Banbury’s Spiceball Park bucking the trend of declining habitats

Spiceball Park Banbury, paths. NNL-170404-175433009
Spiceball Park Banbury, paths. NNL-170404-175433009

Spiceball Park is continuing with a transformation project that has increased biodiversity and improved habitats for fish, birds and river plants.

Banbury Town Council, which owns the park, started the ambitious plan in the summer of 2015, working alongside project volunteers from Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), Wild Banbury and Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC). In addition, the various planting and clearing operations have been, and will continue to be, an invaluable educational tool for local schools.

Spiceball Park Banbury, NNL-170404-175235009

Spiceball Park Banbury, NNL-170404-175235009

The main focus of the project has centred around the riverside and woodland areas.

In the summer of 2015, BBOWT conducted a survey of the River Cherwell to assess the health of the river and the types of aquatic species it was home to.

What followed was a comprehensive clearance of riverside vegetation and overshadowing trees, creating shallows by river banks, encouraging more river plants to grow and helping to clean the water, which was overseen by BBOWT.

The following year the trust launched Wild Banbury, a mostly volunteer group that is dedicated to enhancing urban habitats for wildlife.

Rotary, Purple for Polio planting, Banbury. Spiceball Park. NNL-170314-140541009

Rotary, Purple for Polio planting, Banbury. Spiceball Park. NNL-170314-140541009

The three-year project is in its nascent stages but has already made significant improvements to Spiceball Park via chainsaw tree management and the removal of shrubs.

Judith Hartley, project manager with BBOWT, said: “There’s another two-and-a-half years of work to do. It won’t all be chainsawing in the woodland, it will be throughout the park.”

Half of the cost of the scheme has been funded by the Heritage Lottery with the other half coming from 
Banbury Town Council, Grundon and Cherwell District Council.

Judith said: “We have done quite a range of things. We started off focusing on the river and we had funding to do some river restoration work.

“We spent so much time in Spiceball Park that we thought there was so much more we could do.”

Plans for future projects are already in place and will be carried out by a group of dedicated local volunteers.

Judith said: “The riverside part we’ve done but we will be maintaining that over the coming years.

“We’re also doing the woodland improvement works which includes felling and putting in a new path and putting in bat boxes and looking to transform two derelict buildings into bat roosts. A pond as well, we’re waiting on planning for that.”

To find out more about the Wild Banbury project and ways to get involved click here.