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World Wetlands Day: New haven for wildlife in Aylesbury

Tuesday 2nd February 2021 08:29

A wooden jetty sits on top of a lake

Thames Water is celebrating World Wetlands Day by announcing the creation of a new wetland in Buckinghamshire and its plans to improve natural habitats across its operational sites.

Work to turn land next to Aylesbury sewage works into a haven for wildlife and plants is set to start in the Spring.

The 20,000 metre-squared site, which borders the River Thame, will be developed into areas of permanent standing water and will encourage waders such as Snipe, Little Egret and Green Sandpiper as well as help store carbon.

Raised mounds will be created for nesting and roosting birds as well as a large wildflower meadow, which will make an ideal home for insects and small mammals. A bird hide, constructed on the site in 2016, will provide the ideal viewing point for birdwatchers.

The new wetlands were designed in collaboration with a number of stakeholders, including the River Thame Conservation Trust, Environment Agency, Aylesbury Vale District Council and local birders. The work is expected to take four to five weeks.

Thames Water ecologist Becky Elliott, who is leading on the project, said: “Wetlands are important networks for migrating and breeding birds and for tackling the effects of climate change. We’re excited to create a new wetland at Aylesbury, which will become a thriving habitat for wildlife. We care about the communities within which we all live and work, and this is a fantastic example of Thames Water working together with local partners to benefit the communities we serve and help with nature’s recovery.”

Inland wetlands such as marshes, ponds, lakes, fens, rivers, floodplains, and swamps act as vast 'carbon sinks', which store carbon and prevent it from being released back into the atmosphere.

Thames Water recognises the benefits wetlands have for wildlife and the local communities surrounding them and is working to create wetland areas across its water and sewage works.

In Godalming in Surrey, the company is currently working with the Unstead Nature Community Group and local wildlife groups to recreate a wetland habitat next to its sewage works in 2021/22. The volunteers have been busy during lockdown and have recently restored a bird hide and improved several access routes into the site.

Janet Parr, a member of the Unstead Nature Community Group (UNCG), said: “We recognise the important role wetlands play within our environment and with support from Thames Water, we hope to transform this quiet backwater into a rich haven for invertebrates, mammals and birds, including increasing numbers of waders and waterfowl. We hope this essential and crucial wetland site in Godalming will provide long term value to the community, with opportunities for recreation and education plus meeting the needs and aspirations of future generations.”

Thames Water is also improving the condition of an existing wetland at a water pumping station in Speen, Newbury and exploring opportunities at its sewage works in Cirencester to create a wetland, in collaboration with Cotswold Water Park.

World Wetlands Day takes place annually on February 2 and aims to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and the planet.

Wetlands make up about three per cent of the UK but are home to around 10 per cent of all its wildlife species. They can provide flood protection by storing rainfall and coastal wetlands such as saltwater marshes and estuaries provide buffering from the sea.

In 2017 Thames Water worked with Waltham Forest Council, London Wildlife Trust with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to open Walthamstow Wetlands. The Thames Water operational site in North London, provides 3.5 million people with their daily drinking water and is a popular site for anglers and walkers.

Since it opened Walthamstow Wetlands has been visited more than a million times, has become a haven for all types of birds and wildlife and is an internationally designated Ramsar site, as well as a Special Protection Area (SPA) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

From 2020 to 2025, Thames Water has committed to enhance biodiversity by 5% at 253 of its sites which have biodiversity interest.

Find out more about Thames Water’s wetlands and nature reserves.