River of Life ll follows the success of our first wetland habitat creation, River of Life, on the banks of the Thames near Shillingford. This project will transform three locations along the River Thames and Thame, working in partnership with two other landowners – Church Farm Partnership and The Hurst Water Meadow Trust. It is the biggest project undertaken as part of our Water & Wetlands programme, which aims to demonstrate landscape management of water and wetlands, clean rivers and the importance and value of water to nature and people. Working at a larger scale than before, the project has a lifespan and potential legacy that will tackle a number of environmental challenges.
Creation of wetland habitat on the floodplain
River of Life II will create several new wetland habitats along the River Thames and River Thame:
- 15,657m2 at Clifton Meadow, on the south bank of the River Thames (owned by Earth Trust)
- 28,634m2 at Church Farm, north of Days Lock (owned by the Church Farm Partnership)
- 2,355m2 at Overy Mead, on the banks of the River Thame (owned by The Hurst Water Meadow Trust)
Total 46,000m2 of wetland = size of six football pitches
Our geographical location, with the natural convergence of rivers and flood plains, makes us ideally placed to create these valuable wetland habitats. The River Thames, in particular, has been channelled for navigation and no longer has many of the smaller backwaters and channels that are so beneficial to a huge number insects, amphibians, birds, fish and aquatic plant life. The sites have been chosen carefully and we are extending the natural features and lie of the land to create 16 ponds, seven backwater channels and 1.6 hectares of woodland. The creation of these features, alongside mosaics of other habitats, will improve the biodiversity and quality of the landscape.
According to an Environment Agency 2020 report 86% of UK rivers don’t meet Good Ecological Status and this sadly includes the UK’s second longest river, the Thames. New ponds, backwaters and wet woodland will slow down and filter water, by trapping sediments and removing pollutants from the water.
Ponds for wildlife
The project will also fund the creation of several new ponds in Little Wittenham Wood, home to one of the country’s most significant populations of great crested newts. These ponds will be close to the existing breeding ponds within Little Wittenham Wood, which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for great crested newts.
Tackling climate change
With wetlands now recognised having an important role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere, and with their ability to act as natural flood defences, these habitats can have far-reaching effects. As the project progresses, we will be working with the Environment Agency and independent ecohydrology experts to assess and quantify the impact of new wetlands. We aim to create a demonstration of how landowners can make a difference through such initiatives and partnership working; if replicated on an even larger scale (for example at many more places along the River Thames) then the impact would be even more significant.