Tue, 12 Mar 2019
Greenham talk: Bringing The Common Back To Life, at Greenham Control Tower, on Wednesday, February 20
Review by DAVID J SKYRME & MEG THOMAS
BRINGING the Common Back to Life, the latest in Greenham Control Tower’s series of talks, was given by Ed Cooper, who project managed the removal of many of the remains of the airfield and airbase and restored the common as an open space. He did this on behalf of West Berkshire Council between 1997 and 2001. Throughout the talk photographs were shown of the various operations undertaken. The dismantling of the runway was already under way in 1997. Concrete and asphalt were broken up and placed in piles. The concrete was then crushed on-site and both were then sold on, bringing in much needed revenue for the restoration. This included bringing back much of the area around the runway to important heath and
The initial management plan rightly put a lot of focus on conservation, but Ed and his advisers saw the heritage
potential of the site. Therefore, although many buildings were demolished, and all but one of the 21 visible fuel tanks removed, as you walk around the common today you can see the occasional outbuilding, fire hydrants, the remaining fuel tank (near the entrance to the tower) and also steel columns rising up, which once were part of underground fuel tanks.
Ed also touched on one of the most controversial parts of the restoration – the extraction of gravel from the Crookham Common end of the airfield. This raised many protests, but it was seen as an opportunity to restore some of the gullies and wetland which had been covered over during the construction of the airfield. A scheme to take it on a conveyor belt to the
gravel operations near the River Kennet minimised the amount of heavy vehicle traffic on Burys Bank Road.
Ed highlighted many other aspects of the conversion, including restoring commoners’ rights, project financing, the status of the missile shelters, the former control centre on the airbase (now offices) and the volunteer group which manages the common. Overall this was a fascinating insight by someone at the heart of the process of transformation from a military complex into a common; the ecology and heritage of which we now all enjoy.
Greenham Control Tower has an ongoing series of evening talks and have plans for summer walks, details of which can be found at their website www.greenhamtower.org.uk