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From a 'rubbish dump' to 'beautiful', Welford Parish Council cleans up Marsh Common





An area of disused common land has been transformed into a natural paradise after a village parish council assumed its stewardship.

Two years ago, a parishioner made Welford Parish Council aware that Marsh Common in Weston was an area of land the council could legally take over.

The council unanimously voted to do so, and since this decision it has cleaned the common up and installed a variety of different natural aids to both encourage wildlife and create a peaceful place for residents to visit.

Chair of Welford Parish Council Martyne Ellard with councillor Henry Burgoyne-Probyn
Chair of Welford Parish Council Martyne Ellard with councillor Henry Burgoyne-Probyn

Welford Parish Council chairperson Martyne Ellard stated that a key reason for the Marsh Common project was the council’s continued focus on combatting climate change and helping the environment.

She said: “We think this is our duty as a parish council, to do whatever we can; not just to protect the environment but to encourage its health as well.”

Marsh Common is classed as a wetland ecosystem that contains a wide range of plant and animal species, including amphibians and reptiles, a multitude of rare and sensitive invertebrates, and many grasses, wildflowers and fungi.

Marsh Common is a wetland habitat
Marsh Common is a wetland habitat

Ms Ellard also said: “We realised how important and significant wetland commons actually are. They’re beautiful, but aside from that, they serve a really significant role in the battle against climate change.”

Paul St Pierre from the Environment Agency explained that “restoring healthy wetlands is a key objective of the UK’s approach to tackling climate change” because the wetlands store significant quantities of carbon, as well as storing water during high flows and reducing flood risks downstream.

He said: “The wetland area at Weston is an excellent mosaic of deep and shallow pools, with extensive population of swamp and fen plant species such as the impressive Greater Tussock Sedge.

The bug hotel on Marsh Common
The bug hotel on Marsh Common

“There are stands of willow scrub, which are very attractive to many of our migrant and resident warbler species such as willow warblers, white throats and black caps.

“It’s also perfect habitat for the rare and declining nightingale. The pools will attract many species of amphibians – frogs, toads and newts – in the spring – with the surrounding scrub and wetland plants providing excellent habitat for foraging adults as the emerge from the pools.

“The extensive pasture, hedgerows, and areas of scrub along the Lambourn Valley will support many small mammals, which in turn will attract owls.

One of the benches the council put on the common
One of the benches the council put on the common

“It’s a very beautiful and sensitive area of habitat within the Lambourn Valley.”

Welford Parish Council took over Marsh Common in November 2020, and saw the potential mental health benefits the renewed natural space could have for residents during the pandemic. Two benches have since been placed on the common to facilitate this.

As well as the benches, the council has also installed seven bat boxes, two dormouse houses, a wildlife hedge and a bug hotel to help support the local ecosystem within the common.

One of the bat boxes on Marsh Common
One of the bat boxes on Marsh Common

When a group of parish councillors and volunteers cleared Marsh Common of waste to get work started on the project, they found barbed wire, corrugated tin, mattresses and blue pallets.

Ms Ellard said: “Part of it was literally a rubbish dump when we took it over.”

The other bench on the common
The other bench on the common

The common had become a fly tipping hotspot, with much of the waste cleared being particularly harmful to the environment.

The council’s continued work and maintenance means the common is now a beautiful and attractive rural space that can be accessed by all.



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