Tracking the Impact: In Celebration of Volunteers

Tracking the Impact: In Celebration of Volunteers

“It’s been fantastic. The training courses were great. It’s interesting going into a wood now; it’s like there’s this whole extra dimension. I always heard the birds –  I used to know about birds – but it’s like there’s this whole soundscape because I can now recognise all these birds by sound, which before I could only do by sight.” 

These are the words of Marieke, a volunteer who took part in a Breeding Birds Survey project last year, which gave her access to some expert training in bird ID, so that she could get out and about and help monitor bird populations in her local area. Marieke was part of something bigger – a dedicated team of volunteers who managed to carry out more than 180 wildlife and plant surveys in the Chilterns last year as part of the Chalk Cherries and Chairs project, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Marieke was sharing her experiences at Tracking the Impact – an online celebration of the role of the volunteers involved in this Citizen Science and conservation project, and a fascinating look at the findings and achievements of the project last year.

The event, on Thursday 16th December, included presentations and discussion sessions and chances to hear directly from volunteers of all ages.

One main thing that comes across in this event is that you don’t need to be a scientist or expert or have prior experience to get involved in surveying wildlife. If you’re interested in learning more about your local natural world, visiting new wild spaces locally or just noticing more of the flora and fauna on your doorstep, that’s perfect – enthusiasm and a little time is all you need.

If surveying doesn’t sound your cup of tea, there are all kinds of hands on conservation volunteering opportunities too and we’ve listed some of them below. Volunteers play a huge role in the protection of natural landscapes in the Chilterns and elsewhere. Without volunteers, major conservation achievement just wouldn’t be possible.

Tracking the Impact: the video

We’ve put the video of the whole event to watch below, along with a summary of the event so you can look for the parts you’re most interested in!

Tracking the Impact, a summary of the event:

The event starts with an introduction from Andy Clements (recently retired CEO of The British Trust for Ornithology), who sets the scene with the bigger picture – giving examples of how volunteer data has influenced government decisions to fund research and conservation projects that have made a huge difference.

Nick Marriner, from the Chilterns Conservation Board and Chalk Cherries and Chairs Project talks about how the surveys were set up to fill a gap in local data for the Chilterns. He shows how the project will help build an accurate picture of the health of wildlife and habitats locally, to inform and back up local conservation decisions.

You can hear a discussion between members of the Central Chilterns Farmer Cluster, who talk about how welcoming volunteers onto their farms has broken down barriers, and how a farmers’ WhatsApp group has been a friendly competitive motivator for the 18 farms in the cluster to be the best at creating the right conditions to attract more species and wildlife to their farms!

You can hear from two young people from Chilterns New Shoots, and Steph Rodgers from Chilterns Rangers who runs this project that is giving a group of 15 – 20 year olds their first taste of conservation work, bird surveying and plant monitoring. The young people also had access to high quality binoculars, expert advice and training, careers advice and work experience.

You can also hear from conservation groups who’ve been partners in the project, including:

Norman Shepherd from the Bucks Owl & Raptor Group, talking about the placement of Owl boxes on farms in the Chilterns, and the monitoring findings – if you’d like to volunteer with this group, visit: Give a Hoot

Pete Edwards from the Hughenden Ringing Group talking about their bird surveying & bird ringing work.

Kristin Thompson from the Buckinghamshire Mammal Group talking about the small mammal survey project.

And Steve Jeanes, a volunteer from the Bucks & Milton Keynes Environmental Records Centre talking about a reptile survey project.


Other Volunteering Opportunities locally:

Looking for a New Year’s Resolution and love nature and wildlife, or heritage and history? Here are some a ways to get involved and make a difference locally.

Wildlife Surveying:

Contact Nick from Chalk Cherries and Chairs for more information on how to get involved in the surveying projects featured in the video. Email:

Chiltern New Shoots:

To get involved in the next cohort of 15 – 20 year olds, read more and find the sign up form here.

Chilterns Archaeology and Lidar – Beacons of the Past Project:

Help with fieldwork, or lean help analyse lidar maps from the comfort of your armchair and laptop! Beacons from the Past is all about discovering the unmapped archaeology of Chilterns Hillforts. Learn more about how LiDAR data is collected and processed, and how you can ‘read’ it to discover archaeology hidden in the landscape. Or when COVID safety allows you can take part in an excavation or a workshop. Join the e-mailing list here to express an interest and hear about the latest opportunities.

Chalk Streams Protection and Monitoring:

Volunteers have long played an essential role in protecting and enhancing these rare and special Chilterns habitats, and here are some of the groups you can get involved with. You can help remove invasive species from the river, learn how to monitor river flies as a marker of river health, and keep a regular watch for pollution and blockages. If you don’t like getting muddy, help organise and recruit, or simply make a cuppa for the workers!

Learn more and get involved via these groups’ websites:

Revive the Wye

The Ver Valley Society

River Chess Association

The Chiltern Society Rivers and Wetland Group 

Benson Nature Group volunteers (who help look after Ewelme Brook)

The Chiltern Society

Fantastic conservation groups, footpath maintenance groups and river and wetland groups just waiting for you to get involved. Find out more here.

Wildlife Trusts:

BBOWT: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust has fantastic opportunities for conservation volunteering, or even helping out in their visitor centres and offices, with relevant training given before you start. Also try Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust.

Natural England


The National Trust

Care for the special places and buildings you love by volunteering for the National Trust. Find out more here.

Company Team Building:

Chiltern Rangers offer a ‘Be a Ranger’ Day for companies – a great way to work together, have fun and get outdoors for a day. Get hands-on with tasks such as creating homes for birds, butterflies and wildflowers. Or building a bench in a countryside area, improving steps or clearing paths!

Watch the Video