Wednesday, 02 December 2020

New council role to help manage wildlife areas

A CONSERVATION officer is to be appointed to manage and maintain Henley’s wildlife areas.

A CONSERVATION officer is to be appointed to manage and maintain Henley’s wildlife areas.

The new role being created by the town council will be filled by Chris Baldwin, who is already employed as a parks warden.

He will support Henley Wildlife Group, which has maintained the wildlife areas on council land since it was formed in 1993.

The volunteers have managed the wildlife area at Mill and Marsh Meadows, including three ponds, as well as the Valley Road chalk bank, parts of Gillotts Field and the Greys Road embankment.

Sally Rankin, who chairs the group, said it needed more support from the council.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s parks sub- committee last week, she said: “The people who attend our regular volunteer work parties on the first Wednesday of the month are more or less the people who have been coming for years and years and they are getting older.

“It’s not as easy to do the physical work they did in previous years. I can’t do as much as I did 10 years ago.

“We have not been very successful at attracting new volunteers. It would be really nice if we could have more support from the parks service.”

Mrs Rankin praised Mr Baldwin and parks services manager Gareth Bartle and thanked them for their help.

But she added: “I feel all the town council’s open spaces could be enhanced for wildlife and people by allocating a bit more town council time to managing the sites.

“If the council would invest a bit more in that then it could really do a wonderful job for biodiversity on its land. It would be a wonderful example to people around us.”

Mr Bartle said: “Until this point the wildlife group has done the town council a service by looking after these bits of land.

“I think maybe it’s time the council took these areas back into their management with the co-operation and support of the wildlife group.”

Councillor Kellie Hinton said: “By formalising this role we’re safeguarding the link with the Henley Wildlife Group. It makes complete sense. We’ve been very lucky to have the level of support from the wildlife group for our land for 20 years.”

A report to the sub- committee said: “The allocation of three days a week would enable regular and systematic work to be undertaken on all wildlife sites and to make the work undertaken by the monthly work parties more manageable and measured.” Members agreed in principle to the creation of the new role and to investigate the likely cost.

Meanwhile, some of the signs in Henley are to be overhauled.

The town council is to seek quotes for new signs in Mill and Marsh Meadows.

Suggestions include having a welcome or information wall on Leichlingen Pavilion facing the Mill Meadows car park and removing the current car park sign.

Sam Evans, who chairs the council’s recreations and amenities committee, said the existing sign was “ugly” and nowhere near where visitors paid for their parking tickets.

A new sign with information about the parking charges would be placed near the pay and display machines.

The parks sub-committee discussed having separate signs for the toddler playground and the adventure playground and to have some signs in braille.

Another suggestion was to rename the putting green “Thames Lawn” to reflect the variety of events which take place there.

The sub-committee welcomed the idea of an information board to explain the history of the Grade II listed obelisk in Mill Meadows, which was suggested by resident Viv Greenwood after she researched its history dating back to 1788. This would cost £1,170.

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