WORK to create a £1m wetland habitat on the banks of the Thames near Wallingford has taken a step forward, thanks to an environmental grant.

Environmental charity Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment has donated £10,000 to create the habitat.

It is part of the River of Life project, taking shape on 50 hectares of farmland – the size of 62 football pitches – owned by the Earth Trust. There they are creatung semi-natural habitats to attract wildlife including brown hares, otters, lapwings and skylarks.

Phase one , digging out wetland features along a 2.5km stretch of the river, was completed in December, thanks to support from the Environment Agency.

Earlier this year the second phase started to plant reedbeds, restore wet woodland, and create wildflower meadows.

Chris Parker, head of land management at the Earth Trust, based at Little Wittenham, said: “The new habitats we’re creating and restoring will be beneficial to all sorts of species.”

About 5,000 reed plants have been brought in and over the next two years wildflower meadows and wet woodland areas will be created.

The project last month won a national award from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), for Best Practice in Practical Nature Conservation.

Earth Trust director Jayne Manley added: “We’re really pleased our achievements have been recognised.”

Graham Scholey, conservation technical specialist for the Environment Agency, said: “We were so pleased to be able to collaborate closely with the Earth Trust in this major landscape-scale habitat creation project.”

The new habitat will link directly to Little Wittenham Wood, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation.

During phase three of the project a new pathway will be created through the area so that visitors can see the new habitats.