Sunday, 14 August 2022

Let's plant a tree for every child living in town, suggests Mayor

A TREE for every child in Henley could be planted over the next two years.

The idea was put forward by Mayor Kellie Hinton during a council debate on how to improve Watermans Spinney, a 2.5-hectare patch of woodland behind the Watermans allotments, off Reading Road.

Speaking at a meeting of the town council’s open and green spaces sub-committee, she said: “We can source trees from a number of places for cost or free.

“We could get enough for every child in the town. It doesn’t have to be really expensive.”

In a report to the sub-
committee , the council’s new conservation park warden Marcus Militello said he wanted to improve the
spinney.

He said that although there were two official entrances, both on the north side, there were also two unofficial ones, one from the football pitch on the north side and one from the estate in the north-east corner.

Both of these had been created by a hole being cut in the mesh fence, which had led to regular fly-tipping.

“Teenagers tend to hang around Watermans quite regularly,” said Mr Militello. “There are a number of dens on site which accumulate rubbish.

“I am slightly loath to simply destroy their dens, especially since a fair amount of work has gone into one in particular, and it does mean that the teenagers are getting some use out of the woodland.

“The rubbish is, however, a problem. I would look to approach them while on site and let them know that if they want to keep using it that they have to pick up their rubbish.

“If this works, then that’s great. If not, we’ll have to take the dens down.”

He suggested putting a bin at the main entrance to the spinney to deter littering.

He also suggested repairing the fence and creating a “dead” hedge as well as planting a real hedge, ideally using thorny plants, to improve long-term security.

The alternative was to install more heavy duty mesh fencing.

Mr Militello said the official entrance in the north-east corner required a 12ft gate to allow vehicular access.

Other ideas included creating a “bug hotel” at the southern end of the spinney, away from any houses. This could be made using wooden pallets, ceramic plant pots and house bricks with holes and could be used to teach children about nature.

He also suggested organising a volunteer day, possibly next month, in conjunction with Henley Wildlife Group in the hope of establishing a regular event once or twice a month.

Mr Militello told the meeting that having volunteers to help would free up the council’s parks staff for other work.

“I would hope this volunteer group could potentially work on all the town council’s wildlife sites,” he said.

Mr Militello, who joined the council last month, said he was establishing links with Sally Rankin, of the Henley Wildlife Group, and Tuc Ahmad, a parent-governor of Badgemore School, and planned to contact Dave McEwen, of Henley in Transition.

He had also met Victoria Newton, who helps organise Chelsea Fringe Henley, an alternative gardening festival, about planting a community orchard in Paradise Road next month to mark National Tree Week. This could involve the town’s schools.

Meanwhile, a new residents’ group wants to improve a green space in Henley but keep it a tranquil place for people to enjoy.

The Friends of Freemans Meadow has offered to work with the town council to make the land off Fair Mile more attractive to townsfolk.

The group, which has about 20 members, wants to ensure the area is properly maintained and improved as follows:

⚫ Have more frequent mowing, carry out some planting and tidy the hedges and access.

⚫ Remove the youth shelter and replace it with benches.

⚫ Install better play equipment aimed at younger children and toddlers.

⚫ Install better bins for both litter and dog mess.

Peter Lloyd, who lives in nearby Leicester Close, said the overall feeling among residents on all four sides of the meadow was that it should remain “tranquil”.

The group, which has a representative from each side, has drafted a letter to all residents overlooking the meadow asking for suggestions.

The Mayor proposed removing a block of concrete on the Luker Avenue side of the meadow where the old swings used to be, saying it was becoming a health and safety hazard.

She said residents wanted the youth shelter removed as it was misused and attracted the “occasional homeless person” and antisocial behaviour.

Councillor Hinton added: “The overgrown bushes around the edge of Freemans were being used as toilets and so on. We can help stop this as it could do with being cut back.”

She also suggested investigating the cost of fencing off the playground and putting down rubber mulch flooring. The work could be done at the same time as improvements to Makins recreation ground in order to save money.

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