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Chalkscapes  is an exciting new partnership project designed to inspire people to understand, care for and take action for the precious North Chilterns chalk landscape.  

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The project will deliver landscape-scale conservation and community engagement, giving urgent support to the wildlife, heritage and communities which face unprecedented and relentless levels of housing, infrastructure growth and environmental pressures.  

A new Chalkscapes Partnership is now developing detailed plans for this five-year project thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other partners. 

The development phase will run from January 2021 until November 2022, culminating in a funding proposal to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

If our funding proposal is successful, the Chalkscapes project is expected to run from summer 2023 until 2028. 

Chalkscapes is being led by Inga Garriock, Chalkscapes Development Manager, and Luke Burgess, Chalkscapes Development Officer. 

Our ambitions for  Chalkscapes:

  • To inspire communities in and around Luton and Dunstable to learn about, explore and love their local landscapes - strengthening communities through a sense of place
  • To involve many more people, from diverse communities, in caring for local heritage - contributing to a sense of wellbeing and belonging through experience of natural and cultural heritage
  • To forge strengthened partnerships across community and conservation interests, delivering mutual benefits for both
  • To create more wildlife-rich, resilient chalk landscapes and habitats, securing enthusiasm and commitment from land managers to collaborate on landscape scale conservation strategies over the long term
  • To develop, test and share learning and best practice from innovative approaches to chalk landscape management. 

The Chalkscapes projects  

Chalkscapes will feature a suite of complimentary projects which will connect people and communities with the landscape and nature around them:  

  • Community Chalk is an outreach project which will connect a greater range of people with our special landscapes. The project will focus especially on young people, black, and minority ethnic groups and people of all ages who tend not to venture into our landscapes and enjoy nature.
  • Routeways & Waysides will help people discover the network of ancient trackways which were once important trade routes and the lifeblood of communities in the North Chilterns, including the Icknield Way.  Many of these historic routes run through our urban centres.
  • Chalkscapes Champions is a community volunteering project where local people will design and lead projects which care for the landscape, wildlife and heritage.  Conservation and environmental partners will support community groups to lead and develop projects and activities which are meaningful for them, whilst inspiring more, and a more diverse range of people, to get involved. 
  • Tales of the Chalk will be a programme of arts activities for all ages inspired by the North Chilterns landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage, bringing stories of the landscape and its people to life.  
  • Wild Chalk will be the practical conservation and land management work at the heart of the project. Working on a landscape-scale, it will create bigger, more joined up, more diverse habitats for the plants and animals – many of which are rare and in decline – that uniquely live in chalk habitats.  This work will be tied closely to community engagement – giving people the chance to get involved with, and take action for threatened species.

What happens now?

Between January 2021 and November 2022, the Development Team will be working with partners to develop five interconnected projects which will deliver our aims and ambitions for the Chalkscapes project.

Work we’ll be doing during the development stage of Chalkscapes includes:

>>Running community pilots

We’re running a suite of pilot activities with community organisations in the Luton and Dunstable areas to understand and test the best way to bring urban communities and conservation organisations together.

Read more about the Community Chalk outreach project within Chalkscapes. 

>>Carrying out research to better understand and serve our under-served audiences 

Heritage has a crucial role to play in contributing to a flourishing, more equitable society in the UK. We want Chalkscapes to be designed with community engagement at its heart, making sure everyone is able participate in heritage, regardless of their background or circumstances.  

The Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire is helping us to develop inclusive community engagement throughout the project, to make sure Chalkscapes creates positive  and lasting change for both landscape and people.

Why is Chalkscapes needed now? 

The landscape of the North Chilterns has never faced greater challenges.  Wildlife and heritage is under threat from relentless development and infrastructure growth, whilst the rapidly expanding nearby urban areas contain communities which are increasingly transient and disengaged from the landscape and heritage on their doorstep. 

People are increasingly disconnected to nature, yet our country needs green spaces and the powerful benefits of nature now, more than ever. An increasing awareness of climate change brings the opportunity to show people why it matters - and challenges are both global and local. 

Easily accessible by train from London, the Chilterns is an irreplaceable green lung serving South East England, its landscape encircling urban areas with some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country.  And yet studies have shown a clear disconnect between urban communities and the landscape on their doorstep.  This connection must be restored, not only for the benefit of the landscape, but for the 1.6 million people who live and work within 8km of its boundary. 

We know there is a both need and opportunity to inspire and engage more diverse groups of people in appreciating, understanding and caring for our natural heritage.  

For many residents of Luton, Dunstable and other urban areas, where demographic change has been rapid, the countryside of the North Chilterns may have little relevance.   Luton has a population of 214,700, with over 50% of the population identifying as BAME.  There is a growing ethnic diversity; black and Asian populations continue to increase, and there are high levels of transient communities.   

What is not valued and loved is at risk of being neglected, and lost.  

The strength of Chalkscapes lies in its aspiration to link divergent organisations and provide the opportunity for them to work collaboratively to achieve a greater impact for landscape, heritage and people. For too long, conservation organisations have struggled to raise the profile of their causes and the increasing focus on climate change and environmental issues in mainstream conversation now provides an opportunity to reach out to a wider audience. 


Contact us 

Inga Garriock, Development Manager


Luke Burgess, Development Officer


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