In the face of the challenge of lockdown the work to restore and repair our much damaged and neglected natural world has continued without pause. The partners in the EU funded Freshwater First Programme are now in the second phase preparing for practical works as soon as the rules allow.
Freshwater First Extension ERDF Programme
In January this year the Freshwater First Extension ERDF programme received £437,612 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund. The Fund was established by the European Union to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs, local community regenerations through improvements to green space and water management. For more information click here.
Freshwater First Extension is a 3 year partnership that will deliver a programme of nature recovery projects which include:
- An extension to a lovely riverside nature reserve near Underton, Bridgnorth
- Creation of a wildlife sensory garden at a Day Centre and therapeutic farm
- Restoration of a scenic section of the Quatt Brook
- Wildlife enhancements to a public park in Bridgnorth
- Lake beauty spot to get make over in Telford
- New wildlife habitats at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings
- Ecological gains at popular park alongside River Severn in Shrewsbury
One of the beneficiaries of the funding will be Monkmoor Meadows, a popular riverside area alongside the Severn east of Shrewsbury. It is planned to plant more hedgerow plants, trees, add enhancements for wetland plants and birds with improved access for local residents, anglers and canoeists. Helen Ball, Clerk to Shrewsbury Town Council is pleased to acknowledge how “The Freshwater First Programme is helping us to deliver a number of access and habitat improvements at Monkmoor Meadows, which will be an asset for years to come. Greenspaces have never been more important to people than they are now, and Shrewsbury Town Council is proud to support this project.”
Abbots Wood Day Centre
Of the many local people who are set to benefit from the improvements at Monkmoor Meadows are the service users and staff at the Abbots Wood Day Centre. “The service users that attend our Day Centre love going down to the river in Monkmoor in the warmer months. It is so local we can just walk from the centre. Due to access issues, like the kissing gate, uneven ground and the lack of any benches to rest on, we are only able to take our more able bodied service users, and only when the weather has been dry. We have many service users with mobility issues and wheelchair users that are desperate to get down there, but are unable to at present. The impact that the improvements would have on our less able service user’s emotional wellbeing and physical health could be extremely significant.”
Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings
Many Shropshire residents will be familiar with the Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings and aware that the work to secure the future of the site is well underway. The restoration of the Main Mill and Kiln is due to be completed and available for commercial lettings from autumn 2021, with a new visitor experience opening spring 2022. Part of the Freshwater First EU funding is to support a small part of this important and exciting restoration. Nick Hill, National Conservation Projects Manager, Historic England says “We are delighted to receive this funding to support the creation of wildlife habitats in and around the Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings Railway Triangle car park. The area will be landscaped with railway sleepers, shrubs and plants, and over 30 native trees will be planted. It will form a green backdrop to an improved pedestrian and cycle path along the existing historic wall and provide a home for birds and insects, such as bees and butterflies. Next to the car park, a nature conservation area has been created, with a new building for bats. We are looking forward to welcoming a variety of wildlife species.”
Shropshire Wildlife Trust who led the first Freshwater First programme which invested £2.5 million in biodiversity improvements at 15 locations around Shropshire and Telford is now expanding its nature reserve network thanks to the EU funding. Colin Preston, Shropshire Wildlife Trust CEO is delighted that the Freshwater First grant has enabled us to secure land alongside the Mor Brook and extend our nature reserve in the Bridgnorth area. The floodplain grassland will be managed to bring out the best for wildlife and create a haven for nature”
Pete Lambert, Programme Manager says ‘the decline of our wild places and the disconnected way we relate to our natural world can at times make it difficult to feel much can be done to reverse the loss of the species and habitats but thanks to generous EU funding and the commitment of our partners at least 7 places will get the nature recovery boost that they need.’
The ‘Freshwater First Extension’ project is led by Shropshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with Shrewsbury Town Council, Bridgnorth Town Council, National Trust, Historic England, Telford and Wrekin Council and Shropshire Council.