Fobney Island Nature Reserve Opens
Residents of Reading are invited to celebrate the opening of the Fobney Island Wetland Nature Reserve on Friday 17 May.
Fobney Island has been transformed from an area of ecologically poor rough grassland into a wetland haven for nature thanks to a £500,000 facelift. The Environment Agency joined forces with Reading Borough Council, Thames Water and the Thames Rivers Trust to carry out the work.
The formal opening event will start at 11am where Martin Salter, campaigns co-ordinator for the Angling Trust and Councillor Marian Livingstone will officially open the site. Members of the public are invited to join the event from 12.30pm. Over 70 children from Whitley Park School will also be attending the event from 1:30pm onwards. There will be face painting, pond dipping, guided walks around the reserve and a tank showing the different types of fish that can be found on the river, which will benefit from the project.
Graham Scholey, Environment Agency Conservation Technical Specialist said:
“This project will make a real difference to the diversity of wildlife at the site and I’m delighted that Reading Borough Council have now officially opened the site for everyone. Fobney Island is already becoming popular with local residents. We hope that as the site develops it will encourage even more people to enjoy this natural area.
Together with our partners we are taking steps to create new habitats for wildlife and to improve the quality of rivers and wetlands. We are also working to give communities more involvement in caring for their local environment and helping people realise the benefits of getting out and about in the great outdoors.”
As part of the transformation the island has been turned into a rich new wetland and wildflower hay-meadow habitat. In time the site will attract a vast array of wildlife, including birds, bats, water voles and otters. These works, together with the river restoration works on the Kennet, will make this island a more enjoyable place for people to visit, especially birdwatchers and anglers.
A major element of the scheme was to reverse the impacts of historic land raising and dredging of the river. This was achieved by lowering the floodplain (by as much as 1.5 meters) creating flood storage and wetland features. Embankments were partially removed to allow the river to flow onto the floodplain more regularly. The river restoration works improved the River Kennet as it runs through the site by introducing new river gravels to the channel to create ‘riffles’. Gravel riffles provide the perfect breeding ground for fish, as well as an ideal habitat for invertebrate life to thrive. These are essential for fish spawning, in particular for chub, dace and barbel which lay their eggs in the gravel beds. Emerging fish fry find shelter amongst the gravel during early stages of their development. A new backwater has also been created as part of the project to provide vital refuge habitat for young fish.
A circular walk has also been created, with views across the new wetland features, which will help to make the site more accessible and attractive to visitors. The scheme also includes two bird hides with views across the new wetlands. Information boards at the site entrance points will provide information about the wetland and its wildlife.
Marian Livingston, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Culture and Sport, said:
“I’m very pleased the council is playing an important part in this excellent and exciting project. The transformation of Fobney Island into a haven for nature and wildlife will, I’m sure, attract more visitors to this vital green space in the borough. We are very pleased to be able to formally open this site to the public.”
Robert Oates, Executive Director of the Thames Rivers Restoration Trust said:
“The project is an excellent example of partnership working and joint funding between the Environment Agency, Thames Water, a local authority and a river trust”.
Rosemary Waugh, Thames Water’s community investment manager, said:
“We are delighted that Fobney Island is now fully open to be enjoyed by all visitors to the site. We look forward to seeing the wetland mature and being used by the local community for many years to come”.
The Council will continue to manage and maintain the island after the work has been completed and will be looking to volunteers to help with maintenance.
A Friends of Fobney Island volunteer group has been established with support from the project partners to help maintain the site and provide on-going educational opportunities.
If you would like to get involved please call Reading Borough Council’s Parks department on 0800 626540 or visit the Facebook page HERE