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Newbury Nature Corridor Declared Open for Wildlife!

Saturday 4 May 2024

A large group of local residents, school children, town and district councillors and naturalists came together on Saturday 4 May to walk along the route of the new Nature Corridor in south Newbury.

A gathering of 70 people walked the 2.5 miles between the Lockdown Wood in Barn Crescent field and its counterpart in Goldwell Park.  They called in at John Rankin schools’ grounds and St Bartholomew’s secondary school on the way to hear about the restoration work of their three ponds planned and funded as part of this project.  

Attendees were invited by Dr Susan Millington, event organiser, to “imagine you are a hedgehog or a frog, a bee or a butterfly as you walk this morning and think what you would like to see here.”

Opening address, Barn Crescent.

There was much conversation about what we can all do to help wildlife thrive in our gardens and shared spaces - with suggestions ranging from ‘no mow May’, holes in fences for hedgehogs, growing climbers up walls so insects can move between gardens, planting wildflower meadows in pots or lawns, and leaving piles of logs as homes for countless beasties.  The Newbury Friends of the Earth team gave away packets of wildflower seeds to get people started.

Justine Whitehead, ecologist, recommended lots of things to do in our gardens to help wildlife, including planting native plants (especially those that flower in spring and fruit in autumn), to give weeds a chance (they can be very pretty), to be a bit messier (cutting down less in winter) and to create hedgehog holes (15cm square in 2 or more sides of the gardens).  She said “Possibly the best thing to do for wildlife and biodiversity is build a garden pond.”

Justine Whitehead talking about nature corridors.

Ms Flora Cooper, Executive Head of John Rankin schools said “We will create a lovely wild open space where the children can play around this pond, which will be covered by a metal grill for safety. The smaller pond will be used for pond dipping and scientific experiments.” 

Ms Flora Cooper, executive head at John Rankin schools.

The procession then moved on to view the Nature Garden at St Bartholomew’s school, where Ms Collete Wall, science teacher, told us about restoration plans. She said “This fabulous and extensive nature reserve area was created by Dr David Fitter, who is now our headmaster - he brought life to this place. Sadly, it is currently out of bounds because of unsafe decking and walkways. It has a large pond, wildflower meadow and bird feeding stations. We are fundraising to restore it as an important area for relaxation and outdoor education for our pupils.”

Walking through St Bartholomew’s school.

There are nine sites under management of Newbury Town Council in Newbury Nature Corridor area.  The council is very supportive of measures to improve their land to benefit nature and residents alike. James Heasman, Parks and Open Spaces Supervisor said that it is the policy of the Town Council to replace one tree with two. Although the Council does not practice ‘No Mow May,’ it is receptive to leaving areas rich in wildflowers unmown – a good example on the walk being the grass verge in Middle Close, currently full of lady’s smock.

Tony Hammond, who runs the Growing Newbury Green group, told the walkers about the Community Orchard scheme while the group was in the City Recreation ground, site of one of the cherry, apple and pear orchards.  He welcomed people to pick the fruit in all the community orchards, likening it to legalised scrumping!

In Goldwell Park, Councillor David Marsh told the group about funding for the ponds’ restoration work, and thanked both schools for their hospitality. He commented “The cynical might ask can we afford this type of project? I would say when we look at the scale of the climate and biodiversity crises, we can’t afford not to.”

Before cutting the symbolic green ribbon, Councillor Gary Norman, Leader of Newbury Town Council, said “Urban corridors are being set up all over the world and it is great that we can do our little bit in our own town. Linking up areas for wildlife is incredibly important both for food sources and for breeding. Everyone can do something in their own back garden. You can make a garden that is beneficial for wildlife and is still practical and beautiful for you and your family. Newbury Town Council can support environmental projects either directly or by donation on the Good Exchange platform.”

Councillor Gary Norman cutting the ribbon in Goldwell Park

Newbury Friends of the Earth coordinator Dr Susan Millington, Lockdown Woods and Newbury Nature Corridor project leader said “We had a fantastic morning, and I was very encouraged to see so many people come together to talk about how to help our local wildlife to thrive.  It is all very well to have isolated islands of nature such as our lovely nature reserves, but we really need them to be joined up so that our mammals and insects can move easily, looking for food, shelter and mates!  A nature-rich zone between two of our Lockdown Woods seems like a good place to start in Newbury. We hope this will inspire people to get together to make our neighbourhoods havens for wildlife to move around in, and more attractive to humans in the process!  Of course, we would love the idea to spread across other areas of Newbury too.”



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