Pix: Jo Cartmell

A unique wetland nature reserve is being created along two miles of riverbank in Oxfordshire.

The River of Life project at Wallingford, a joint venture between the Earth Trust and the Environment Agency, aims to create extensive wild areas, with wet woodland, fen, reed beds, ponds and backwaters.

Its backers say the habitats will help to protect threatened wildlife and improve river water quality.

The 120-acre site will include areas suitable for a wide range of wetland and woodland species, including mammals such as water vole, bats and otters plus birds such as skylark, yellowhammer and corn bunting.

The new habitat will be linked to an existing area of international environmental significance for wildlife - Little Wittenham Wood which is a breeding site for great crested newts.

The River of Life project will also open up a new path across the land. Visitors will be able to see views over the new wetland habitats created by the project as well as across the river.
Results from the Environment Agency have demonstrated that this stretch of the Thames is currently failing standards set for fish populations under the regulatory requirements.

Jayne Manley, CEO of the Earth Trust said: “The sheer size of the wetland we plan to create and the opportunity we have to provide a safe haven for vulnerable wildlife makes this a project of national significance. 

“With time our visitors will be able to experience this landscape as it evolves, learning about the importance of water and wetlands at the same time.  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something very special.”

Julia Simpson, Environment Agency Area Manager, said: “The new habitats will play an important role in getting the River Thames into a good ecological condition.  This is the largest habitat creation project we are currently working on in the River Thames floodplain. 

" The River of Life project site will be a real asset to the local area, dramatically enhancing the environment for both wildlife and people.”

Story dated October 10th 2013