Chalkscapes Research Project, led by the Chalkscapes Advisory Group with partners including University of Bedfordshire’s Institute for Health Research and Chilterns AONB, shares many of the same values as Green Space Dark Skies. This major partnership project is dedicated to forging connections between local communities and the precious landscapes currently under threat in their area.
Having successfully secured Stage 1 funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other partners, Chalkscapes is currently in a development phase, running community-led, inclusive pilots that will help to shape the plans and funding bid for the delivery of the full five-year project. Bringing together disconnected urban audiences and wildlife under extreme environmental pressures, the ambition of the project is to achieve long-term benefits for both.
The chalk hills of the North Chilterns are a complex landscape, where ancient woodlands, chalk streams, chalk grasslands and the wildlife they support overlap with farmland, quarries and densely populated urban areas. Areas of high diversity and deprivation border landscapes where habitats and species are vanishing at an alarming rate, with urban communities increasingly disconnected with the countryside and heritage that surrounds them: levels of physical activity in Luton and Dunstable are among the lowest in the country.
Much like Green Space Dark Skies, Chalkscapes is based on the idea that forging a new sense of place and belonging is crucial to protecting this unique natural habitat for generations to come – whilst also helping to address social, health and economic challenges within the community.
The ambition for the first phase of Chalkscapes is to support communities in Luton and Dunstable to discover and enjoy their local landscapes through pilot projects across the area. The focus will be on engaging under-served audiences in caring for their local heritage, helping to contribute to wellbeing and a sense of belonging in doing so. Work with land managers will pave the way for landscape-scale conservation strategies designed to create more wildlife-rich, resilient habitats, with collaboration across the community helping to shape the project’s ongoing approach.
Ambitious, urgent and vital in equal measure, the aim is to submit a bid for the next phase of funding towards the end of this year, with the outcome to be announced in the spring of 2023. If successful, Chalkscapes promises to be a transformative community project – for both people and planet.