MAJOR work to restore natural habitats in Oxford’s Trap Grounds should be completed this month.
The wetland area is being worked on by volunteers from the Friends of Trap Grounds and a contractor, funded by a £2,000 grant from the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.
The contractor is dredging ponds to prevent reed invasions and digging irrigation channels into reedbeds to encourage water vole breeding.
Meanwhile volunteers have been busy clearing cut down reeds and willow trees, which have been drying the reeds out – threatening the habitat of rare species.
Friends chairman Alan Allport said water voles were not the only species which would benefit from the project.
He said: “Kingfishers, reed warblers, bats, dragonflies and many other wetland species will also thrive there.
“We hope that otters too will make use of the site on their nocturnal travels along the canal.”
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Volunteer Dick Mayon-White added: “This area used to be a rubbish tip, so it has come a long way since then. Now it is teeming with wildlife.”
The land at Trap Grounds – which lies between the railway line and the Oxford Canal – was the subject of a long campaign when councils wanted to build social housing and a road across the site.
A bid by residents to register it as a protected town green went all the way to the House of Lords in 2006, when it was finally approved.
Volunteers have since installed features such as a wooden walkway footbridge using more than £20,000 of grant funding. They have also removed rusting metal debris from the woodland over the last eight years.
The town green area consists of 5.6 acres of woodland and grassland formerly used as a rubbish tip.
About 2.9-acres of neighbouring reed beds are part of one of Oxford City Council’s Local Wildlife Sites.
Now the Friends of Trap Grounds describe it as “a rich mosaic of wildlife habitats”.
The latest project to restore the wetland area is expected to finish on January 31.
Money for the scheme was provided through a Biffa Award, which sees Biffa Group Ltd provide cash for community projects under a tax relief scheme. The fund is managed by the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts.
St Margaret’s ecologist Dr Tim King said the work being carried out was “absolutely necessary” to preserve rare bird species. He said: “The reed beds need to be kept because of the bird species that inhabit them.
“But the willows must also not be allowed to shade them or the reeds will dry out and disappear. The management they are carrying out is absolutely necessary to keep the reed beds.”
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