TOE2 funding boosts River of Life wetland project

Work to create a significant new wetland on the banks of the River Thames near Shillingford in south Oxfordshire has taken a major step forward thanks to a £10,000 donation from environmental charity Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE2).

Phase two of the River of Life project, taking shape on around 50 hectares of farmland owned by the Earth Trust, is seeing the creation of semi-natural habitat to attract some of the UK’s most important wildlife, including brown hares, otters, lapwings and skylarks. Phase one of the project, digging out the wetland features, was completed last December thanks to support from the Environment Agency.

Around 5,000 reed plants have been planted already this spring, and over the next two years wildflower meadows and wet woodland areas will be created. The project has been described as being of “national significance” in terms of its terms of its size, location and habitat type, and has just won a national award from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) for Best Practice in Practical Nature Conservation.

Recently a team from TOE2 and Grundon Waste Management, which provided the funding through its Landfill Communities Fund, visited the site to see how the project was progressing.

Fiona Danks, TOE2 director, said afterwards: “This is an extremely innovative project and we have been delighted to be able to support the planting of trees, reeds and wildflower seeds which will be so important to the future of wildlife in this area. We look forward to seeing the results literally growing before our eyes.”

Stephen Roscoe, Grundon’s technical director, added: “Restoring wetland habitat is incredibly important for the diversity of our countryside, so for Grundon to be able to play even a small part in the creation of a project which will be enjoyed by future generations is very rewarding.”

Work began on the River of Life project in 2013 and saw the Environment Agency working together with the Earth Trust to dig out an extensive network of ponds and channels. The final stage will see additional footpaths put in place and a series of learning and engagement features to encourage people of all ages to enjoy the environment and learn more about wetlands and water.

Chris Parker, Head of Land Management at the Earth Trust, said: “We’re so grateful for the support of funders like TOE2 and Grundon who’ve enabled this important project to move forward. The new habitats we’re creating and restoring will be beneficial to all sorts of species, and there are already great opportunities for local people to reconnect with wetland wildlife.”

The River of Life project is located in a Biodiversity Opportunity Area or Conservation Target Area and on a national level will be important in benefitting many species which are on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority list.

The Landfill Communities Fund is designed to help benefit the lives of people who live close to landfill sites by awarding grants for environmental, heritage and community projects.

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