A project to improve Purwell Meadows Local Nature Reserve for both the wildlife and the people of Hitchin is well underway.
Purwell Meadows is a popular spot for visitors who can enjoy the peaceful, relaxing meadow. The area provides an appealing environment, including wet meadows, which unfortunately are on the decline therefore demonstrating how restoration and improvements of this nature reserve are vital for all involved.
Countryside Management Service (CMS), is leading this project on behalf of North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC). CMS plays an active role in encouraging volunteers to become involved in their projects. A major priority of this service is to encourage people to understand, respect and ultimately enjoy what the countryside has to offer.
Restoration work is being carried out on the banks of the River Purwell, a rare chalk stream that flows through the site which is particularly important to wildlife, in order to provide a suitable habitat for species such as water voles.
Wetland habitat will also be enhanced for wildlife, particularly birds such as snipe. Hedgerows along Willian Road and Purwell Lane are being restored and replanted and fencing replaced to enable cattle grazing to continue.
Access points will be improved and made more appealing with the creation of easy access kissing gates and new welcome signage will be resurrected to improve identification of the reserve. Other developments include a ford crossing point on the river that will be restored, whilst leaflets will provide interesting facts and information for visitors.
The well being of the local wildlife is an ongoing priority during the project, leading to careful timetabling of the restoration works. Paul Evans, Projects Officer at Countryside Management Service, explained: “We carry out the work when we know it is going to be of least impact to the wildlife. The hedgerow resetoration was carried out in the late winter to avoid bird nesting/breeding season and disruption to their food supplies. This has led to us having very fine time frames in which we must get things completed.”
The £58,400 project, which commenced in November 2012, has been made possible by a grant of £14,600 secured by CMS from the Veolia Environmental Trust through the landfill communities fund (LCF) and from Hertfordshire County Council in its role as local flood authority. Thanks to a Performance Reward Grant award, owners of the site, NHDC, has been able to contribute to the remainder of the projects costs.
Purwell Meadows is an invaluable location for the people and wildlife of Hitchin, highlighting the importance of improvements from this restoration project, due for completion in April 2014. The Veolia Environmental Trust has supported a diverse range of community and environmental restorations over the past 15 years with contributions of over £50 million to 1450 projects.
Speaking to Premier Construction about the restorations overall impact, Paul Evans explained: “From a wildlife perspective we hope this will improve their habitat ultimately resulting in increased population. From a peoples perspective this will make Purwell Meadows much more accessible, appealing and informative. The local residents are provided with opportunities to get involved in the work carried out and are encouraged to continue looking after the site in the future, giving this project a real community feel.”
For more information please visit: www.hertslink.org/cms/getactive/placestovisit/purwellmeadows.