Please Mend the Gap: An update on our landscape enhancement project between Reading and Didcot
Mend the Gap is a collaborative programme between the North Wessex Downs AONB Partnership, the Chilterns Conservation Board and the Railway Action Group. Funded by Network Rail, it aims to heal and soften the scars left by the electrification of the Great Western main line between Reading and Didcot. The route passes along the Thames Valley through the famous Goring Gap.
Here we share an update on some of the progress the Project has made in the last six months.
In the winter of 2022 to 2023 we planted over 990 metres of hedgerow to soften the visual impact of the gantries. The focus of this planting was on the South Stoke area in the Chilterns AONB. Working with landowners, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) SE facilitated the work with local contractors. In the winter of 2023- 24 we hope to continue this work with FWAG, with the focus becoming Goring to Purley. The planting was informed by tree planting species guidance from Jonathan Spencer. Including ‘signature species’ such as wild pear that will contribute to the programme’s long-term landscape legacy.
The Mitigation work is proving to be an important vehicle for us to get to know who owns the land and build relationships with them moving forward. It has also seen us gain greater links with South Stoke Parish Council and Wildlife Group. The Wildlife Group at South Stoke complimented our planting with the creation of a new woodland to the South of the village. Whilst the Parish Council have now received a Mend the Gap enhancement grant to further enhance the landscape near to the village hall, into a community park available for the school, church and wider community.
This year saw the arrival of the new programme Manager in Feb 2023. Ruth Staples-Rolfe, who has a background in education and project management, is keen to make contact with landowners in the Mend the Gap area. Her focus is designing the larger outcomes which will aim to enhance both the wetland and chalk habitats in the most Southerly End of the Chilterns along the Thames Valley between Reading and Didcot.
Exciting plans are underway in the Mend the Gap programme area.
The Chilterns AONB boundary review is well underway having progressed the technical assessment of natural beauty and engaged with stakeholders.
Chilterns Conservation Board welcomes Government pledges to boost nature and people’s access to the countryside
The Government has announced a series of ambitious measures to further support and improve protected landscapes.