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View recent newsNew wetland gets off to flying start

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Work to create a new wetland area in Great Wilbraham has got off to a flying start – thanks to a grant from Cambridge Water.

The water company has awarded the Wilbraham River Preservation Society (WRPS) a £1000 cheque to carry out a feasibility study into whether a five-hectare field adjacent to Wilbraham Road is suitable.

John Smithson, chairman of the WRPS, said: “We are very excited about this new project and very grateful that Cambridge Water has been able to provide the initial funds to get things moving.

“Wetlands are among the world’s most threatened habitats – yet they are also among the most productive when it comes to biodiversity and supporting wildlife.

“The site, which is known as Lusters, is usually waterlogged in the winter and is difficult to cultivate. Our aim is to transform it into a proper wetland with areas which fill with water during the winter months, providing attractive sites for wetland-loving birds, such as lapwing, snipe, mallard, widgeon, redshank and grasshopper warbler, as well as other wetland residents such as dragonflies and toads.”

 

Work began on Tuesday (December 13) to drill a series of test bore holes down to the water table. Water levels will then be monitored and experts brought in to assess the suitability of the land and create a development plan.

Mr Smithson added: “The great thing about this project is its potential to benefit so many other local areas. For example, if the project is successful it will provide an environmental link via the Wilbraham River corridor to Wilbraham Common SSSI and Little Wilbraham Fen SSSI.

“We also hope the project will work in conjunction with an on-going project to reinstate Wilbraham River to its original course, prior to 1750.

“During dry periods the river experiences low flow and relies on water being pumped from a nearby Environment Agency borehole. Reinstating it along the original channel, which is now merely a drainage ditch marking the parish boundary between Little and Great Wilbraham, will increase its natural flow capability, while the new wetland area will be there to provide a refuge for local wildlife during low-flow periods.”

If the results from the feasibility study are positive WRPS’s next steps will include finding further funds for the development and on-going maintenance of the site and liaising with related organisations such as Natural England and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Stephen Kay, managing director for Cambridge Water, said: “We are delighted to be able to support the Wilbraham River Preservation Society’s aim to establish a new wetland area.

“At Cambridge Water we recognise there is a need to balance human and environmental requirements. While our number one priority is to ensure a constant supply of high quality drinking water we are also keen to work closely with the local community to help conserve the environment and educate people about the need for sustainable solutions. This project is just one example of how working with local communities can benefit everyone involved.”

Every quarter Cambridge Water makes grants to local community groups and good causes that operate within the Cambridge Water supply area. The money can be used to fund a wide variety of initiatives, ranging from equipment for sports clubs to toys for playgroups. It can also be used to fund special projects, such as building bat boxes or establishing nature reserves.

If you would like to apply please visit www.cambridge-water.co.uk.

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