Sulham Woodmeadows

Sulham Woodmeadows

Sulham Woodmeadows Project

This project will increase biodiversity and mitigate the visual impact of the electrification of the neighbouring railway line. The project has two aspects; the creation of approximately 2 hectares of wetland in a former arable field which will be complemented by an area of scrub woodland that will help mask the railway line gantries running parallel to the field.

Wet-loving grass and plant species will be introduced in the areas surrounding the ponds to create an overall wetland that will change throughout the seasons and provide a suitable habitat for a variety of species from dragonflies to wading birds.

The surrounding field will be part of a wider biodiversity net gain scheme and will be seeded with species rich grassland and wildflowers suitable for the soil type. Care has been taken to enhance the opportunity for existing species such as lapwing that have been seen nesting in the field.  The use of biodiversity net gain will see this as one of the first of its type in England and provides an opportunity to manage the whole area under a funded management plan for 30 years.

Areas of scrub and new woodland are planned around the edges of the field boundary and present an opportunity to mitigate the visual impact of the gantries supplying electricity to the railway. The north-eastern corner of the field is particularly exposed to the railway line and part of the proposal is to plant a 20m x 150m (0.3ha) strip of scrub that will grow to obscure the gantries.

Scrub woodland is a valuable habitat and in combination with the wetland and surrounding grassland the proposal will transform this part of the National Landscape into a much richer place for wildlife

Who is involved

This is a great example of partnership working. The landowner is the Sulham Estate which is led by Henry Scutt. Henry sees this project as a part of his estate wide plan to transform 130ha of arable land into a wildlife haven on the borders of Tilehurst. The landowner has commissioned BioCap to project manage this transformation project.

The new wetland has been planned by ARK (Action for the River Kennet)  to take advantage of low-lying areas of the field that regularly flood each winter. By digging a series of holes and graduated levels the natural water fluctuation can be retained in pools throughout the year creating a mix of seasonal water levels that is expected to significantly increase the biodiversity of this field.

Mend the Gap, a partnership project between two National Landscapes and the Railway action group, will fund the excavation of the wetland. This project is also funded by the Government’s Species Survival Fund. The fund was developed by Defra and its Arm’s-Length Bodies. It is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

If you are interested in finding out more about this project please email mendthegap@chilterns.org.uk