Where will you make a difference?
1. Wilding the Commons

The goal

To boost the biodiversity (insects and other wildlife) on the Cookham Commons by encouraging a greater variety of wild flowers.

The story so far

Working with the National Trust we have worked on several sites in Cookham Dean - Hardings Green, Bigfrith and sites by St John the Baptist church/the Jolly Farmer.  We did this with the help of donations by local residents to pay for seed.  It’s a long term project with some sites taking time to accept new seeds due to excessive nettles, hogweed and the like.  But we have seen great results on Hardings Green and we continue work on the other sites.

What’s next?

We’ll be continuing with the Cookham Dean sites and we are now starting on a similar project on part of Cookham Moor in the village.  This is being part funded by a grant from the Royal Borough. Over time we hope to work with the National Trust to ensure that all of our Commons are as rich in biodiversity as possible.

How you can help

  • We need volunteers to help with the initial preparation and then the seeding of each site.For the Moor project, you can join one of our working parties, currently planned for the weekend of the 9th/10th October (with bad weather back-up on 16th/17th)

  • We’d like to have local volunteers to act as wardens, taking a continuing interest in a neighbouring area

  • We need some additional donations to fund the seeds and any equipment we might need

  • And you may have suitable equipment that we can borrow

Who to contact

John Southgate on 07799 113452 or email wildcookham@gmail.com

2. Battlemead: a great opportunity for nature

The goal

To develop the full of Battlemead to be a special place for nature, boosting biodiversity and creating a wonderful asset for local people

The story so far

The Royal Borough acquired the 110-acre Battlemead site in 2018.  Discussions about its future since then have led to the creation of paths in the area and the basics for a plan to realise its full biodiversity potential.  Battlemead comprises a special mix of habitats – wet and broad-leaved woodlands, meadows, the White Brook and wetland.  WildCookham is actively involved in the plans for the site and has already undertaken surveying and planting work.

What’s next?

We are now concentrating on the positive work to create, protect and enhance the mosaic of habitats at Battlemead.  This is a long-term project. By working with the Borough’s countryside and ecology teams on the different habitats we hope to create the opportunities for recolonisation by different species across a broad range of flora and fauna.

How you can help

  • We need volunteers for specific activities such as hedgerow planting and maintenance, tree planting, installing nest boxes.

  • Get involved with our on-going programme of surveys at Battlemead

  • Help with our development of Battlemead as an education resource, including a range of activities

Who to contact

Mike Copland on 07739 337105 or email wildcookham@gmail.com

3. Bringing Water Voles  back to Cookham

The goal

To bring back these iconic mammals to Cookham’s waterways and use these as a stepping stone to a wider reintroduction to this part of the Thames valley.

The story so far

Following well over a year’s research and preparation working with a local landowner WildCookham has completed the first pilot phase of the project.  We have worked closely with the Environment Agency and the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust and have called on the services of the country’s leading reintroduction specialists.  The initial batch of 100 water voles has been released locally.  We have also been monitoring the presence of American Mink, the principal water vole predator and the decision to go ahead with the trial is based on the significant reduction of mink presence in the area.

What’s next?

This is a pilot project and we will now wait till next Spring to see what proportion of the voles survive through the winter and are ready to breed.  If all goes well we will then release a further group next summer at which point we hope to be able to talk more fully about it.

How you can help

  • We would like to strengthen the small lead team for the project.This needs to cover the whole monitoring/surveying programme, planning and communications/publicity.

  • We need volunteers to monitor the voles that have been released so far. Training provided.

  • We may also need additional people on our mink surveying team.

  • Keep your eyes and ears open: the most likely evidence will be the gentle plop as one drops into the water on your approach.

Who to contact

Ann Greenwood on 07717 826764 or email wildcookham@gmail.com

4. Harris Woodbridge Reserve: our own special place

The goal

To create a protected place for wildlife in Cookham and demonstrate ideas for creating wildlife-friendly spaces in our own gardens as part of WildCookham’s Wild About Gardens campaign.

The story so far

The reserve is owned by Cookham Parish Council who asked WildCookham to take responsibility for it in 2018.  Since then volunteers, led by local resident Mike Day, have been hard at work, clearing undergrowth and allowing more light in, seeding with wild flower seeds and introducing plants and small trees, and restoring the previously partially completed pond.

The Reserve is now home to a wide variety of birds, bats, mammals (fox, badger, deer), amphibians (frogs, toads, newts) and a rich mixture of flora.  We have also identified many types of insects, including glow worms.

What’s next?

The work continues year round to control some of the plants and to increase the range of some plants to attract insects.  We also want to encourage more residents to visit the reserve, with information for visitors about the surprises they can find.

How you can help

  • Sign up to help Mike and his maintenance team

  • Join one of our teams carrying out occasional surveys at the site.If you have specialist expertise let us know.But just having an interest is enough

  • Visit the Reserve and tell your friends about it, share photos on social media

  • Provide us with any information about the reserve or photos.

Who to contact

Mike Day on 07970 723880 or email wildcookham@gmail.com

5. Marsh Meadow Pond: the wonders of water

The goal

To create a wildlife-rich wetland habitat on the edge of Cookham, introduce residents to the wonders of aquatic life and, in particular, work with our local schools.

The story so far

The pond borders March Meadow, owned by Copas Farms and managed by a Marsh Meadow Management Committee.  WildCookham was asked to take on the management of the pond in 2019.  Led by local resident Derek Tyler, our volunteers have undertaken some initial clearance work and other maintenance work to keep the pond healthy.

Moorhens and Mallard duck are seen there, as well as visits by Grey Heron and Little Egret and a mix of year-round and migrant birds.  Grass snakes are found by the pond which also supports a strong tadpole breeding community as well as various species of dragonfly and damselfly.

What’s next?

Work will continue to encourage greater biodiversity on and around the pond.  We shall also be starting the programme to bring school groups to the site as well as holding more visits for other local residents keen to enjoy this special place and learn more about it and pond/wetland wildlife in general.

How you can help

  • Join the team of volunteers caring for the pond, both in general maintenance and introducing new elements to the habitat.

  • Help us run our schools programme there.If you have teaching or related experience we would love to hear from you but other help in managing the programme is needed.

  • Join one of our teams carrying out occasional surveys at the site.

  • Visit the pond and tell your friends about it, share photos on your social media

  • Provide us with information/photos about the pond and species you have seen there.

Who to contact

Derek Tyler on 07795 666723 or email wildcookham@gmail.com

6. Where have all the Swallows and Martins gone?

The goal

To understand more about these iconic summer migrants by establishing where they nest locally and build a picture of their numbers, which we can then use to find ways to slow down and perhaps turn round their sad decline over recent years.  A summer without these birds would not be summer!

The story so far

During the summer of 2021 we undertook a fairly simple survey to find out where they are nesting and where they have been seen flying in Cookham.  This will provide a starting point for a further survey, at a more detailed level, in 2022 and beyond and also to allow us to look at options for encouraging more birds to breed with us in the future.  Loss of nesting places, due to development, house renovations etc, has been a major factor in their decline: what can we do to reverse this, in particular by providing nest boxes and the like?

What’s next?

We are pulling together the data from this summer’s survey and will then be looking at the options.  Artificial nest boxes for both swallows and house martins are available, though with mixed results.  Can we create artificial swallow barns and where might these be located.  Proximity to water and insect-rich habitats are also likely to be important.  There are national programmes looking at this and we hope to learn from these as well.

How you can help

  • Join our team considering the options for encouraging more breeding in future years

  • Talk to us about installing artificial nests on your property

  • Sign up to be involved in the 2022 survey

  • Do your own research to understand more about these amazing birds and their extraordinary annual migrations – and share your insights with us.

Who to contact

Ann Greenwood on 07717 826764 or email wildcookham@gmail.com

7. Throwing a light on Glow worms

The goal

Everyone is amazed at their first sightings of a glow worm.  Sadly their numbers are reducing, driven out by a wide range of human actions.  We want to first establish where they can be found in Cookham and then consider programmes to prevent further destruction of their habitats and act to ensure that they are protected from future development activity.

The story so far

Tracking glow worms is most easily done by looking for females during a period between June and August when they emit a strong ‘electrical’ light to attract males.  During two recent summers, including 2021, we have undertaken modest surveys of likely local habitats for glow worms with the help of local volunteers.  We are aware now of some of the locations where they can be found, as well as appropriate habitats where they have not yet been spotted. 

What’s next?

We are now pulling this data together and will provide it to the national glow worm survey.  We shall also be looking at the sites where they are present to determine what can be done to protect those sites.  We will also look at other sites where they might be expected to see if these can be managed in a different to help glow worms.  We will also be looking at sites where they can be found but which are threatened with development to see how we can save the glow worms there.  We aim to continue our survey at a wider scale in 2022.

How you can help

  • Join our glow worm team considering how best to protect these insects and encourage more to mate and breed in future years

  • Sign up to be involved in the 2022 survey

Who to contact

Email wildcookham@gmail.com

8. Wild About Gardens

The goal

To encourage our neighbours in Cookham to see the potential for increased biodiversity in their gardens by making simple changes. We aim to have over 200 participants in Cookham by 2022

The story so far

With an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK, in the Borough they account for more than 10% of our landscape. If managed well, they can make a huge difference to the survival of birds, butterflies, beetles and so much more – and give us humans enormous pleasure.

We have identified 24 key features for improving our gardens for wildlife, and the awards are given to people who have achieved a significant number of them.  We launched the Awards in 2018 and now have 100 + participants.  The awards run from April to the end of July each year.

You can join the Awards or just follow our checklist to make a difference for wildlife.

What’s next?

We need to expand the scheme across Cookham and then start linking gardens to create the wildlife corridors which are so essential to survival for many species. We also hope to build our scheme into a wider RBWM project within the Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan.

How you can help

  • Check our 24 features to ensure that you are on the right path to helping local biodiversity.Use the coming winter season to prepare your garden for the 2022 Awards

  • Get lots more tips from our Wild About Gardens page (www.wildcookham.org.uk/wild-about-gardens-1)

  • Encourage your neighbours to get involved and create corridors between your gardens.

Who to contact

Lynne Peperell on 01628 477470 or email Lynne.Peperell2@gmail.com

9. Helping local businesses and other organisations

The goal

Cookham is home to a number of companies and other organisations and many are keen to play their part in protecting and enhancing our local environment.  We can help them to do this since the contribution they make can have a major impact in enabling Cookham to be a major contributor to our Borough’s Environment and Climate Strategy.

The story so far

We have worked/are working with the following local businesses: John Lewis Partnership (at their Odney Club and Winter Hill Golf Club sites), the Chartered Institute of Marketing (at Moor Hall), Copas Farms, the Copas Partnership, Harwood House Care Home, the National Trust and Cookham Parish Council.  We have advised on planting programmes, especially to encourage more insects with pollinating plants but also to create a beautiful environment which we can all enjoy.

What’s next?

This is an on-going programme.  The main limits on it are the ability of local organisations to commit to this activity and our own resources to provide the advice and support they need.  We are keen to work with any organisations that has land and/or buildings that could lend themselves to projects to create more biodiversity.

How you can help

  • Offer to help with the development of these projects.If you have specialist knowledge/skills, all the better.But we would also welcome anyone – including employees of local businesses – who are keen to help in any way.

  • Tell us about any organisations you think might be happy to talk to us.

Who to contact

Email wildcookham@gmail.com

10. The World within our Hedgerows

The goal

Hedgerows are an incredibly valuable part of our countryside, providing shelter, food, protection and breeding space for a myriad of animals as well as a rich heritage of plants. Our aim is to understand what we have, improve their condition where possible and plant more.

The story so far

We were asked by Cookham Parish Council in 2018 to look at our local footpaths and adjoining hedges to see what we can do to improve them as habitats.  That has led to a survey of many of our paths and hedgerows and initial analysis of which ones could be managed differently. 

What’s next?

The surveys of the paths and hedges needs to continue.  We also need to focus on the analysis, to decide which hedgerows need work (mainly filling in gaps that have appeared).  We want to inform local people about the importance of hedgerows, through organized walks, information boards and photos and background in the media.

How you can help

  • Join our survey team (try it out on 23rd Oct)   

  • Help us work with the Parish Council to improve our local hedgerow knowledge and habitats

  • Roll your sleeves up and get involved in our hedge planting projects. 

  • Take an interest in our hedges.Volunteers have said that they see footpaths in a different way, more conscious of how wildlife rely on this habitat and wanting to see how they change through the seasons.

Who to contact

Call Rob Acker on 07931 764597 or email wildcookham@gmail.com

11. Saving our Trees

The goal

Identify and protect our oldest and most important trees in Cookham, as they not only provide character to our landscape but also valuable habitats for wildlife.

The story so far

Woodland Trust have started mapping the oldest and most important trees in the UK, Ancient Tree Inventory - Woodland Trust and we want to do our part in Cookham. Nearly two years ago we gathered a group of volunteers for an initial training session with the aim of recording our important trees. Our recording efforts were halted by the pandemic. But we are now ready to restart the initiative and looking for people that can help us find and record our valuable trees.

What’s next?

This autumn we intent to train volunteers so they can survey specific parts of Cookham. The training will be based on methodology and materials from Woodland Trust and you will need no particular skills to take part other than an interest in trees. During the training we will cover why trees are important, how to spot an older tree and how to measure and record. We also intend to do a bit of practicing on few trees nearby. After the training, you will be able to survey individually or in groups at your own pace.

How you can help

  • Sign up for the training.

  • Try it out on 26th September

  • Get to know and appreciate your local hedgerows

  • Go out and survey

Who to contact

Message Lars Ahlgren on 0780 188 1297 or email lawc@wildcookham.onmicrosoft.com

12. Working with our Schools

The goal

Our children are the future.  It’s essential that they understand why the natural world is so important to us, for our enjoyment and our survival.  Our aim is to ensure that this happens by supporting our teachers – with information, help with practical projects and our enthusiasm.

The story so far

We have had occasional involvement with all of our local primary schools, giving talks (for example to coincide with the Big Garden Birdwatch), erecting nest boxes and providing advice on planting and other projects.  The schools are taking a much greater interest in these issues so this is an area where we could do much more and provide practical support to our teachers.

What’s next?

Our next schools project involves a scheme to engage the pupils in a study of birds nesting around the school.  We have a grant for this from the Council as well as the offer of the necessary additional fiancé from the Cookham Bridge Rotary Club.  We will be installing nest boxes with cameras and then providing information and guidance on studying the use of the boxes and recording what the pupils find. 

How you can help

  • Help us with our latest project.If you have teaching or other school-related experience we would love to hear from you. But any help with this project is welcome

  • If you have children at the local schools find out what they are planning related to our natural world and get involved or talk to us about ideas you’d like to encourage

  • Take you children/grandchildren on nature rambles/voyages of discovery. Ask WildCookham for ideas on where to visit.

Who to contact

Email Joelle Hewson on 07713 163123 or wildcookham@gmail.com

14. Planning for the future

The goal

To ensure that Cookham has a sustainable future within a borough that has recognised the overriding need to give nature a chance.

The story so far

WildCookham is contributing to three current major planning projects in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead – the Borough Local Plan, the Environment and Climate Emergency and the Cookham Neighbourhood Plan.  Each of these requires intensive consideration of the many issues involved and, to varying degrees, has involved cooperation with other local organisations including Cookham Parish Council and the other ‘Wild’ groups in the borough, as well as the Borough Council itself.

What’s next?

Our work on the Cookham Neighbourhood Plan continues.  As members of the group handling the plan we have a significant input to it and will continue to make our presence felt.  The work on the Borough Local Plan is nearly complete as the plan reaches its final stages.  We are part of the Council team developing the Borough’s Biodiversity Action Plan.  This will be key to our future: it we can agree to this plan it is likely to provide our future focus and drive future activity.

How you can help

  • We will call on local support on specific aspects of local planning activity: please get involved when this happens

  • Contact us if you have an interest in planning activities or have experience or expertise that could help us.

Who to contact

Contact Lars Ahlgren on 07801 881297 or email wildcookham@gmail.com

15. The RBWM Biodiversity Action Plan

The goal

The Plan will set goals for the Royal Borough to halt the decline in biodiversity and begin the process of restoring the balance of nature.

The story so far

The Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) is one of the key elements of the Borough’s Environment and Climate Strategy.  WildCookham, with the six other ‘Wild’ groups in the Borough, has been part of the team developing the plan with Council officers and the lead councillor for sustainability and related issues, Donna Stimson. It is hoped that the final plan will have clear over-arching objectives and a challenging timetable plus the necessary resources – people and funding.

What’s next?

If we and our fellow groups agree that the Plan is ‘fit for purpose’ it will provide the framework for our future activities.  Given the scale of the challenge, and its urgency, the Council will need to call on the involvement of our groups such as ours to deliver on it. Our hope is that we can play our part in this but that will require the support of Cookham people.  Organisations in our community will need to take on roles in this environmental work, as well as across other aspects of the Environment and Climate Strategy.  We shall be encouraging this, reaching out to these groups as well as encouraging more volunteers to help with specific projects in the BAP and also to provide the management of WildCookham’s expanding activities.

How you can help

  • How you can help

  • Volunteer to help! Any time and effort you can provide will make a difference.

  • Talk to friends and neighbours, as well as fellow members of any groups you support, and encourage them to get involved, either individually or as a group

  • Contact us if you are involved with other groups.Even better, come up with your ideas.

Who to contact

Contact Mike Copland on 07739 337105 or email wildcookham@gmail.com