Celebrating Oxfordshire’s Climate Heroes
Today we were delighted to attend the High Sheriff’s Climate Action Awards Ceremony and incredibly proud to have won in the social enterprise category.
Our River of Life II project – developed in partnership with two other landowners, Church Farm Partnership and The Hurst Water Meadow Trust – was nominated alongside a number of Oxfordshire climate heroes.
River of Life II is the largest wetland habitat creation project of its kind on the banks of the River Thames and Thame, adding 46,000m2 – an area equivalent to six football pitches. It is also the first project of its kind to research the carbon-absorbing potential of floodplain wetlands and demonstrate how farming and wildlife can thrive hand in hand while also being financially sustainable.
The River Thames in particular has been channelled for navigation over centuries, affecting the water flow, waterscape features and hydrology. The new wetland will tackle environmental challenges by improving water quality, biodiversity, carbon sequestration and flood alleviation.
Working in partnership, collaborating, and sharing knowledge and innovation further afield to inspire change for the benefit of the planet and people is key to solving the climate, biodiversity and health crises. This project – and the partnership behind it – was carefully designed to demonstrate how nature-based solutions can benefit the environment and people without impacting on a farm’s economics.
This project was a major collaboration, involving three neighbouring land owners (Earth Trust, Church Farm Partnership and Hurst Water Meadow Partnership). The project was conceived and managed by staff at Earth Trust, and delivered in partnership with the Environment Agency, multiple independent consultants (designers, ecologists, hydrologists and others) and Land and Water Services (contractors for excavations and construction).
Chris Smith, Honourable Secretary of Hurst Water Meadow Trust, said, “Recognition of our small, local charity and our ability to partner effectively with local landowners has given us the confidence to tackle large-scale, collaborative projects in the future. We’ve been extremely pleased to be able to rejuvenate historical backwaters on the River Thame and re-establish them for the enjoyment of the local community.”
Rebecca Chiazzese, from JCTR ltd (project and programme managers), said, “It has been an honour and a privilege to be part of the dedicated partnership team delivering benefits for nature and people, and winning an award like this is the icing on the cake!”
In addition, the project involved a large and dynamic group of Earth Trust volunteers, who prepared sites by clearing brash, conserving existing habitats for wildlife and implementing new features, including planting nearly 4,000 trees within the new area of wet woodland on the banks of the Thames. In total we estimate over 100 people were involved over the seven month period it took to complete the works.
The carbon and climate impacts of this kind of wetland are currently unknown, but a novel partnership with the Environment Agency, Earth Trust and Bangor University aims to explore this potential in order to inform others who could replicate similar projects that significantly contribute towards positive climate action within floodplains.
Jayne Manley, Earth Trust CEO, said:
“The high storms this week show that our climate is changing and significantly so. It’s up to all of us to take climate action, and at Earth Trust we hope our River of Life II project will inspire others. Working with partners we are demonstrating that wetland ecosystems can be created along the Thames and similar channelised rivers. These functioning ecosystems are nature’s solution to the climate emergency. They can mitigate flooding, lock up carbon and vitally improve water quality and the biodiversity of our rivers.
“Being nominated amongst so many amazing climate action projects is a great privilege. More than anything else, these awards raise awareness of the need for creative thinking and community action and we thank the High Sheriff for this boldness in putting climate change at the top of his agenda.”
Connecting and sharing learning with other charities, businesses, and local and national government is essential if we are to achieve Oxfordshire’s climate action targets. Recognising and celebrating success – of all kinds and scales – has an important role to play in raising the visibility of important work that is happening across the region and bringing like-minded people and organisations together.
Our huge congratulations go to all of the winners.