Update 25 May 2023
The Town and Manor has had “hugely positive feedback via both the on-line survey and from the various in-person contact sessions.” These are still open: see link below.
The Town and Hungerford Manor of Hungerford has already spent over £170,000 in buying the land and developing the proposal for the reserve and are now looking for ‘seed’ funding for ecology, landscaping and biodiversity surveys in order to progress with the proposed wetland. Those interested in donating can visit the funding page on the Good Exchange. Donations are being match funded by Greenham Trust.
In 2018, the Town and Manor of Hungerford bought 16 hectares (40 acres) of ancient water meadow between the Charnham Park road and the River Kennet. The land has been unused since the 1970s and is, for farming purposes, of poor quality. The T&M’s plan is to turn this into a wetland area, to be known as the Kennet Valley Wetland Reserve. Subject to raising funding and obtaining the necessary permissions, it’s envisaged that this will be completed by about 2026.
The plan has a number of major advantages.
- A wealth of expert evidence proves not only that wetland habitats are of vital importance to the environment but also that they are seriously threatened: in 2020, The Freshwater Blog suggested that despite covering less than 1% of the world’s surface, these areas support about 10% of all known animal species. The article also quotes the WWF as saying that 30% of global freshwater ecosystems have been lost since 1970. Initial surveys by the T&M suggest that the site in Hungerford has great potential for this kind of regeneration. The project would also considerably increase the bio-diversity of the area.
- The wetlands will also act as a natural flood defence as it would involve the reconnection of the River Kennet to ancient flood plains. The land has since become detached from the river as a result of man-made alterations to the landscape and to the course of the river. Allowing the River Kennet once again to overflow into the wetlands will help to alleviate the risk of flooding further downstream, a significant benefit for towns such as Newbury and Thatcham.
- Finally, there will also be an education centre which will provide information on wetland and river ecology, conservation and climate change. Sitting on stilts above the flood level, the proposed building will be constructed using eco-friendly, sustainably-sourced and low-carbon materials. The design includes external platforms giving views across the reserve and ground-level access for visitors to enjoy pond-dipping and the sights, sounds and smells of nature close up.
How you can get involved
What the project currently most needs is your feedback. Whether you live in Hungerford or not, the Town and Manor really needs to hear your views. Please click here to take part in a survey about the project. Your feedback is important to ensure we make this project as relevant and appealing as we can. Your responses to this survey will remain anonymous. The survey closes at the end of June 2023.
Further information will be provided here in due course.
The photograph shown the River Kennet (left), the proposed Kennet Valley Wetland Reserve (centre), the Charnham Park road and Industrial Estate (right) and Hungerford (background).