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The Sustainable Wetland Project - working with landowners on the River Ray

The three counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire support seven UK BAP priority wetland habitats and over thirty UK BAP priority species. The county biodiversity action plans of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire include nearly two hundred actions specifically for wetland habitats and species. BBOWT and many others see large-scale wetland restoration projects as crucial to the conservation of wetland biodiversity in the three counties.

BBOWT has a long-standing commitment to wetland conservation. Thanks to the support of the Environment Agency, Thames Water, British Waterways and BT. Over the past nine years, BBOWT has targeted conservation effort to two key species, the otter and the water vole. This was due to the need to facilitate the recovery of the otter and due to need for urgent action to stop the rapid decline of the water vole. Partnership support allowed the Trust to employ the Otters and Rivers Project Officer, who formed part of a national network of Project Officers, and the Water Vole Project Officer, the first post of its kind in the UK when the project began in 1998. Over this time, over 300 km of river have been surveyed, 300 advisory visits to landowners have been carried out and 400 local people have been trained to help with surveys and other conservation work.

Despite efforts by BBOWT and many other organisations, there is still much to be achieved to secure sustainable future for our wetland habitats and species. With the completion of the national Otters and Rivers Project and funding for our local Otters and Rivers Project in March 2001, the Wildlife Trust has reviewed local and national priorities for wetland conservation and developed the Sustainable Wetland Project.

The Sustainable Wetlands Project commenced in March 2002. A Scoping Study has identified key areas within the three counties for enhancement and restoration of wetlands to fulfil local and national BAP targets.

Following extensive liaison with landowners and nature conservation organisations, a detailed restoration plan has been drawn up for one key area, the River Ray. This plan now needs to be further developed and implemented to achieve large-scale wetland restoration.

The Sustainable Wetland Project has been funded by English Nature, The Environment Agency, Thames Water and The Sandra Charitable Trust.