Claire Maycock, 45, is secretary of the Washpool Area Restoration Project, which cares for the natural valley and green area in the centre of Chiseldon. The project recently launched Friends of the Washpool in a bid to attract more volunteers and donations. Claire, a freelance writer and artist, has lived in the village since 2013. She is married to Paul, who works in electronics, and has a stepson

LIKE most people heavily involved with community projects, Claire Maycock is anxious to point out that it’s a team effort.

“There has been a core group of about a dozen people over the last 10 years that have put hundreds of hours into the Washpool project, and three or four of those people are still working on it today.

“The chair is a lady called Hilary Howe and we have a fantastic environmental advisor called Sheila Passmore.”

The early days of the Washpool Area Restoration Project – WARP – a decade ago pre-date Claire’s arrival in the village.

“The Washpool is a steep triangular valley in the centre of the village. It’s actually where the village gets its name. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ceoseldene, which means ‘stony valley.’

“That valley over the years had become a bit of a deserted dumping ground. It was very overgrown. There was lots of flytipping and stuff like that going on.

“A group of villagers decided that they wanted to restore it. They approached the parish council and the parish council leased the land from the Burderop Estate for thirty years. This group of villagers has now turned what was an inaccessible overgrown tip into a really pretty nature reserve which people can walk and ride through and take their kids down to.

“There’s a stream that runs through the middle, which eventually ends up in the River Thames, so it ends up back where I was born and grew up, which is a nice little biographical loop for a London girl!

“We have a couple of wildlife ponds and six sheep down there as well, which we look after. They’re grazing this steep-sided valley, and the idea is to try and turn it back into chalk downland, which it originally would have been.”

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust also helped to organise the project early on. The site is now home to countless plant species and wildlife including butterflies, moths, muntjac deer, roe deer, buzzards, red kites, tawny owl and possibly water voles.

Claire spent much of her early career in media work in London. She was born in Walthamstow. Her father was an architect and her mother a librarian.

She has long devoted much of her spare time to environmental issues; while living in Buckinghamshire, for example, she campaigned against the HS2 project’s route through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

“I’m an environmentalist. I believe climate change is the single biggest issue facing mankind. It can seem very overwhelming but everybody can do something in their local area, whether it’s their back garden or a slightly bigger space like the Washpool, to preserve habitats for wild creatures.

“There are obvious benefits in terms of the health of the planet but I think there are also benefits for people. There’s lots of science now that proves that time spent in green spaces is good for you physically and mentally.

“It’s fantastic for combating mental health problems, for example. I’ve seen in my own lifetime, in one generation, a real disconnect develop from nature. When I was a child I spent every weekend playing in Epping Forest all day.

“I’d be off on the bike in the morning with the pack of jam sandwiches and not be home until teatime. That was quite normal with all of the people I grew up with.”

Claire is horrified by figures suggesting children’s so-called radius of activity – the area around their home where they are allowed to roam unsupervised – has declined by almost 90 percent well within living memory.

“I think technology – and I don’t want to be a Luddite – can be wonderful, but it can also be quite disconnecting. You’re sitting in front of a screen and you lose that connection with the space around you and seasonal change and wildlife.

“There are all these depressing stories that some school children now can’t identify common vegetables. People are losing track of where their food comes from.”

Claire readily admits that the Washpool project needs more volunteers, and suspects the relative lack is down to people having busier lives or perhaps being unaware that sparing as little as half an hour or so every so often will make a difference.

“I think sometimes people might feel intimidated. Maybe they feel you need specific skills to get involved. You really don’t. We provide tools, training and everything that you need.

“We have volunteers who will physically work on the site and learn new conservation skills; we’re about to run a hedge-laying course, for example. We have volunteers who help with fundraising and promotion of the group – we have stalls at village fates and that kind of thing to help get the word out.

“There are social media volunteers who talk about the project – we need more of those.

“You don’t have to be physically active to get involved, which is why we’ve launched the Friends scheme. There are quite a lot of people in the village who are fairly elderly, who enjoy walking in Washpool but can’t do the physical labour that’s required to maintain it. We launched the Friends so they could make a small donation, so we can pay a contractor to do the heavy jobs.”

A team from Nationwide also worked at the Washpool as part of the firm’s employee volunteering scheme, and inquiries from firms with such schemes are welcome.

“We all care about our families, we all want to live in a safe, clean environment, but that does not happen on its own – and given the nature of the economy at the moment it doesn’t just happen through council services either. It can’t; there isn’t the money.

“So everybody needs to take care of a little patch of ground, whether it’s just their back garden or the bit of road in front of their house, or whether it’s on a larger scale as we’re doing at the Washpool.

“If we all do our little bit, it makes a huge difference, and if we fail to do our bit the reverse is true.”

Information about the project can be obtained from Claire via and through