West Berkshire Countryside Society
The West Berkshire Countryside Society exists to promote the understanding, appreciation and conservation of the West Berkshire countryside by its residents and visitors and all other groups and businesses involved in its care and management. The organization also promotes practical work to further these aims.
First of all, we introduce people to the landscape. Our conducted walks take people to places they would not normally go, and show them things they might not normally notice. We introduce them to the work of the countryside, and to the people who work there, including the rural businesses, and we publish books and leaflets to provide the detail. We assist farmers, landowners and Parish Councils by providing volunteers to do tasks that may not otherwise be done. We clear glades, lay hedges, create haloes around veteran trees and remove invasive plants that choke the natural flowers. Specialist groups set up and monitor barn owl boxes. Their efforts have resulted in increasing numbers of young barn owls to grace the night sky. Another specialist group has been working for many years to recover the heathland on Bucklebury Common. The glorious purple heather and the returned nightjars are some of the results.
The Society is managed by a small volunteer committee consisting of a Chair, Vice Chair plus a Secretary and a Treasurer and the Group leader of each of the specialist groups. We also have a Membership secretary and the Web site manager.
The origins of the Society go back 25 years when a local focus group was formed to campaign against water abstraction from the River Pang which was having a severely detrimental effect on the river. The organization has gone through several changes in its format, the main change occurring in 2012 when it became totally self-managing in its current form.
How would this funding have an impact on your community?
Should we be successful in winning a grant, half of it would be put towards the design, printing and publishing of a book about the early history, social history and natural history of West Berkshire woods. The book is called ‘What’s in a West Berkshire Wood and How did it get There?’ and has been written by our President – Dick Greenaway MBE. We are currently fundraising to get it published and this grant would enable us to proceed with the printing.
We hope to print 500 copies to start with and we will distribute free copies to secondary schools and libraries in West Berkshire. We are a ‘Not-for-Profit’ Society and the remainder will be sold at as low a price as feasible to encourage take-up by as wide a social spectrum as possible.
It is impossible to estimate the number of people who will benefit over the years of the book’s life by reading it in a school library or by borrowing it from a local library, but we think the number will be large. We believe the book will considerably raise public
awareness of the beautiful West Berkshire countryside and encourage a long-term active interest in its care.
The second half of the grant would be used to replenish our tool stock. The tools which we hold, together with the skills for their use developed in our team of volunteers are at the root of our work and activities in West Berkshire. None of our Barn Owl boxes could be assembled or placed in position, none of the coppicing, hedge laying, intrusive plant growth etc. could be dealt with without a good supply of well-maintained tools.
Again it is difficult to estimate the number of people who will benefit over the years but the number will be large.
"The Grassroots grant would be fantastic for us as it would mean that we could spread both knowledge and understanding of this beautiful local countryside via our new book, and we could continue the Society’s practical conservation work through funding for replacement tools.
Kay Lacey - Chair"