Thursday, 12 November 2015

Spiceball Park, Banbury: re-wilding the River Cherwell!

This week the Wildlife Trust started an exciting project to re-naturalise the River Cherwell where it flows though Spiceball County Park in Banbury.  I grabbed an opportunity to join RSPB colleague Charlotte Kinnear and take a look at the work in progress with Jude Hartley, Catchment Partnerships Officer, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust.

Charlotte Kinnear and Jude Hartley discussing thework
The river channel had been over-widened in the past, and this means during low river levels there is a only a very thin layer of water flowing over the riverbed, not great for the fish populations.  One of the main aims is to create a more natural, somewhat narrower channel.  This will be particularly beneficial during dry periods in the summer, but will also make the river that bit more dynamic.  The river banks are also being re-profiled to create shallower gradients, opening up views of the river for people walking through the park.  
this stake marks the edge of the new river channel
During my visit, works to fell some of the riverside trees had been completed.  The trunks and branches had been laid into the river as far as a set of stakes that defined the edge of the "new" channel.  An excavator was then reshaping the riverbank and pushing soil over the felled trees.  This jumble of branches and soil will create a very interesting habitat once regrowth happens next spring and summer.  I'm hoping this new habitat will be particularly attractive to sedge warblers, maybe reed buntings too.  Certainly a great place for otters to explore and kingfishers to perch.  This year has seen a real upsurge in otter sightings along the rive - hopefully this trend will continue.
tree trunks and branches laid into the edge of the river with soil bulldozed on top.

This initial phase of work will, we hope, be the start of more action to improve habitats along the Cherwell north and south of the town.  There are certainly some excellent opportunities.  Great for the town to be proud of the river and take some positive steps to make it better for nature - it does seem to have been somewhat neglected in the past.

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