Representatives from an AONB, a CEMEX Kensworth quarry, golf course, and their respective RSPB partnership counterparts met recently to discuss the landscape opportunities available and how we progress and work together on these chalk sites. The vision is of habitats that extend and complement each other across all land uses. On the golf course, areas out of play already provide some fantastic wildflower areas and dense scrub. Future restoration plans for the quarry includes extensive chalk grassland, butterfly banks areas of bare chalk that will naturally succeed creating pioneer / early successional habitat along with ponds and scrub. This combination of habitats provides habitat for a range of species including those scarce and declining species that are known to occur locally like Duke of Burgundy and in the recent past Turtle Doves.
The Chilterns AONB extends from Reading up to Luton and at its northern end includes Dunstable Downs and Whipsnade SSSI, managed by the National Trust, these sites are literally just across the road from both Dunstable Downs Golf Course and CEMEX Kensworth quarry. The RSPB has been working with CEMEX for over 10 years and closely with Kensworth over the last two years, to reprioritise their restoration scheme, which was originally earmarked for woodland and agricultural grassland – for a chalk site this would clearly have been a lost opportunity.
Working so closely with the quarry we’ve generated support from them. A casual conversation by the Site Manager with the golf course next door has built wider connections. Dunstable Downs Golf Course are keen to enhance their site for nature, utilising the skills from RSPB partnerships with the R&A and quarry. The aspiration being to restore their original chalk downland characteristics and chalk grassland species and wildflowers to their ‘long rough – as these characteristics were lost due to the graduation towards a parkland course many years earlier.
The RSPB and the quarry have built connections with the BCN Wildlife Trust and contacted the National Trust to facilitate green haying. Combined, the advice and wealth of local knowledge will input into enhancement at both the golf course and the quarry – an excellent result already! However, we have also connected with the Chilterns Conservation Board as part of the Chilterns AONB, linking in with a Chalkscapes landscape bid.
There are always opportunities for different landowners to work together to share knowledge and form that connected network. Certainly, for the partnership RSPB/CEMEX we hope to replicate this working with stakeholders at other CEMEX sites, whether that be working with local RSPB reserve or with other landowners or other conservation charities.