A322 Downshire Way Greenway
Update - December
As we move into January the project is starting to take shape.
Stag Beetle loggeries have made their transition from tree root plates to ecological sculpture. The root plates were from some of the trees removed as part of the roadworks. These had to be grubbed out and buried or removed from site as they would otherwise have been in the way. Stag beetles who love mud covered wood will instead have the chance to use them as nurseries for years to come.
For a couple of weeks, ferns were taking up all the shed space at Westmorland Pavilion creating a mini Jurassic park. Whilst the rangers enjoyed breathing in all that fresh air, it was tricky getting to the tools. Everyone is a little happier now that they have been placed into their new homes.
The bulbs arrived at the same time as the ferns. With several thousand to sort, into their relevant areas, it took a team effort by the rangers to have everything ready on time for planting. In the spring we will see a few of the hardier bulbs putting out flowers, although others will need the summer to recover from being moved.
The mild weather in the beginning of November meant there was a delay in the lifting of trees. Trees need to be fully dormant before they are dug up and moved which meant waiting a few extra weeks to ensure the health of the plants we received. As the frost arrived so did our trees, bags and bags of them, amounting in the end to about 2000 small whips. As of this week these have now all been planted and well-watered.
It is difficult to take a picture of these whips to give you a sense of how many there are, as we have chosen to plant them without plastic protection tubes. This not only saves on a huge volume of plastic, but also means the areas continue to look natural rather than a sea of lime green. As the planted areas are away from footpaths, but still in urban areas, they should avoid vandalism and hungry deer.
Unfortunately, the wrong kind of honey suckle was delivered. It was a non-native Chinese shrub species of the same family (Lonicera nitida), taking the place of our own native climbing honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum). Happily, the company have been quick to rectify this and have found us a supply which has now been delivered and the planting of these should be finished in time for Christmas.
It's been a busy couple of months and everyone on the project will be taking a well-deserved rest. However, the new year should start with a bang as the big standard sized trees, orchard trees and sculptures will all be making their way to their final homes and hopefully making a big impression in early January.
The Parks and Countryside team have been working in partnership with the Transport Department on the A322 Downshire Way scheme. This partnership will help deliver environmental improvement works whilst also offsetting the essential removal of trees.
By using the knowledge and experience of the Parks and Countryside team in delivering landscape improvements for biodiversity and public enjoyment, this project has been able to turn these roadworks into a huge opportunity for the greening up and improvement of one of the most urban areas in the borough.
By undertaking a greenway approach to the works, we are able to:
- deliver more trees
- connect fragmented urban woodland habitats
- deliver community enhancements to improve the landscape and feel of the town
The improvement scheme
The improvement scheme will focuses on a 200 meter radius around the A322 Downshire Way, between the Twin Bridges Roundabout and the Horse and Groom roundabout (Downshire Way). This includes the roundabout junctions themselves.
These works will include:
- the planting of trees and hedgerows alongside the cycle ways
- woodland improvements within Frog Copse, Bill Hill and Friendship Way
- orchard creation and meadow improvements at both ends of the road near the roundabouts
- connecting the woodlands which run alongside this road whilst providing visual barriers to the dual carriageway
- enhancing the established woodland areas, including additional trees and scrub planting, woodland flora and animal habitat installation
- planting species that are suitable for the borough
- improve numbers of, or habitats for Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species
- include species that are rich in food or value for wildlife
Once complete, the Downshire Way greenway scheme will contribute towards:
- wildlife corridors through the very urban environment
- the promotion of knowledge and understanding of the natural world through interpretation boards
- improvement of air quality and landscape value through high levels of tree and shrub planting
- nesting and foraging opportunity’s for birds, bats, insects and hedgehogs
- the promotion of community through orchard creation, community benches and opportunities to experience engagement with the natural world
- the reintroduction of Elm to the borough through provision of species actually resistant to or unappealing for Dutch Elm Disease and its beetle host
During the design of this scheme public use remains crucial. Although the scheme seeks to mix natural features with urban utility, any foreseeable conflicts have been assessed. The design includes concessions and features to make sure conflicts are reduced to their lowest level. This includes:
- making sure that hedgerows are set well back from cycleway and path edges
- tree species are suitable for the location and soil types
- well known desire lines are left clear
Benefits of the greenway
There will be many benefits of the greenway to wildlife. The focus is on connectivity, food provision and BAP species. This includes the trickledown effect of providing these indicator species with foraging and nesting habitats.
There are also benefits for people, as shown by studies highlighting reduced recovery times for hospital patients with windows onto parks and trees, the reduction of depression, obesity, hypertension and other mental and physical health issues.
It is hoped that this scheme will connect people, especially children, to their environment and encourage walking or cycling to town. It should also provide uplift to the area, creating leafy green roadways and paths which are filled with blossom through the spring.
Themes of the greenway
- habitat connectivity
- leafy paths
- access to nature
- visual barrier
- learning opportunities
Work started on 18 February, with the initial set-up of the road works site and removal of the affected trees.
As summer and bird breeding season comes to a close, minor vegetation removal and control has now begun.
Rhododendron clearance along Rectory Lane
Rhododendron ponticum is an invasive species brought to the UK by the Victorians. It has spectacular flowers and so is popular in people's gardens, but it spreads quickly and easily escapes into the wild. Being a non-native, it does not house, feed or support any of our UK species. To make matters worse, it also ruins the soil by making the ground so acidic and shaded that important microorganisms are killed.
After the removal works, we will replant the area with trees and seeds. A small dose of microorganisms (mycorrhizal fungi) and soil from a different area will be added. Alongside the soil bacteria that will be present from the new trees, this should help combat some of the lasting negative effects of rhododendron.
Stag beetle loggeries
The trees felled along Downshire Way had their root plates lifted to create more space for the road. We will bury some of these upside down, alongside timber also gained for the tree works, to function as stag beetle loggeries. The root plates can be seen at 3 different locations along the green corridor.
Stag beetles are rare in England and we are very lucky in Bracknell to still have a good population of them. You can find out more about stag beetles in our activity pack.
The woodland seeds should be delivered and planted in October. The meadow seeding will have to wait until the roadworks are finished and the works yard on Bill Hill has been removed.
The bulk of the work will kick off in November. It will include the delivery of :
- spring flowering bulbs and ferns
- orchard trees
- larger standard trees
- whips to gap fill hedgerows
November is busy because the cold weather makes the trees go dormant. Now they can be pulled up, moved and replanted.
The design and creation of information boards is ongoing. We hope they will be ready to install after Christmas.
In February, mistletoe will be collected and seeds placed.
This brings to a close the first season of works.
The next season will start in September 2020 after the roadworks have been completed. It will consist of meadow preparation and seeding and new hedgerow planting.