We live in strange times and have all become experts at using Zoom to communicate! I am pleased to report that despite lockdowns and social distancing, we have managed some amazing achievements over the summer.
In April we were sorry to lose Hannah Worker to the Freshwater Habitats Trust but equally pleased to welcome Hilary Phillips in her place. Hilary previously worked at the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust and joined us at the beginning of September. Our other new staff member, Annabel Page (who joined in February), has been busy working on the Trust’s Natural Flood Management project and gives an update on this in the newsletter. You can read more about Hilary and Annabel on our staff profiles page.
Clearly, Covid -19 has affected everyone and in particular, our ability to meet and to fulfill planned volunteer events, including our volunteer led Water Testing Programme and Himalyan balsam clearances, although the former is now underway again.
We were working from home initially and then, as soon as allowed and with fine weather, we hit the ground running to enact a number of key projects in June. For me, the big highlight has been the completion of the large wetland mosaic and fish refuge near Waddesdon. Planned over many years, this new wetland is nearly 200m by 100m with the fish refuge of similar size, and is already holding water well. Success at Waddesdon was quickly followed by three further, smaller, backwaters at Waterstock funded by The Environment Agency (EA) and the Water Environment Fund, administered by the Rural Payments Agency.
The newly formed Thame Valley Farmer Cluster Group, that made a very promising start for at a meeting in warmth of the Bell at Chearsley in early March, was inevitably restricted by Covid. Led by Hannah initially and now Hilary, this initiative is sponsored by the EA and Rothschild Foundation to promote communication and improved biodiversity and water quality on farmland. As the recent well supported Zoom meeting showed, there are many still keen to participate. This must be one of our most important groups for the future to receive and share knowledge for wildlife and the river.
I look forward to telling you of the many new ideas and projects planned for the rest of the year and for next year and to seeing more of you all in person as soon as we are allowed!