A NEW project aims to enhance Swindon’s forests and urban meadows while improving people’s health and wellbeing writes Daniel Angelini.

The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Swindon Borough Council are working together on the Forest Meadows Project, which will cover more than 170 hectares on 12 sites around the borough.

Over three years, the management and wildlife of existing grassland areas will be improved through reintroducing wildflowers, introducing grazing animals and benefitting bees.

Councillor Gary Sumner said: “We are absolutely committed as a council to improving biodiversity throughout the borough so we are really pleased to team up with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to deliver this project.

“It builds on our commitment to reduce our carbon footprint here in Swindon and ties in nicely with existing tree planting and wildflower initiatives we have in place as we aim for a greener future.

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“I am also extremely pleased this particular project will have a focus on improving people’s health and wellbeing and I look forward to seeing the forest meadows making a real difference to the lives of local people in years to come.”

Most of the sites are located along the corridor of the River Ray, but the project will also link to Seven Fields, the Lawns, Wroughton, Highworth, Penhill, Rodbourne Cheney, and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserves with existing meadows.

The scheme is funded by the local authority through developer contributions and other biodiversity grants.

The project will link in with existing health and wellbeing groups in Swindon to encourage their members to get involved in a wide range of activities, from the sowing and planting of wildflowers through to the biological monitoring of sites for wildlife such as butterflies and moths.

The wildlife trust will lead the work in collaboration with the borough and parish councils as well as community groups in different areas.

The trust’s newly-appointed Swindon reserves manager Neil Pullen said: “I’m really looking forward to starting work in Swindon later this month.

“Thanks to projects such as the Great Western Community Forest, large areas of green space and corridors can be found in parts of Swindon borough.

“There are also many people within the borough who have expertise or willingness to get involved. The Forest Meadows Project will be another outlet for them to be able to get outdoors and make a difference for wildlife and their local community.”

Anyone interested in getting involved in the project by surveying and monitoring or more actively managing and creating wildlife-rich areas, or who would like more information should email neilp@wiltshirewildlife.org or on 01380 725670.

Both organisations are currently working at Mouldon Hill on a project to enhance biodiversity funded by a grant from Network Rail. This funding comes after recent upgrades to the Great Western Route Modernisation electrification programme and seeks to offset impacts on biodiversity by enhancing habitats elsewhere.