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£10,000 appeal for conservation work at Grantchester Meadows to tackle erosion

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The Cam Valley Forum is appealing for funds to support essential conservation works on Grantchester Meadows.

The project has been offered a total of nearly £10,000 in funding, so long as the community can match this, and providing the work can be completed before the end of March 2022.

A ladder in the water to help swimmers at Grantchester Meadows. Picture: Keith Heppell
A ladder in the water to help swimmers at Grantchester Meadows. Picture: Keith Heppell

The scheme will address some of the severe erosion to the banks of the River Cam at Grantchester Meadows. Use of the banks by cattle, people and dogs has led to bank erosion, removal of marginal vegetation and silt inputs to the river, which can impact on water quality. Areas of cattle trampling adjacent to footpath gates has also created safety issues, particularly noticeable in winter.

The project will create two new “cattle drinks” – gently sloping access points to the river with a hard stone base – so that cattle can get to the river safely while reducing erosion and siltation. Soil from the work will be used to repair banks next to the footpath, which will then be protected with a short stretch of fence.

Marginal vegetation is expected to thrive in these areas, providing refuge for water vole, waterfowl and invertebrates. The aim is to trial ways to rebuild and protect the banks using natural materials, and to learn lessons which can be applied to other areas of Grantchester Meadows.

Stephen Tomkins, forum chairman, said: “Grantchester Meadows, a quiet open green space by the Cam, is famous for its grazing cattle, river wildlife and rural beauty. It is much loved by Cambridge people as a place to enjoy nature, relax, picnic, and swim.

“But these wonderful meadows are suffering from river bank erosion and collapsing pathways as a result of heavy footfall, cattle accessing the river to drink or cool down, and some people and dogs entering and leaving the water.

“There are concerns about litter and anti-social behaviour too.

“These pressures threaten the continuation of the traditional cattle grazing that is such an attractive part of this rural scene. We enjoy this access for free but there is a cost for the owners and tenants in managing the impacts. The loss of soil and stirring up of sediment in the river bed also makes the river less able to support fish and other wildlife.

“These concerns have been recognised and reflected in proposals from the Wildlife Trust in Cambridgeshire and Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group – supported by the owners and farmers – to undertake some essential remedial works. We are delighted to support this pilot project.

“The proposals include urgent actions to repair two short lengths of riverbank, footpath and some limited planting. Only local river silt and soft revetments will be used to rebuild banks. Only a few metres of permanent fencing will be needed to protect the planting. This work will certainly help the people, wildlife and cattle that use or depend on the meadows.

“We appeal to all Cambridge residents to help us raise the £20,000 needed for this pilot project and to build a fund for future enhancements. The Cam Valley Forum is contributing. Others including the Environment Agency and the county council have pledged some initial support. Individuals and businesses can donate through the Wildlife Trust. If everyone who enjoys the meadows gives a donation, we can easily do it.”

To donate, visit www.wildlifebcn.org/grantchester-meadows-project.

For more on the Cam Valley Forum, visit https://camvalleyforum.uk/.

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