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Restoration story

Returning Greenham Common to nature

Trish Lee

Trish Lee


01635 886663

greenham common

 Talk at Greenham Control Tower by Ed Cooper and Alex Cruickshank of BBOWT
Returning Greenham Common to Nature, July 17 

Forming part of a free summer talk series about Greenham Common hosted by Greenham Control Tower, this evening saw a fascinating discussion of how RAF Greenham Common was converted to an open public space and a haven for wildlife by two figures who played a key part in this stage of the life of the Common. The speakers, Ed Cooper and Alex Cruickshank were interviewed by Judith Bunting, who has a long career in making science documentaries for the BBC.

Ed Cooper, who was appointed director of the work to convert the land in 1997, gave a detailed account of this unique part of his career and how he came upon this special project. He explained how huge the scale of the tasks were.  A two mile-long runway plus aircraft taxiways and hardstands of around three feet deep had to be removed which equalled a weight of over a million tons of concrete. In addition, there was an immense amount of asphalt to be disposed of along with 21 underground fuel storage tanks which had held more than 8 million gallons of kerosene. The task was particularly tricky as the work had to be done in such a way that would cause minimum impact on the sometimes fragile ecosystem of the area.

Greenham Common is now the property of West Berkshire Council but it is managed by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). Alex Cruickshank. Senior Land Manager, has worked on the Common for five years. Alex explained that the site had, in fact, been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as far back as when it was still an operational airfield and remains so today. The site is the largest expanse of lowland heath in Berkshire and is home to a series of very rare plant life. Alex explained that the care of the site when it was an airfield did much to preserve the rare species on the common including the regular mowing.

For many years, the common has been known to be home to Adders and Alex explained that these are contained to limited and self-contained pockets. BBOWT are looking to develop and join these habitats so that the adders can breed with the other colonies and thus maintain the biodiversity.  He also outlined that the work to maintain and protect the wildlife and habitats as a whole on the common is an ongoing one and is under careful stewardship.

Jonathan Sayers


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