Sir David Bell marks official opening of community nature reserve
Release Date 15 May 2015
On Wednesday 13 May, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading Sir David Bell marked the official opening of a community nature reserve with the planting of an oak tree.
Langley Mead is just over 18 hectares of countryside along the banks of the River Loddon, south-west of Shinfield.
The site has been the subject of an ongoing project, led by the University, aimed at restoring agricultural land back into the biodiverse landscape that once existed there. The aim is to create an attractive and educational conservation environment for local people to visit and enjoy, as well as provide habitats for a range of wild plants and animals to flourish.
Old maps dating back as far as the Earl of Fingal's Estate Map of 1756 show the Langley Mead site as being typical of an ancient landscape: enclosed fields, sinuous hedgerows, wildflower-rich meadows, pasture and common land.
In past times, this site, as a fertile flood plain, would have been traditionally managed in a low-intensity way, encouraging biodiversity within the landscape. However, with the introduction of modern agricultural techniques after the Second World War, the old meadows were either ploughed up or left biologically impoverished.
Working closely with environmental consultant Ben Kite from Ecological Planning & Research, the University has helped return the land to more gentle farming use. The management regime now mimics the traditional management practices of the ancient past to ensure that wild species remain and proliferate. A Ranger now helps to look after the site, to promote its use as an educational and amenity resource for local people, and to help manage the conservation grazing herd that is needed to restore and sustain diverse grassland.
A programme of planting thousands of new trees and hundreds of metres of native species-rich hedgerow has also been completed, with the added benefit of the walkways and paths, which have been built to make it accessible for all to enjoy and appreciate.
Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading said: "The University of Reading is proud to have worked on this project with a number of important partners. I am delighted to see that our hard work is paying off, with wildflowers and native grasses already returning.
"I hope Langley Mead will become a special resource for everyone in the local community. It demonstrates the enduring value of ancient land management techniques and the fact that the benefits of nature can be enjoyed by all."
Green hay was kindly donated by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) in 2013 to seed the wildflower meadow at Langley Mead. The hay, harvested from nearby wildflower meadows at Moor Copse nature reserve, has been used this to replenish the pasture fields at Langley Mead with the plant species that are likely to have once lived here. Former arable areas with higher nutrient levels have also been sown with wildflower seed mixes.
Langley Mead is free and publically accessible all year round (weather depending), available as Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). Dog walkers are also welcome with circular walks provided. Public educational events will be organised from time to time at Langley Mead, and there will be opportunities for community groups to get involved.
For more information about Langley Mead, please go to: www.langleymead.co.uk.