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New joint stewardship of nine West Berkshire nature sites

Friday 3rd January 2014

BBOWT manages West Berkshire nature reservesWest Berkshire Council and BBOWT mark the new management agreement. Pic: Giles Strother_BBOWT

From Monday 6 January, the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is managing nine nature reserves and commons, and the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham, which were previously managed by West Berkshire Council.

The arrangement will result in the pooling of significant expertise and resources, and bring benefits both to the sites and for the many visitors who use them. The team at the Nature Discovery Centre and several West Berkshire Council countryside services staff transfer to BBOWT on 6 January.

This is an extremely positive move for all who treasure these sites as assets for recreation, and important places for wildlife conservation.

The aim is that conservation will be enhanced through the Wildlife Trust, while the access and activities for families, schools and the public, built up successfully over the past years by West Berkshire Council, will continue to flourish.

Under the agreement signed on 21 October 2013 BBOWT will ensure these sites are protected and enhanced sustainably into the future.

BBOWT will have day to day management of Snelsmore Common Country Park, Bucklebury Common, Hosehill Lake, Wokefield Common, Padworth Common, Paices Wood Country Park, Thatcham Reedbeds and the Nature Discovery Centre, Greenham and Crookham Commons, and Audrey’s Meadow.

Three of the sites: Bucklebury Common, Paices Wood and Wokefield Common are privately owned, while the freehold for the other six sites will be retained by West Berkshire Council.

Read more about the nine Reserves and Commons.

BBOWT and West Berkshire Council are committed to increasing public access to all the reserves and commons, and making visits to them even more enjoyable. BBOWT’s chief executive, Estelle Bailey, said: “This is a pivotal moment for securing the future of these amazing places for wildlife and for people. BBOWT is delighted to be working with West Berkshire Council as natural partners in this exciting initiative.”

West Berkshire Executive Councillor for the Environment, Hilary Cole, said: “This is an extremely positive move for all who treasure these sites as assets for recreation, and important places for wildlife conservation. In particular, I am looking forward to the events at the Nature Discovery Centre attracting even more people in the future and the already successful activities held there go from strength to strength.”

Most importantly, the thousands of visitors who already value the sites as places for quiet recreation and close contact with nature can continue to use them as before, with the added value of the Wildlife Trust’s expertise, resources, and volunteer base.

The Nature Discovery Centre will continue to run a full schedule of family fun events and activities. From April BBOWT will offer high quality environmental education programmes for local schools at the Nature Discovery Centre.

Find out What's On at the Nature Discovery Centre and other BBOWT locations.

For more information about the new management agreement, contact Wendy Tobitt, BBOWT media & campaigns manager.

Pictured in the photograph above are, from the left: John Ashworth, West Berkshire Council Corporate Director for the Environment; Richard Benyon MP for Newbury; West Berkshire Executive Councillor for the Environment, Hilary Cole; Councillor Keith Chopping, Chairman of West Berkshire Council; Sir Clive Booth, Chairman of BBOWT; Gary Lugg, West Berkshire Council Head of Planning and Countryside; Dr Kate Dent, BBOWT Head of Conservation & Education, Berkshire; Paul Hendry, West Berkshire Council Countryside Manager.