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.
These comprise some of our most endangered wildlife habitats. Most existing grassland has been fertilised ("improved" in agricultural terms) to support high grazing stock levels and the original natural communities and biodiversity destroyed. Such grasslands are usually no more than dandelions, buttercups and daisies, if they have any flowering plants other than grasses at all.
Natural grasslands can be divided into chalk grassland (once mostly sheep pasture), acid or heath grassland (the staple habitat of the former commons at Prestwood and Kingshill, but now almost totally destroyed in our area), neutral grassland (usually former hay meadows), and churchyards (which tend to have a mixed character).
A few chalk grasslands survive in our area. One comprises Perks Lane Picnic Site, which is protected. Two others are privately-owned but Prestwood Nature has helped or is helping with their management, in one case focused on one of the best colonies of Chiltern Gentian in the region, and the other on the survival of Meadow Clary, a plant on the brink of extinction in the county and endangered country-wide. In neither case is there any guarantee of future conservation, eg in the case of change of ownership. Some large set-aside areas on Hampden Bottom and Collings Hanger Farms are managed under Environmental Stewardship and are gradually improving; both support some locally rare plants (butterfly orchid, large wild thyme, small scabious, rock-rose). Other surviving chalk grasslands are threatened with scrub encroachment and fast losing their original flora. Chalk grasslands are noted for their variety of spectacular flowers (eg orchids), butterflies, other insects, and molluscs.
Heath grassland is now represented only in the very altered form of recreation grounds at Prestwood and Great Kingshill, which have lost all the original flora but still support rare toadstools, such as waxcaps and club fungi. Widmere Field off Lodge Lane, Prestwood, is a very neglected survival of heath grassland, where there is still harebell and pignut, and some fungi, but is not properly managed.
Old hay meadows are fast disappearing. Of the two remaining at the beginning of this century, only one now survives and that is unprotected. These meadows had unique communities of plants like cowslip, betony, devil's-bit scabious, meadow cranesbill, and bistort, most of which are now very rare in our area. They supported abundant insect life.
Churchyards are often our only survivals of unfertilised grassland. Because of diverse management (eg long and short grass areas) and human influence they may show mixtures of different types of original habitat. For instance, the churchyard at Holy Trinity, Prestwood, has small patches of heath grassland otherwise entirely absent from our area, with heath grass (only local site), heather and harebell.
The churchyard at Great Hampden has a patch of longer grass with meadow cranesbill, betony and devil's-bit scabious, a survival of the old hay meadow type. Both these churchyards have diverse fungi, including many rare ones. Holy Trinity churchyard is a "waxcap grassland" of regional importance. Prestwood Nature has been involved in discussions about its management, carried our a full survey, and organises regular work-parties in collaboration with the Church. Regular mowing of some parts has been an important factor in maintaining the mycological interest of churchyards, but it can be too intensive and have a deleterious effect.
Natural Grassland plants referred to in the text.
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|Boug's Meadow History|
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|Ecological Flora of the Central Chilterns|
|Flowering Plants: Arable Land|
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|Heathland & Acid Grassland|
|Collings Hanger Pond|
|Kiln Corner Pond|