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Sulham Woodmeadows Project: Update

BioCap is working with Sulham Estate to transform 130ha of arable land into a wildlife haven on the borders of Tilehurst. Read more about the progress.


 

February 2024 Update

It's been a busy year at Sulham. Designs have been finalised and work on the ground began back in September. The first (and largest) area of seed was sown with a bespoke mix of grasses and wildflowers to suit the varying soils. Whilst arable production continues elsewhere on the estate, there were no crops sown in the project area this year which marks a significant change to these fields. Over 2km of hedgerow has now been planted and we obtained Forestry Commission approval in January to go ahead with our woodland scheme. A hectare has already been planted but the largest tranche is planned for next winter.



Stock fences have been going in as part of the grazing management and ditches have been dug to create boundaries and banks for further hedge planting next year. Two new ponds have been created by the Freshwater Habitat Trust with further trial pits planned for this year. The large area of wetland has been subject to planning permission with a decision due at the end of the month.


Our volunteer bird, butterfly and moth surveyors completed extensive surveys throughout the spring and summer months providing an excellent baseline for these species that we can monitor over the coming years.


The Biodiversity Net Gain scheme also (finally) became 'live' in England on February 12th 2024. This is a milestone in the way planning law looks at ecological cost and we hope this flagship project at Sulham sets a standard for 'habitat banks' in the region and beyond.


The work will continue this year, but barring unexpected delays and some planned tree planting, we anticipate the majority of the establishment to be completed within another 12 months.


 

January 2023 Update

At the start of 2023 the Sulham Woodmeadows project is progressing into the final planning stage. BioCap has been working closely with the estate and the Woodmeadow Trust to draw up detailed habitat maps and develop a timeline for implementation. The estate will be undertaking their final year of planting crops with reduced or no inputs to help prepare the soil for meadow seed and tree planting.

The Freshwater Habitat Trust has been on site to dig test pits for new ponds and are advising on suitable locations and how best to manage these areas for great crested newts and other species in future years. We are seeking advice on a proposed wetland creation to the north of the site. Members of the local community are involved in the monitoring of the site and special care has been taken within the planning stage to maintain or improve public access.


By analysing extensive survey results and working with the landscape a plan has been developed that takes advantage of existing topography, soil condition neighbouring woodland, public access, historical features and existing species that occupy the site. The resulting plan is a mosaic of habitats that will create a haven for wildlife for decades to come, transforming the levels of biodiversity and carbon sequestration at the same time.

It’s an exciting time for the project and we are looking forward to sharing the plans with the community.


 

Overview (2022)

The aim will be to restore soils, reduce inputs, promote biodiversity and facilitate the well being of local people though access to the land and perhaps continued involvement in the monitoring and management of the area.


The plans aim to create a diversity of habitats in a mosaic of woodland, meadows, hedges, scrub and wetlands. This summer has seen the area thoroughly surveyed to ensure we know what is present now and in order that the future plans can take account of important existing species and habitats. Old maps have been perused and important features that have been lost will be reinstated where possible. Hedgerows will provide wildlife corridors and new woodland with galdes, rides and scrub edges will planted. With the help of the Freshwater habitats Trust new ponds and wetlands will be created and established ponds managed.


The area is likely to be managed by traditional methods with modern equipment to produce abundant wildlife and continued beef production.

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