Green space project helps wildlife flourish on Walsworth Common
Councillors, staff and volunteers from North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC), Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), Countryside Management Service (CMS) and Groundwork gathered on 10 November to celebrate the completion of an exciting new green space project in Hitchin.
Walsworth Common is now thriving with wildlife thanks to this project, which has delivered improvements to the Common, making it more attractive to local birds, insects, mammals as well as visitors to the site.
Extensive restoration to the south-east pond involving de-silting the water and cutting back overhanging trees, has allowed more light into the pond which will encourage vegetation to grow. Flow deflectors have also been installed in the River Purwell, which runs through the Common. These will help to vary the flow of water and create small pockets of erosion and deposition, improving the health of the river for wild animals and plants.
The river work is of particular significance as the River Purwell is one of only 200 chalk rivers in the world. Chalk rivers support an abundance of wildlife, including, in some places, Britain’s fastest declining wild mammal, the Water Vole. The Walsworth Common project has put in place a cycle of riverside habitat management work that may encourage the nearby Water Vole population to remain in this area.
The project also focused on making the Common more user-friendly for visitors. Site accessibility has been improved, new welcome signs and benches have been installed, along with an interpretation panel to inform visitors about the site.
This initiative, led by HCC’s CMS on behalf of NHDC, took 12 months to complete. Much of the work has been carried out by CMS volunteers.
The total value of work delivered was £14,000 with the majority of funding coming from a grant of £10,000 from the ‘Bags of Help’ initiative run by Tesco and Groundwork UK, and NHDC providing matched funding of £4000.
Cllr Michael Weeks, NHDC Executive Member for the Environment said: "We are delighted with the transformation of Walsworth Common and we would encourage local residents to visit to experience the beauty of this wonderful place for themselves, and see what wildlife they can spot while here".
"Personally I am overjoyed to see the river restored back to its former glory and looking so healthy, clean and appealing to wildlife."
Jay Ghumania, Partnership Projects Officer at CMS, said: "We’re very excited about the work carried out at Walsworth Common and look forward to seeing local wildlife benefit from our efforts. Colonisation by water voles would be a fantastic success story! Site access has also been greatly improved, increasing the ease of use of the site for local people."
"We are grateful to the ‘Bags of Help’ initiative, run by Tesco and Groundwork UK, for funding the project and we’d like to say a huge thank you to the endeavours of our amazing army of volunteers as the work would not have been possible without them."