Cooper's Meadow, Marlborough

The River Kennet is one of England’s finest chalk streams. It flows through the centre of Marlborough in rural Wiltshire and is accessible for residents and visitors to enjoy.

In past years, the urban stretch of the river and its mill pool, back stream and surrounding meadow area was neglected and the banks of the mill pool had become severely eroded due to storms. Thanks to £15,000 from Viridor Credits, through Community First, the rural community council for Wiltshire, the Cooper's Meadow project restored a section of the chalk stream in Marlborough and the adjoining water meadow to create a space for wildlife and leisure enjoyment.

The aims of the Landfill Communities Fund grant were to:

• improve the chalk stream habitat of the river in the town centre;
• increase the biodiversity and wildlife value of Cooper's Meadow;
• address river bank erosion, reduce silt and improve water
quality; and
• increase public understanding of chalk stream and water
meadow habitats through the use of interpretive panels
and community involvement.

Releasing three Belted Galloway cows into the meadow to graze encouraged the return of the traditional flower-rich water meadow. The cattle were initially on the meadow for a month and will return again this summer / early autumn for another month. In addition, several sections of the meadow were re-seeded with a wild grass and flower mix. Poplar trees were carefully felled to let light reach the river bed and banks.

A community open day attracted over 50 volunteers from St John's Community College and Marlborough College who planted over 1000 plants around the river banks while learning about the wider aims of the project.

"Cooper's Meadow was one of the most unusual and imaginative projects to be funded in recent years. We have been impressed with the amount of work undertaken by the local volunteers of all ages, the very real impact on the local environment and the pleasure it will give to the community" Gillian Barber, programme manager at Community First.

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