Wildlife returns to Banbury’s Spiceball Park as the Wild Banbury project takes off

The second phase of the River Cherwell makeover project in Banbury’s Spiceball Park kicks off this week with the announcement of new funding of £93,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The second phase of the River Cherwell makeover project in Banbury’s Spiceball Park kicks off this week with the announcement of new funding of £93,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

This grant, combined with £64,000 from Banbury Town Council, £4,000 from Cherwell District Council and £27,295 from Grundon will enable the Wild Banbury project to start this summer.

Members of Banbury Town Council, the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, Cherwell District Council, Grundon and Banbury Museum celebrated the start of the Wild Banbury project with a visit to Spiceball Park on Tuesday (21 May).

Wild Banbury project funders (left to right): Andrew Short (Grundon), Anthony Foxlee-Brown (Grundon), Suzi Wild (Banbury Museum), Cllr Chris Heath (Chairman, Cherwell District Council), Neil Clennell (Director of Conservation & Education, Oxfordshire, BBOWT), Cllr Colin Clarke (Banbury Town Council), Mike Hill (Banbury Town Council), Judith Hartley (Wild Banbury project officer, BBOWT)

The new funding will enable the second phase of the Wild Banbury project to focus on Spiceball Park and Hanwell Brook wetland. This will provide new opportunities for community groups and individuals to get involved in heritage conservation skills such as scything, as well as creating new habitats for wildlife by digging out ponds, clearing scrub and planting wild flowers.

During the last 18 months the River Cherwell has been re-landscaped with new banks planted up with native wild flowers, bridges and benches so that more people can stroll beside the river, looking out for kingfishers and signs of otters.

Neil Clennell, the Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation & Education in Oxfordshire said: “The River Cherwell is an important tributary of the River Thames. Spiceball Park, which is owned by Banbury Town Council, is a well-used amenity, but until we started work last autumn the river was almost hidden from people walking and cycling. Improving the wildlife habitats through Spiceball Park is increasing the river’s biodiversity, and many more people are watching wildlife from the riverside walk.”

Councillor Colin Clarke, Chairman of the Town Council General Services Committee said: “Banbury Town Council is delighted with the progress so far in Spiceball Park with the opening up of the banks of the River Cherwell. We look forward to continuing this exciting project and greatly appreciate all the hard work and effort by all concerned. This is an enormous environmental step in the right direction for the benefit of all park users.”

Banbury Museum, the project’s third partner, adds an exciting historical dimension to Wild Banbury. Suzi Wild, Education Manager at the Museum, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to delve deeper into the inspiring stories of Banbury, connecting the town’s history to its natural history.” The Museum will provide stories from centuries long past, as well as a living link to more recent history. There will be activity days and reminiscence walks for the public to learn about Banbury’s rich history as well as its wildlife.

Grundon is supporting the Wild Banbury project with funding totalling £27,295. Andrew Short, Estates Director at Grundon Waste Management, said: “Supporting environmental initiatives in and around the areas where we work is very important to us as a business, and this is a fine example of what can be achieved to improve an area for the local community.”

Andrew also added: “We’re thrilled to support the Wild Banbury project and see first-hand the terrific work the team has already been doing in helping to return wildlife to this picturesque spot.”

Judith Hartley, who is project managing the work at BBOWT, paid tribute to organisations that are supporting Wild Banbury: “It is great to see so many partners coming forward to support this initiative.

“We already know the local community really loves these wild spaces. In one muddy afternoon this spring, children from The Grange primary school put 300 wetland plants into the Cherwell’s banks to help improve the appearance and diversity of the river. I’m looking forward to many more experiences like these, all of which will encourage Banbury’s wildlife to flourish.”

The first phase of the project, funded with a grant of £31,000 from the Environment Agency, started last autumn. The work included electro-fishing on the river, clearing away vegetation and trees overshadowing the river and creating and planting up shallow river banks.

Banbury Town Council is supporting the Wild Banbury project this year with events involving local people to promote messages about sustainable water use, river ecology and habitat creation at Spiceball Park.

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)

BBOWT is one of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK working to achieve the shared aim of securing a better future for wildlife. BBOWT’s vision is to create a region rich in wildlife and valued by all. BBOWT manages 88 nature reserves across the three counties, works with other agencies and individuals to help safeguard the wider countryside, and aims to inspire people to take action for wildlife. BBOWT has a membership of 52,000. www.bbowt.org.uk

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