Boardwalk Access to Snipe Meadow Needs Urgent Attention

p1010727The Snipe Meadow boardwalk and nature reserve is loved by local naturalists, but the boardwalk is now in urgent need of repair. Originally built in 1988, the boardwalk exceeded its anticipated lifespan of ten years, and was in use until recently when the middle section collapsed. For safety reasons, it has been removed by the Oundle Town Council, which is now considering the best options for its reconstruction.

At the moment, the council is looking at a range of options, including using recycled plastic material, similar to the new pontoons installed at Barnwell Country Park. This material should last for over 40 years, far longer than the previous wooden boardwalk was expected to. A structure made of this material can be easily installed and is durable and stable enough to provide wheelchair access.

The other options are to replace the boardwalk with the same materials as before – raised wooden boards – or to lay a hard-core causeway with drainage pipes to allow water to flow on either side.

Another less expensive option is to build a more conventional path using granular material such as quarry scalpings or granular boarding.

The project will require funding and the council is considering the costs. Initial costings are estimated to be nearly £50,000.

A wildlife reserve like Snipe Meadow does need a lot of work. Recently, there is insufficient maintenance in the reserve, which is not the only reason for the boardwalk collapsing, but it also affects the wildlife.

Richard Chandler, a retired university professor with a keen interest in wildlife has been a regular observer of bird life in the area. He says that lack of maintenance is affecting wildlife in Snipe Meadow.

“Unfortunately Snipe Meadow has not been very well maintained, and at present it is heavily overgrown, and is unlikely to be of much value to snipe – or other wildlife – unless it is mown or better grazed in summer from time to time with conservation objectives in mind. The adjacent meadows are grazed in the summer – sadly not Snipe Meadow – and are mown as well, when necessary.”

He said: “There have not been any breeding snipe or redshanks there in recent years, as the site is, sadly, not wet enough in the late spring or summer, and perhaps not large enough in extent. But it does regularly attract snipe in the winter, the numbers depending on how wet the whole area is. In favourable conditions there can be as many as 200 snipe there.”

Another area of interest to Mr Chandler involves dragonflies, of which there are plenty.

He said: ‘I have recorded about 20 species since about 2002, which is probably as good as any other area of similar size in the county.’

With some solid construction for the boardwalk and a flock or two of sheep to graze the grass, Snipe Meadow could be a haven for not only wildlife, but for visitors as well.

By Clemmie Preston
December 2016