Tucked away behind Elcot Lane's business park, the allotments and Marlborough Town Football Club, this is a large open space on the eastern edge of town running alongside the River Kennet with open grass, scrub, wild and conservation areas, a wetland with reed beds, boardwalks and a pond dipping platform. You can cross the river at Poulton Footbridge to follow a footpath that joins up with the old railway line footpath. The boardwalk at the Stonebridge Lane entrance is most easily accessible for wheelchair users and pushchairs. This is a natural environment so there is no play equipment but there is a big amenity area, great for picnics and letting the kids run around, and dogs with responsible owners are welcome. This is a special place within walking distance of the High Street with an amazing diversity of wildlife for all to enjoy, where you may even see cattle grazing during the summer months. If you're looking for more traditional play equipment, there are plenty of other options in town.
In 2011, Marlborough Town Council and Action for the River Kennet (ARK) had the opportunity to jointly purchase land on the south bank of the Kennet – Stonebridge Meadow. Before 2009 the majority of the land in the meadow had not been managed and was fenced off apart from a public footpath leading to Poulton footbridge; now the site is open for all to enjoy.
Since then the meadow has been managed under an agreed Management Plan and overseen by a partnership committee from both the Town Council and ARK.
Since 2014 there have been a number of community planting days in the spring and autumn to create a hedge to surround the conservation grazing area, with The Woodland Trust awarding over 1,500 trees. When they are tall enough, they will be laid following traditional hedge laying techniques. There was a 'bag it and bin it' campaign to help encourage dog walkers to clean up responsibly after their dogs, plus a number of educational and community activities. Read more about 2014 activities here.
Work started in Spring 2015 to create a new wetland and pond at Stonebridge Meadow, featuring a bed of marshy reeds with a boardwalk running over them and a platform over a dipping pond. As well as creating an interesting place for people to visit, the reed bed will naturally clean water that runs off surrounding roads before it reaches the river. Read more about 2015 activities here.
With the boardwalk and reedbeds maturing nicely, in 2016 ARK was granted £5,000 funding from SITA Trust to improve public access. This will include an eagerly awaited kissing gate in the conservation grazing area to allow access even when livestock are present.
There have been some important milestones in recent years:
2012 Biffa Building Communities Awards - Highly Commended
2013 Wild Trout Trusts Conservation Award - Winner
2015 officially recognised as a wildlife site
2015 Britain in Bloom, South West, It's Your Neighbourhood - Outstanding, and Winner - Monk Trophy for best use of native plants indigenous to the area
2016 - On 6th May Claire Perry MP came along for the Wetland Opening Ceremony, where special recognition was given to Project Manager Anna Forbes and the volunteers who made it all possible. 2016 also saw more recognition from South West in Bloom, being awarded as Outstanding for the second year running
Click here to read the Summer 2016 newsletter
Moth nights are a chance to get up close to some of the amazing moths living in Stonebridge Meadow. Once a month from April to November (weather permitting) ARK run moth trapping evenings. At least two traps are used in the scrub area of the meadow and contain different types of bulbs for attracting various species of moth. Moths are attracted to the light and are then removed from the trap to be identified and recorded. These evenings are free. Children are welcome but, must be accompanied by an adult. Suitable clothing and a torch are essential. You can view and sign up for events at https://www.facebook.com/riverkennet/.
There are lots of opportunities for the community to get involved – bat walks, wildlife walks, moth nights, Bioblitz days, bird ringing, hedge planting days, wild river walks and seed-scattering walks. To keep up to date with what’s happening at the meadow visit the Facebook page or ARK's volunteering page. More about Action for the River Kennet at http://www.riverkennet.org/.