We are the Local Environment Group for the area around Prestwood in Buckinghamshire, including Great Missenden,
The Hampdens, The Kingshills, North Dean and Speen
We aim to protect and enhance the quality of the natural environment through the involvement of local people.
Farmland occupies three-quarters of our area. It is a mixture of smallholdings, pastureland and crops typical of the Chilterns. In the second half of the 19th century most of the large fields were devoted to cultivation, but pasture became an increasing proportion through the 20th century, until the second world war led to the ploughing up of many of these fields again. Today, at least half of all the farmland is pasture, most of it “improved” by fertilisation and sowing nutritious non-native grass strains. These fields have very little wildlife interest. The decline in profitability of farmland has also led to much land bordering settlements being sold off to become small horse pastures. These rapidly lose any wildlife interest they might have had.
Arable land, on the other hand, is subject to herbicides and pesticides (apart from organic farms) and any interest they maintain at the most is limited to a narrow margin that may suffer less spraying. Here, in a few fields, survive some of the increasingly rare agricultural annual “weeds” that used to be widespread.
Set-aside borders to some fields allow the development of natural grassland, which may include grass vetchling, cowslip, and nettle-leaved bellflower. These were recently supported under the various funded stewardship schemes, but the tide towards more arable land has turned once again with world-wide grain shortages, and set-aside is currently in decline again.
The vagaries of economic markets and constant shifting of farming priorities, a fact of life for farmers ever since cultivation began, makes the job of conservation particularly difficult. While modern chemicals and the stress on high yields has devastated the wildlife that had for centuries managed to find a niche alongside farming (even if unwelcome), and it is surprising that any wildlife survives at all today. But across fields along Hampden Bottom, for instance, brown hares are common, and both skylarks and raptors have returned in the last couple of decades to the skies (red kite, buzzard, kestrel and sparrowhawk are all common). In some field margins on chalk can still be found abundant displays of narrow-fruited cornsalad, dwarf spurge, small toadflax, fluellens, parsley-piert, field madder and other flowers.
Many of the habitats dealt with elsewhere in this web site are mainly found on farmland – hedges, ancient trees, old ponds, orchards and even woodland – so the involvement of farmers in conservation is absolutely critical to our work in this region. We are fortunate in being able to work closely with a good many of the farmers in our area, so that they can be made aware of the natural heritage of which they are custodians and ways can be found to integrate conservation needs into farm plans. In one case detailed surveys by PN have supported a farmer’s achievement of a Higher Level Environmental Stewardship, flagship status for Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), and several national awards (Ian Waller, Hampden Bottom Farm). Annual open days allow the public to see how Mr Waller manages his farm, and, with the help of PN, to get a close look at some of the interesting wildlife. There are also regular open days at the certified organic farm Wren Davis Ltd at Collings Hanger Farm – a farm that includes three county Local Wildlife Sites and the only site in Bucks for one rare plant.
In the centre of Great Missenden, in a flagship project right beside the main car park, Prestwood Nature is attempting to restore one small field (Boug’s Meadow) that was once pasture and had become overrun with nettles, cow parsley and docks after years of being used for horses and then remaining unmanaged for several more years. This is a long-term project in which we are attempting to create a flower meadow with a small copse of native trees. An important feature of the site is a stretch of the River Misbourne near its source, which in the last couple of decades has been largely dry, due at one time to over-abstraction of water and latterly to decreased rainfall. An old track to Missenden Abbey has also been uncovered at the site and will be restored along with boundary hedges.
|Activities for Children|
|Publicity & Liaison|
|Walks and Visits|
|Junior Photo Competition|
|Great Missenden Library|
|Angling Spring Wood|
|Hedges and Special Trees Project|
|Kiln Common Orchard|
|Prestwood Nature Reserve|
|Boug's Meadow History|
|Why no car park at Boug's Meadow|
|Butterfly Transect Route|
|Kiln Common Orchard Planting Plan|
|Ecological Flora of the Central Chilterns|
|Flowering Plants: Arable Land|
|Flowering Plants: Disturbed Land|
|Flowering Plants: Meadows|
|Flowering Plants: Ponds|
|Flowering Plants: Roadsides|
|Flowering Plants: Woodlands & Hedgerows|
|Grasses, Sedges & Rushes|
|Bees and Wasps|
|Mosses & Liverworts|
|Ancient Trees & Parkland|
|Heathland & Acid Grassland|
|Collings Hanger Pond|
|Kiln Corner Pond|