A new project that links city centres directly to the countryside by knitting together patches of green space to create a “green corridor” to rural areas has been confirmed by the National Trust.
By connecting towpaths, parks, woodlands and green spaces the conservation charity aims to remove barriers that might prevent people from inner city neighbourhoods feeling like they can access large green areas.
The first confirmed corridor will be in Bath, where residents will benefit from a new three mile recognised route connecting the historic city to the surrounding green spaces echoing the fashionable Georgian pastime of spending time in the countryside.
The announcement follows two years after the National Trust’s Director-General first announced its ambitions to create 20 accessible “green corridors” across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2030.
Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust says:
“These routes will improve access to nature for those living in urban areas who may feel disconnected from the countryside or cannot access rural areas easily. Research has shown that engaging with nature is good for our wellbeing, and that those connected to nature are likely to do more to help protect it.
“Many of us have felt the benefit of spending time in the outdoors and close to nature especially over the past couple of years. We want to make it easier for more people to spend time in nature, and to give people in cities the chance to access the countryside more easily.
“Connecting up green spaces isn’t just good for people, it’s also good for wildlife, allowing animals and birds to move from one habitat to another.”
This first “green corridor” will meander out from the World Heritage Site – and has been able to be created thanks to the acquisition of just over 40 hectares (99 acres) of land – Bathampton Meadows – by the National Trust. The acquisition means the land is now safeguarded from any threat of future development.
The meadows located alongside the River Avon form an important part of the green setting of Bath on the eastern side of the city.
The acquisition of this critical green wedge – 15.58 hectares of farmland and a transfer of 24.66 hectares from the local council – will mean the land is now protected without any threat of future development, to benefit residents, visitors and nature. The charity is also hoping to create additional pathways on the land previously belonging to the council.
The area had previously been at risk when it was proposed as a potential site for a ‘Park and Ride’ in 2015.
With an official start and end point still to be determined, the ambition is for the route to start close to the historic medieval Bath Abbey, and a likely end point in Batheaston, recognising the Georgian trend of seeking out green spaces and countryside for pleasure and to enhance wellbeing.
Walkers will also be able to easily extend the route with a visit to Little Solsbury Hill, already in the care of the National Trust, to enjoy views over the city; or to pick up the Limestone Link to walk to Dyrham and to join the Cotswold Way.
Tom Boden, General Manager for the National Trust’s Bath properties says:
“We’re really excited to finally be able to announce this project as it will make it possible for the 100,000 residents of Bath and thousands of visitors each year to head out of the city to enjoy the countryside.
“With the meadows now protected forever, we will consult closely with the local community and stakeholders over the coming months to develop an exciting vision for the land to benefit both people and nature.
“With the city’s unique position sat in a hollow in the hills, we want to help more people to get out to this amazing countryside.
“As well as improving paths for walkers, we’ll be exploring if and how we can enhance cycle access along parts of this route.
“It’s thanks to the passion and commitment of local people who care about this important green space, and thanks to our close partnership with Bath and North East Somerset Council, that we’re now able to explore the possibilities presented.”
Councillor Richard Samuel, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Resources, at Bath and North East Somerset Council said:
“Both the council and residents care deeply about the future of Bathampton Meadows, it is a treasured wildlife habitat and wonderful green space.
“Transferring Bathampton Meadows to the National Trust ensures the land is protected forever against inappropriate development and it also supports our commitment to tackle the climate and ecological emergency. The transfer will provide much improved public access and an enhanced open space.”
“We know from the popularity of the Bath skyline walk – currently enjoyed by around 200,000 visitors every year – that there is a real desire from residents and visitors alike to enjoy the unique green status of this historic city, and we want to open up more areas for them to enjoy.
“Crucially, the proposed route is also relatively flat which will enable more people to not only enjoy the city’s architecture, but to also enjoy nature in the meadows and spend time outdoors.”
“A central aspect of the plans to enhance the meadows will be improving the habitat for nature and increasing biodiversity including keeping an element of conservation grazing.
“Hedgerow and tree planting to include the creation of an orchard, will particularly help the current Greater Horseshoe Bat population, a nationally rare and dwindling species, by providing wider, more connected foraging habitat on neighbouring land. Blossoming trees in the orchard will also be good for attracting pollinators.
“We’re also aiming to create new wildflower meadows to help insects such as the small blue butterfly, and areas of wet woodland planted with trees like willow, birch and alder to attract wading birds such as snipe and scarce native birds like siskin or willow tits.
“By improving the habitat for wildlife we can play our part in tackling the nature crisis.”
The National Trust will be announcing details of a series of community meetings for Bath residents over the next few months to help shape and develop the future of the meadows alongside the council, Avon Wildlife Trust and other partners including the Friends of Bathampton Meadows Riverside.
For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bathampton-meadows
Photo credit: Bathampton Meadows looking towards Bath from Batheaston. Credit National Trust Images & John Miller