The Kennet Valley Wetland Reserve: 15 May 2024 update

Update 15 May 2024

The Town and Manor of Hungerford has announced that, after three years of planning, the application for the Kennet Valley Wetland Reserve has been submitted to WBC. Please click on this link to see the details of the application and to make your comments.

The plan is to restore this ancient water meadow at the north of the town so greatly increasing its biodiversity and opening it to the public as a wetland reserve. The project, on land known as Undy’s Meadow, will fully reconnect the River Kennet to its historic floodplain, helping create new wetland habitats and mitigating flood risk further down the valley. Wetlands are, a statement from the Town and Manor points out, increasingly being recognised as incredibly important, not only for the variety of wildlife habitats they provide but also for their role in flood mitigation and climate change.

“The wetland reserve proposed for Hungerford is a large site, at approximately 40 acres,” the statement continues. “It has the potential to create a mosaic of habitats including wet woodland, reed beds, scrapes and lakes as well as damp grasslands. The proposed development will also include a new access from Charnham Park Road and an Education and Information Centre.”

Julie Lloyd, the Constable of the Town and Manor, described this as “one of the largest and most significant environmental developments in the Kennet Valley for many years. It will be open to the public during daylight hours and with no access charge. This will benefit not just the people of Hungerford but also the many thousands of residents in the Kennet Valley and far beyond.”

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.

Background

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).

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Email
Print

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to the free weekly

Penny Post
e-newsletter 

 

For: local positive news, events, jobs, recipes, special offers, recommendations & more.

Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale