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Newsletter No. 81 May 2021

News from the Reserve from Les

We have regularly assessed the Covid-19 situation and the need to take sensible steps to protect the health and safety of our members, volunteers and members of the public. All our guided walks around the reserve and other events for 2020 were cancelled, so we have no summaries of their highlights for you.

Volunteer work parties, suspended from March, only resumed at the end of September. These were by invitation and were managed so that there were no more than 6 in a group. The October work party was devoted to scrub clearance but following the lock down, normal work parties were again suspended until March 2021. Joe Hope’s sheep (17) arrived to graze the chalk bank on 27th September 2020 and left on 21st November 2020.

The Friends of Holtspur Bank LNR Annual General Meeting was held via Zoom on 10th November 2020. All members of the Committee were re-appointed. We did not have a guest speaker.

Emergency maintenance was carried out by a sub-group of your committee in December to deal with a fallen tree and the notice board at the Riding Lane entrance was re-felted. The 28th March 2021 work party involved scrub clearance on the chalk bank and dogwood brush cutting. The cuttings were raked up for burning at a later date.

On 31st March 2021, four of the Friends formed a socially distanced work party to replace the bench commemorating the late Maurice Young. Maurice, a very talented naturalist helped draw the attention of Beaconsfield Town Council to the value of the site in the early 1990s suggesting that it be recognised in some way. Lack of grazing for many years had caused the chalk bank to scrub over, which in turn was leading to the disappearance of valuable flora and fauna. In 1993 the Town Council commissioned a management plan from Maurice Young which was used by South Bucks District Council to designate the site as a local nature reserve. The original bench had deteriorated beyond repair and had become very unstable, so it was decided to make a new one and install it close to the original location.

On the same day, the work party also installed a finger board at the Riding Lane entrance to the Reserve. This finger board provides a better indication of the Reserve location to people walking along Riding Lane.

On 25th April 2021, in addition to the cowslip count, the work party carried 

out brush cutting on the lower slope of the chalk bank near the Riding Lane steps, burning the arising material together with the cuttings left over from previous work parties.

A count of the cowslips on the grassland area of the Reserve has been carried out on the last Sunday in April since the year 2000. Up to 2019 the count has been of the number of plants (rosettes) present rather than the flower heads. This takes time and dedication. Furthermore, variations from year to year in the progress of spring results in changes in the visibility of the rosettes due to differences in the amount of growth of other vegetation. This leads to variability in the accuracy of the count.

Covid 19 meant that there was no count in 2020 and following discussions by the Friends committee it was agreed to make a fresh start and from 2021 to count only the flower heads. However, to enable a comparison to be made with the previous years’ rosette results an assessment of the ratio between flower numbers and rosettes has been carried out.

A total of 30 one metre square quadrats containing between 1 and 60 cowslip flowers were assessed for the number of rosettes present. It was found that those with fewer flowers had the highest average ratio (2.6 rosettes to each flower) compared to only 1.9: 1 for the quadrat containing the most flowers. Hopefully this might suggest that the cowslips are expanding most into areas containing only a few plants. Overall, the average ratio for the 30 quadrats was almost exactly two rosettes for each flower head.

Using this ratio, it is possible to compare this year’s results with previous years. This suggests that the 2021 numbers were the highest since our records began and over 10 times higher than those in the early 2000s with over 21600 flower heads this year.

The main grassland area has shown sustained increases over the last few years and some of the marginal zones around the edges of the grassland have also shown increases. Hopefully this is, at least partly due to scrub clearance carried out by the Friends in recent years.

During the count this year, more false oxlips (cross between cowslip and primrose) were seen together with a few cowslips with orange-red petals. The cowslips have produced one of the best displays this year since the Friends became involved in the area and it is nice to see this confirmed by the actual count.

Subscriptions to our group have been due for year 2021 – 2022 from 1st April 2021  

If you have not yet renewed please do so as your subscription is very important to us and helps to maintain your Local Nature Reserve. 


Walks in 2021.  Meet at Cherry Tree Road for 2.30pm start unless stated otherwise 

Friday 2nd July 2021, Glow worm hunt and bat walk.  Meet as above at 9.15pm for 9.30pm start.  Bring a torch 

Sunday 18th July 2021, Summer walk with Derek Bourne. 

Sunday 19th September 2021, Autumn walk with Brenda Harold 

Sunday 24th October 2021, Fungal foray with Penny Cullington 

Please check the Events page of this website prior to any walk as these may have to be postponed or cancelled if there are further changes in pandemic conditions.

Work Parties 2021 – 2022 will re-commence at the end of September 2021

These are on the last Sunday in the Month at 10:00 am until 12:00 noon approx.  Meet in the area off Riding Lane.  Work will be decided according to requirements and in conjunction with work carried out for the Town Council by Chiltern Rangers CIC.

If you are reading this Newsletter and are not already a member and would like to join, 

please contact Pauline Knapp our membership secretary

A message from the Chairman of the Friends of Holtspur Bank Local Nature Reserve (LNR)

Dear Friends of Holtspur Bank LNR

I’m writing to ask for your help and support for our future activities. 

The Friends have achieved a lot since Shirley Scrivener formed it almost 25 years ago.  Working with Beaconsfield Town Council, the owner of the Reserve, the Friends have maintained and enhanced Holtspur Bank Local Nature Reserve so that it has become one of Beaconsfield’s natural jewels.  The Friends have gone from strength to strength thanks to its hard working, effective and talented Committee members and working party volunteers.  All the activities of the Friends are driven by the Committee as our regular Newsletters show with a love of this rare and delightful part of Beaconsfield’s natural environment being implicit in all that we do.  In addition, we promote the Reserve to a wider audience through our regular guided walks to ensure we maintain viable levels of membership and that we are financially stable.  

Committee members move on, move away or retire and we need your help.  There are plenty more things we could do but we need more Committee members.  Without them it will be difficult to maintain our impressive list of activities or to initiate new ones.  We are in particular need of a Newsletter editor and someone to handle Promotion/publicity.  You would not necessarily need to join the winter practical conservation work parties although we could use some help here too.  

If you were to join us, you could expect to be well supported by other members of the Committee.  Even if you cannot make time to join the committee, please remember that we are always seeking “active” members who are prepared to help at specific events.

Remember, volunteering also has a positive impact on your own life.  You’ll meet new people living near you, you can take a refreshing break from your everyday routine, share a skill and make a difference in your community

Have I sparked your interest?  Like to find out more?  Browse this website to find out more about the Reserve or call me on 07919 336713.

With very best wishes

Les Davies