be available from St James Centre, High Street, Stonesfield OX29 8PU where teas and plants are also on sale. Gardens are open 2pm-5.30pm, last tickets at 5pm.

Limited car parking will be available in Stonesfield Primary School opposite St James Centre.

More at Open Garden | Stonesfield Gardening Club

Stonesfield Gardening Club is a friendly, sociable club with a full programme of events through the year. Membership is open to all.

Join Greener Henley and help environment

Round & About


Join Greener Henley and friends for Great Big Green Week and find out how together we can tackle climate change and bring nature and wildlife back to its full glory

The UK’s biggest celebration of community action to protect the planet is back, showing that people everywhere are wanting to help create a better tomorrow.

Greener Henley have organised a week of events for local residents to enjoy, bringing people together to celebrate, and get involved in, what’s happening in and around Henley for climate and nature.

From 8th to 16th June, we’ll have walks, talks, film, art sessions, gallery exhibitions, poetry, and a sustainability workshop for local businesses. Our Nature Discovery Day, down by the River at Mill Meadows, kicks off the week and includes something for everyone, with nature-focused activities for all ages. We’ll have conservation groups and local experts on hand to explore and discuss everything from butterflies and birds to fungi and river water quality, plus a wildlife photography session. Collect your free native wildflower seeds and take part in our Nature Squared campaign, helping Henley get closer to our total of 500m2 of plants for pollinators.

Why not bring a picnic, join the wildflower walk, butterfly sweep, or bug hunt and make a day of it. Pop into the River and Rowing Museum’s Kirkham Gallery to see work from our local students for our Schools Environment Science Challenge on the theme of ‘Pollution’, alongside artworks from the wonderful waterside arts & ecology project that is The Beautiful Blue. In the afternoon you can, let your creativity and love of nature entwine at The Gardening Drawing Club, a family friendly art and gardening session at Henley Library.

Our guest speaker, Professor Chris Merchant talks ‘climate’ on the evening of 10th June at the Town Hall Council Chamber, at ‘In Our Hands: Our Climate Future’. Find out about the key science that makes climate change a formidable challenge, and how ingenuity and determination can meet the Net-Zero target.

Kate Oldridge, Greener Henley’s Chair said: “GBGW is a wonderful opportunity for our community to come together to stand up for nature and fight climate change. There are a whole host of activities in Henley for everyone across the community to get involved in. We can all do something to help, whether that means taking part in our Nature Squared campaign by planting seeds for pollinators, continuing the conversation about something you discover at GBGW, or asking our local decision makers to support action on climate and nature. Let’s make this the biggest and boldest GBGW so far – come out, get involved, take action.”

Events currently planned to take place during Henley’s Great Big Green Week include:

Saturday 8th: Nature Discovery Day, 10am-2pm, Mill Meadows – participants include Henley Toad Patrol, Upper Thames Butterfly Conservation Group, BBOWT, Henley Car Club, chalk stream volunteers and many more.

Saturday 8th: Plant vs beef taste test: Which burger’s best? 12-2pm, outside Pavilion Foods.

Sunday 9th: Green screen: Elephant Mother, plus panel discussion, 2-5pm, Regal Picturehouse. Ticketed.

Monday 10th: ‘In Our Hands: Our Climate Future’ talk on climate change with Q&A, 7-9pm, Town Hall Council Chamber.

Tuesday 11th: Poetry Readings from ‘Tread Gently on the Earth’ poetry competition, 6-7:30pm, Henley Library.

Wednesday 12: Wilding, a special preview screening, plus expert panel, 8-10.15pm, Regal Picturehouse. Ticketed.

Thursday 13th: Greening Your Business seminar & networking event with speakers, 5.30pm-7.30pm, Thames Room, River & Rowing Museum.

Week-long events:

Fun scavenger hunt: Find the letters hidden in crafted flowers in 10 shop windows around town and work out the mystery word.

Henley’s Big Green Road: Choose from eight books that make for interesting reads and start the conversation!

Exhibitions in the Kirkham Gallery, River & Rowing Museum: running alongside each other from 23rd May to 17th June: Pollution: an exhibition of work by local students in response to Greener Henley’s Environmental Science Challenge and The Beautiful Blue: exploring water and our human relationship with it.

More information on individual events and how to book at GBGW 2024 – Greener Henley

Wildlife garden & nature photography competition

Round & About


We’ve teamed up with Adam Henson to invite you to send us pictures of the wildlife in your garden – or local park – and win seeds to help improve biodiversity

One of the UK’s best-known farmers and TV presenter Adam Henson has launched a range of British Wildflower Seeds, the first product line to launch from his new online store, Wildscape.

Developed in collaboration with leading experts in ecology and sustainable agriculture, Wildscape promise to create beautiful spaces, bringing joy to all those who experience them and creating essential habitats to foster biodiversity.

“I believe everyone should consider growing wildflowers,” says Adam, “not only are they beautiful native British blooms, but they also support local biodiversity. No matter if it’s a small pot in an urban setting or large garden, wildflowers create a mini ecosystem right outside your window, attracting a variety of birds, insects, and other delightful creatures.”

Someone who is doing their bit for nature and enjoying it is Chris Waymouth who has shared some pictures of some creatures in his Buckinghamshire garden.

“I was brought up in a small village in Northamptonshire and my father was a lover of wildlife and the outdoors,” Chris tells us. “I used to roam the fields beside the River Nene, absorbing all that the countryside had to offer.

“I used to roam the fields beside the River Nene, absorbing all that the countryside had to offer.”

“As a youngster I wasn’t allowed to touch my father’s prized Rolleiflex camera. I had to make do with a Kodak Brownie, until I was given a simple Agfa for my 21st birthday and this really kickstarted my lifelong interest in photography.

“When I met my wife she had some pro-quality Canon kit and this took me to another level. Digital cameras arrived on the scene and this was another step forward. Finally, three or four years ago, I became pretty serious about my hobby and invested in a mirrorless camera with extremely high resolution and I’ve expanded my range of lenses to seven. These include macro for close-ups of insects and flowers etc, and very long telephoto lenses for bird and wildlife shots.

“My garden in Jordans backs on to beech woods. It is not a showpiece; I prefer a more natural look including a wild area at the back. It is through here that my four-legged visitors arrive: muntjac, roe deer, fox, badger, hedgehog, not to mention the two or three rabbits who are usually trimming my lawn when I pull back the curtains in the morning. Plus, of course, the squirrels. I enjoy stretching my longest lenses to maximum reach to get full-face shots of all of these.

“Then there are the birds. Lots of them! I have half a dozen feeders in the front garden and a couple at the back and clearly the word is out among our feathered friends that this place is good for a meal or two. The list of regulars include all the usual garden birds: robin, blackbird, song thrush, chaffinch, bullfinch, blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, dunnock, wren, jay, green and great spotted woodpeckers and just recently a brambling, not to mention the ever-present woodpigeon, collar dove, magpie, jackdaw, crow, green parakeet and the red kite circling majestically overhead.

“Although I do not have a huge array of flowers, there are plenty to attract bees and a variety of bugs and this is where the macro lens comes into its own, capturing the subject at 1.4x life size. With the high resolution of the camera (a Canon EOS R5) I can then “crop” (zoom into) the photo once it is on my computer and end up with some highly detailed, sharp images.

“I have something like 35,000 photos on my computer – here are just a few for you to enjoy.”

To enter, upload your pictures to Instagram or Facebook and tag @roundandaboutmag with the hashtag #RAphotocompetition to be involved and we’ll choose a winner to receive the seeds. The competition ends June 1st.

Wildlife campaign will support the NHS

Round & About


Families are encouraged to join 30 Days Wild, the campaign by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) to connect with nature every day in June, backed by the NHS.

Wildlife trusts across the UK have run the 30 Days Wild challenge every June for nearly a decade, encouraging people to take one wild act each day. This can be anything from watching wildlife from a window to listening to birdsong or taking a meal or drink outside.

For the first time the initiative has won the backing of the UK’s National Health Service. Liz Shearer, BBOWT’s community engagement director, said: “We are over the moon that the NHS has endorsed our challenge: we have always known that spending time in green spaces can have huge health benefits for many people, helping to lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce anxiety, but now we have the official support of our fantastic health service. Try taking one tiny act to connect with nature and see what it does for you – you could change your life.”

Last year more than 500,000 people took part in 30 Days Wild, including more than 5,000 in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Across the UK, 114,245 households, 11,740 schools, 898 care homes and 1,384 businesses joined in.

Anyone taking part can order a free activity pack, with different packs for families, individuals, businesses and schools containing activities, games and packets of wildflower seeds to sow. A survey of nearly 1,000 participants last year found that people’s favourite activities were watching wildlife and listening to birdsong (85%).

The NHS has decided to back 30 Days Wild as it celebrates its 75th anniversary celebrations this year. The Greener NHS programme at NHS England will showcase NHS gardens and green spaces that support biodiversity, improve air quality, and provide health benefits for staff and patients, both physically and mentally – across the NHS estate.

Join 30 Days Wild and download a free activity pack at 30 Days Wild.

RHS wildlife show stoppers

Round & About


A garden with nature’s recovery at its heart will be premiered by The Wildlife Trusts at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

The Wildlife Trusts: Wilder Spaces garden promises to take wildlife-friendly gardening to a new level, combining beauty with biodiversity.

Wilder Spaces is sponsored by The Wildlife Trusts, led by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and its ecological consultancy Future Nature WTC. Working with experts from Oxford Garden Design, the team will demonstrate how wildlife habitats can be designed into the structure of a garden, using building waste, reclaimed material and untreated timbers. With biodiversity designed into the garden, hopes of winning a prestigious RHS medal are high.

The Wildlife Trusts believe gardening has a vital role to play in nature’s recovery, with long-term benefits for climate and people’s wellbeing too. The aim of the garden is to inspire visitors to think differently about the appearance of a garden designed for people and wildlife, and to show how we can all nurture nature, no matter what size or style of garden.

Estelle Bailey, BBOWT’s chief executive, said: “Nature is in crisis and not enough is being done to reverse this terrible decline in the UK’s biodiversity. We want to see 30% of land well managed for nature by 2030 and our gardens are a vital part of that wild jigsaw. Private gardens make up a bigger area than all of Britain’s nature reserves combined – they can provide a mosaic of mini-habitats that support a diverse range of species, so they are key to helping create more nature everywhere. RHS Malvern Spring Festival will be a great opportunity to showcase to people everywhere what they can achieve in their own gardens for nature, for climate and for themselves.”

The garden will include a range of nature and climate positive features, including grassland, wetland & deadwood, pollinator and larval friendly planting, a steam, waterfall and pond, a compost channel and hoverfly stumpery, recycled materials – timber, steel, building aggregate, a biodiverse roof and solitary bee columns & climate resilient planting and landscaping.

The garden features a watercourse that meanders through the plot towards a central pond and a section of bog planting. A pavilion, created in conjunction with Charlie Luxton Design and constructed from reclaimed steel joists and grating, will be topped with a living roof.

Oxford Garden Design, with Jamie Langlands as lead designer, is returning to the RHS Malvern Spring Festival following its successful 2022 show garden. Jamie has designed a garden that’s beautiful to behold and beneficial for the natural world. Jamie says: “I love creating spaces that are wild and untamed whilst having a little wonder within them.”

“I love creating spaces that are wild and untamed”

Sheena Marsh, owner and founder of Oxford Garden Design, which is also building the garden, said: “We are delighted to be working with BBOWT on The Wilder Spaces Garden, bringing together our learnings from BBOWT with Jamie’s creativity. We hope that this garden will inspire home owners to create wilder spaces in their own gardens.”

Once the RHS Malvern Spring Festival is over, the garden will be distributed across various Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust sites and projects. The seating will go to BBOWT’s College Lake visitor Centre, near Tring or Sutton Courtenay Education Centre’s wildlife garden near Didcot. The RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from 11-14 May 2023 at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern, Worcestershire.

For more information and tickets to the show visit The RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2023 / RHS Gardening

Wildlife volunteers honoured at awards

Ellie Cox


Thirteen unpaid but dedicated workers have been recognised by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) for decades of work they have put in at the charity’s nature reserves across the three counties

Previously BBOWT has presented one lifetime achievement award at its ceremony, but this year has chosen to award the title to six volunteers.

Richard and Julie Birch have been active and influential members of BBOWT’s Chilterns volunteer group for 20 years. Mr Birch used his marketing and business experience to grow the group while his wife took over management of the newsletter and moved it online. Richard said: “As active conservation work becomes less of a pleasure, there are so many other activities to keep one occupied, making a useful contribution and seeing one’s BBOWT friends – like organising events, meeting and greeting and doing publicity.”

Ched George has been a volunteer at BBOWT since 2014, when he helped the Trust to acquire its Yoesden Bank nature reserve, a 13-hectare site of precious chalk grassland in the Chiltern Hills. He took the role of volunteer warden and helped organise regular conservation work parties and ecological surveys.

Richard Herbert as been volunteering with BBOWT since 1984. For most of that time he has been a core member of the Sunday work party at Bowdown Woods reserve near Newbury, led guided walks around the site and given countless talks to local groups and societies.

David Litchfield has dedicated 15 years to volunteering at BBOWT’s Warburg Nature Reserve near Henley. As well as helping with practical conservation work such as scything and teaching other volunteers a host of skills including tool maintenance. Mr Litchfield has also run ecological surveys on the site and passed on his wealth of knowledge to others.

Outstanding Contribution (Individuals)

Gustav Clark has been an enthusiastic and hard-working volunteer with the West Berkshire Living Landscape team. He has also championed the new online Volunteer Hub where BBOWT and volunteers share news, photos and campaigns.

John Lerpiniere is awarded for his exceptional long-term commitment and contribution to the Trust’s conservation work in Berkshire. He works for the Reserves and Ecology teams, and participates in external volunteer groups on several receivers and is also a volunteer stock watcher.

John Parker has volunteered at Greenham and Crookham commons since 2000. He also volunteers with several other BBOWT groups, occasionally up to five days a week, offering his practical conservation skills as well as his organisational acumen and extra help planning tasks.

David Richardson has been a member of Finemere Wood volunteer work party since 2016. He has taught many volunteers how to scythe and has raised funds to buy more scythes by using his skills as a wood turner to turn felled trees from the reserve into bowls and chopping boards for sale.

Dave Stevens welcomes and engages visitors to College Lake with a ready smile. Dave has also been integral in welcoming new volunteers and will often take them for a tour of the site and stay with them until they feel comfortable.

Phil Townsend has been volunteering for the Trust since 2005 and has been involved with the Reserves Surveying Programme since 2007. During this time, he has helped with butterfly transects, bird surveys, and the dragonfly count at College Lake.

Roger Walton helps provide a rewarding experience for visitors to College Lake through the seasons and helps to make resources for visitor trails.

Outstanding Contribution (Groups)

College Lake Wildlife Garden Group have been going for 30 years. The group is self-led with minimal staff input and come up with ideas and plans to ensure the garden is an inspiration to visitors, demonstrating that anyone can create more nature everywhere, from a few pots in the garden is an inspiration to visitors, demonstrating that anyone can create more nature everywhere, from a few pots in the garden to beautiful nectar-rich borders and bug hotels.

The Greenham and Crookham Common Volunteers (GCCV) were recognised for 25 years of conservation and maintenance work. Working closely with staff, the group is reliable, autonomous and very knowledge about the reserve, its history and ways to assist in its management.

The Oxfordshire Field Team is made up of six volunteers, all retired, racking up 83 years of volunteering for BBOWT between them. The group go out twice a week in all weathers and help with all kinds of tasks to look after BBOWT reveres and the animals that graze them.

Warburg Nature Reserve Volunteer Team includes stockwatchers who help look after livestock that graze the reserve, two work parties which carry out practical habitat management and infrastructure maintenance, and volunteers who make charcoal from by-products of coppicing. The team also volunteer at Hartslock and Cholsey Marsh reserves when needed.

The West Berks Badger bTB Vaccination Team was established in 2021 when they responded to a plea for help with baiting badger traps as part of BBOWT’s successful badger vaccination programme. This involves unsociable hours, long commutes, and assisting with vaccinations at sunrise. Their work has been essential in carrying out this year’s vaccinations.

Shooting stars in wildlife photo competition

Round & About


Well done to all the wildlife lovers who took part in the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) competition who snapped some beautiful sights at local nature reserves and green spaces and showed how nature can help our mental health

Winning entries include this stunning shot of a buzzard in flight, this pin-sharp picture of a tiny shield bug emerging from a garden flower and a portrait of a pensive kingfisher.

The winner of this year’s children’s category was eight-year-old Roly Lewis from Oxford. The North Hinksey Primary School pupil took his fantastic photo of a shield bug, poking its head out of a flower in his own front garden.

Roly said: “I wanted to enter the competition, so I took lots of wildlife pictures all spring and summer. I thought this photo was my best one because the blossom was a nice background, and the shield bug had an amazing colour and pattern. This made me look closely at shield bugs which are really amazing. My mum told me I had won when I came out of school, and I was so excited I jumped up and down. I really wanted to win but I thought there would be so many good photos that I wouldn’t.”

Children Winner – Roly Lewis (8) (Sheildbug)
Children Runner Up – Hayden Denham (7) (Hummingbird Hawkmoth)

The Wildlife Trust restarted its popular photo competition this summer after a three-year break because of the pandemic. The charity, which manages more than 80 nature reserves across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, challenged everyone aged six and over to take fantastic photos of plants, animals and fungi at its sites, or to capture action for wildlife in their local area.

Roy McDonald took first place with his crystal-clear shot of a buzzard in mid-air at the Trust’s College Lake reserve near Tring. The 45-year-old former courier driver from Berkhamstead revealed after winning the contest that he has struggled with his mental health for some years, and that wildlife photography had helped. He said: “Nature helps me so much, it’s honest and calming and it doesn’t judge you, and just sometimes, if you are calm and patient, it will allow you to get up close into their world. I always take great pleasure when a creature trusts you enough to not scurry or fly away. But you don’t have to take photos: just being in nature and observing it can give you something to focus on.

“I had my encounter with a majestic buzzard on a cold and beautiful winter day. I had seconds to react once I spotted it, and just as my focus locked on, it spotted me and flew directly across my path. So close to me. I chose the first image of the sequence because it had the most amount of action and sense of place. It is by far and away the best shot of a buzzard I have ever managed. They have eluded me for years. I’m quite stunned and delighted to have won.”

Flora and fauna Winner (and overall winner) – Ray McDonald (buzzard in flight) taken at College Lake
Flora and fauna Runner Up – Adrianna Bielobradek (Poppy seedhead) taken at Buckleberry Common)

As overall winner, Mr McDonald won a top-of-the-range Panasonic Lumix digital camera and a wildlife photography masterclass. As well as receiving a printed canvas of his picture and having it appear in BBOWT’s 2023 calendar.

This year’s contest had six new categories: flora and fauna; nature reserve landscapes; people in nature; children’s category (ages 6-12), teenagers (ages 13-19) and Team Wilder, for shots of action for nature in the community. Helen Touchard-Paxton, a mum who lives Buckinghamshire, won the Team Wilder category with a snap of a frog in a garden pond that she and her family dug during the coronavirus lockdown.

She said: “I believe this photo shows that you don’t need acres of land to create a successful wildlife area: if you are interested – no matter how small your space – just have a go and see what works. I don’t have high-end expensive equipment, and I have no idea how to use photo editing software – the photo is very much ‘as taken’. I was absolutely amazed to have won the Team Wilder category.”

Team Wilder Winner – Helen Touchard-Paxton (frog)
Team Wilder Runner Up – Peter Massam (bug hotel)

The Trust received hundreds of entries, creating an extremely difficult job for this year’s judges. BBOWT communications officer Kate Titford, Trust magazine editor Ben Vanheems and professional photographer Steve Gozdz, who runs local nature safaris in Berkshire through his business GG Wildlife Experiences.

Teenagers Winner – Zachary Osbourne (14) Kingfisher
Teenagers Runner Up – Lucy Colston (17) (marbled white on scabious)

Mr Vanheems said: “It’s been a really laborious process with lots of debate going on because we want to get it right, but the competition entrants haven’t exactly made it easy for us.”

People in Nature Winner – Petra Mohr (girl on decking) taken at Weston Turville Reservior
People in Nature Runner Up – Lorraine Clarke (man in hide) taken at College Lake

Mr Gozdz added: “What I was looking for was composition, good use of light – an action shot would have been fantastic. What we’ve found is something quite stunning. A real in-the-moment shot with perfect angles and perfect light, and actually something I would have been very happy to have taken myself. In fact, when I first saw it I was quite jealous.”

Landscape Winner – Charlotte Day (sunrise landscape) taken at Cholsey Marsh
Landscape Runner Up – John Kearns (Warburg trees) taken at Warburg
The trust is grateful to GG Wildlife Experiences, Panasonic and Chroma for sponsoring this year’s competition.

£2 Million River Wildlife Project Success

Round & About


A ground-breaking project created by BBOWT, (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust) to create a new channel of the River Thames and restore long-lost wildlife habitat, has been completed.

The 450-metre watercourse at Chimney Meadows nature reserve near Bampton, bypasses a manmade weir and will enable fish to swim along a 30km stretch of the Thames, and spawn for the first time in more than a century.

Created by BBOWT in a £2 million project at its flagship nature reserve. The channel is already populated with native fish, birds and mammals.

Working with the Environment Agency, the trust also created shallow temporary pools called scrapes near the channel. The project has re-established a naturally functioning floodplain habitat. Which was once common across the UK, but was destroyed as rivers were straightened, land was drained and connection with floodplain was lost.

This wetland is now able to store floodwater for longer, helping to protect homes and land from flooding. Predicted to worsen as a result of climate change. The trust is also working in partnership with Bangor University and the EA. Who are undertaking research to demonstrate that active floodplains can store carbon and be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

Estelle Bailey, BBOWT’s chief executive, said: “This project is an amazing achievement for restoring vital habitats for wildlife, to move freely while tackling climate change. Our mission as a trust is to put nature into recovery. We want to see 30% of land in our three counties properly managed for wildlife by 2030. This is a golden piece of that wild jigsaw puzzle. We know we cannot tackle climate change without restoring nature. This project is a shining example to the whole world of how we can achieve that by working together to bring wildlife back.”

This is a golden piece of that wild jigsaw puzzle

The two-year project was funded by a £2 million Water Environment Grant. From the EU’s European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The project was managed by environmental consultancy JCTR, designed by environmental engineering consultancy Atkins, and main contractor on site was Hampshire-based FiveRivers. Which delivered all the environmental, wetland and improvement works.

One of the central aims of the work was to create a channel that would bypass Shifford Weir. A structure has existed at this site since the 1890s. When a new ‘short cut’ channel was dug to connect two parts of the Thames and enable easier transportation of wool from the Cotswolds to London. Shifford Weir is owned and operated by the EA and helps with the navigability and flood risk management of the Thames. But blocks the movement of fish. This is one of the reasons that, in recent years, the river environments in the area have been classified as having poor ecological status.

The new channel, in combination with a new rock pool fish pass at Duxford Ford, will allow fish to pass some of the last remaining barriers on the Upper Thames. Fish will now be able to freely swim around the Duxford Loop of the river. Even during low water levels, to access some 30km of Thames between Eynsham and Radcot, including 2.1km of potentially good spawning habitat. Crucially, this helps populations of native species including barbel, chub and dace to be far more resilient to environmental change such as hotter, drier summers, and to pollution events.

The new scrapes around the channel will help the nature reserve’s curlew. An iconic wading bird with a distinctive downward-curved beak that is in national decline. The curlew is an indicator of the wider health of the wetland. But they need wet pools to feed on aquatic insects and longer grass, in which to nest and hide from predators. Both have now been restored.

The project has also attached ‘baffles’ to Great Brook Ford which will further help fish to swim upstream, and planted new, native wet woodland around Duxford Ford. With hundreds of willow, alder, birch and hawthorn trees.

The entire project was overseen by BBOWT Living Landscape Manager for the Upper Thames, Lisa Lane. Despite the fact that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the middle of the work. Lisa said: “It was really challenging to make this project happen for many reasons. It came close to failing a few times. Lizzie Rhymes at the Environment Agency has been a great support in particular, since we first discussed helping fish over or around the various barriers in the river back in 2010! I can’t wait to show people what we have achieved.”

Appeal to save wildlife from fire

Liz Nicholls


Surrey Wildlife Trust is urgently asking for donations to help one of our most precious heathland habitats, and about 200 red deer that help maintain it, recover from a devastating wildfire.

In July, a wildfire broke out on Pirbright Ranges, one of the largest areas of lowland heath in Surrey and home to many rare and threatened species. Patches of ground continue to burn for three weeks and over 650 hectares of pristine heathland has now been severely burnt, at great cost to wildlife.

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s herd of red deer carry out a vital role by grazing the heathland to prevent scrub including Scots pine, common gorse and silver birch from taking over the site. This allows slower-growing dwarf scrub and specialist heathland plant species to flourish, creating the foundation of the unique and threatened heathland ecosystem. Following the fire, hundreds of meters of fencing and heavy-duty sleepers that keep the deer safely on site now needs to be replaced – and the ongoing welfare of the herd will depend on regular vet checks and inspections by SWT staff. Supplementary food in the form of haylage will also be made available to the deer to ensure they have enough food to maintain good condition heading into winter.

The immediate impact of the fire also includes the potential loss of hundreds of recently fledged rare ground-nesting birds including European nightjars, Dartford warblers and woodlark which may have been too young to fly away from the fire. The damage to the site will also have prevented their parents from nesting a second time this year and will change the availability of suitable nesting sites for years to come. Reptiles such as slow worms, grass snakes and adders have been unable to escape the fire, perishing alongside the many invertebrate species, including endangered heath tiger beetles that inhabit the remaining heathland fragments in the southeast of England.


Wildfires have put Surrey on the front line of the climate and nature emergency

Rising temperatures and a lack of rainfall has led to increasingly large, uncontrollable blazes that destroy large areas of heathland. The Pirbright Ranges Fire has potentially burned deep into the ground, affecting plant species including round-leaved sundew, marsh clubmoss and bell heather over hundreds of hectares.

About 85% of heathland in the UK has been lost over the past 150 years through agriculture, development and changes in land management. Surrey Wildlife Trust manages several areas of heathland, including Chobham Common National Nature Reserve and Wisley and Ockham commons that are particularly susceptible to fire in dry conditions. Strain on resources in the years ahead are set to be severe for all who manage and protect these diverse and sensitive habitats.  Dealing with the impact of the Pirbright Ranges fire is expected to account for more than 30 additional days of SWT staff time this year alone.

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s director of reserves management, James Herd, says:

“Wildfires have put Surrey on the front line of the climate and nature emergency – and we urgently need extra support to meet the challenge.  Whilst the heathland will regenerate over time, it is likely to be eight to twelve years before it returns to full health.  The deer will perform a unique and irreplaceable role in ensuring the lowland habitats recover during this time.  All donations we receive will go directly to ensuring their welfare and the continuing safety of Surrey’s heathlands and their unique plants and animals.

“With the help of local people, we will do all we can to explore what more can be done to protect our natural heritage as weather patterns change.  It’s vitally important that people in Surrey can continue to reap the benefits of diverse and healthy ecosystems.”

Pirbright Ranges is owned by the Ministry of Defence.  For safety reasons, it is not accessible to the public.  The herd of red deer that grazes the site is owned and managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust.

David Nolan, Area Commander for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service said:

“Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to be wildfire aware. We have seen an increase in the number of wildfires we are attending recently and are asking residents to help keep Surrey safe. Please pack a picnic instead of a BBQ, and don’t have campfires or bonfires when the weather is dry! Ensure you dispose of cigarettes and litter correctly.”

Find out more

For more information about how to support the appeal please visit