Branches West Vale Reports
Shrivenham, Watchfield, and Bourton Parish News. April 2016

During most winters we see the electricity board cutting back the hedges under their overhead lines, this takes place all along the Shrivenham Canal section and is a great help to us volunteers as it means that we do not have to manage the tops of some of the towpath hedges ourselves. However, a while ago extra to this, we had a contractor working for the electric board come into the Canalside Park to clear dense scrub, brambles and small trees from directly beneath the high voltage lines that diagonally cross the eastern end.

To reduce their annual maintenance work, a swathe about 4 by 40 metres was completely cleared to ground level and it looks a right old mess, basically bare earth! This necessary work, quite rightly, upset a few of the visitors who use the park on a regular basis, but we look at it more as ‘a bit of an opportunity’ to make ecological/environmental enhancements. We could of course ‘just ignored it’ and let ‘Mother Nature’s natural regeneration’ take place, but experience tells us this rarely works! Some years ago we had a professional ecological/environmental study done on the Park and one clear recommendation was that although it encouraged some tree planting in the wilder eastern end, (which we have since done), it also suggested that small ‘sunny glades’ with narrow open grass tracks joining them together were cleared and maintained! This would make small patches of open rough grassland between the trees and shrubs and that would provide a warm, calm habitat for wild grasses, plants, flowers, butterflies and insects etc to flourish and also provide sheltered corridors joining them together. Our newly installed footpath, (open, but sorry not quite finished yet), at this end will provide easy access for all our visitors whilst this new network of interconnecting tracks should encourage lots of wildlife. So over the next year or so we will be lending nature a hand, grass and native wild flower seeding between whatever ‘mother nature regenerates’ herself. But we know she will need careful and continuous management; no good allowing the scrub to grow back! Any helpers out there?

As usual – the plea for more help – we really do have jobs to suit everyone with a bit of spare time, indoors as well as outdoors, easy as well as physically demanding - just give one of us a call.

Alan Norris