Work Experience student chalks up a win at Chiltern Rangers

A remarkable student from Lord Williams’s School in Thame took part in the Science Oxford Summer Placement scheme with the Chiltern Rangers during August 2018 and has won their prestigious Work Experience Student of the Year award. James Evans, aged 16, received a trophy and voucher on Friday 21st December in Beaconsfield Wood.

Chiltern Rangers is a social enterprise dedicated to ‘enhancing Chiltern’s habitats through conservation, education and community engagement. It was set up in 2013 by John Shaw and Tony Speight after splitting from the council’s ‘Woodland Management Service’. During his time there James worked with the Chiltern Rangers team in the field and gained an understanding of the environmental and ecological reasons behind their work. He was at 3 main sites: Chairborough, Funghes Meadow, and Keep Hill Wood. As well as learning about the science behind their work, he was impressed with how effectively they engage the local community, attracting a large and diverse group of volunteers. This is what makes their work truly successful.

He took part in a wide range of activities including the annual meadow cutting on chalk grassland, maintaining chalk streams and clearing undergrowth in woodlands. Chalk grassland is an important, but declining European habitat which supports huge biodiversity, including many species of insect and wildflowers such as native orchid species, and acts as basking ground for reptiles, in particular slow worms. Chalk streams are a valuable habitat largely because their temperature remains at an almost constant 11℃ year round. Which means that water remains warm in the winter months making them ideal places to live year round for both fauna and flora.

He also learned about woodland management, how to identify species of plants and fungi and how to work as part of a team of experts and volunteers.

What he did was varied and always interesting finding out the ecology behind the work. He thoroughly enjoyed his time there and will almost certainly be back as a volunteer.