For a map of some of our wild places
Wild places aren't just the wildlife areas, local nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest that we have around us in Maidenhead. Many of us are lucky enough to have gardens, which can be vital wild habitats.
We have been able to identify around 200 wildlife sites in the Wild Maidenhead area. Here are some of the best wild places you could visit (click on the links):
Gardens can be amazing places for wildlife if you plant and look after them in the right way. Your garden could support a significant amount of wildlife. They can also help create the stepping stone corridors and buffer zones needed to connect core habitat areas. Domestic gardens in the Wild Maidenhead area make up 1,250 hectares (3,088 acres), nearly ten times the size of Kew Gardens, which is 10% of the whole Wild Maidenhead area. If everyone in the area with a garden used 10% of it to plant wild flowers or left that much of it to go wild, this could make a real contribution to supporting wildlife here.
There are 31 parks and open spaces in the Wild Maidenhead area. Many of the spaces are small and used mainly for recreational purposes, such as children’s play areas. Some, however, are large enough to have opportunities for wildlife components to be introduced. If you spot an area in your local park that you think could be made more wildlife-friendly, please get in touch.
Roundabouts and verges
Roadside verges and vegetated islands and roundabouts can be small-scale havens for wildlife, which often isn’t widely appreciated. Wildflowers are important as just one species can support a whole ecosystem from fungi and invertebrates, through insect-eating birds and small mammals, to birds of prey. They are key habitats for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, whose numbers have seen huge declines in recent years. A huge number of species use these plants. The common birds-foot trefoil, for example, supports more than 160 different types of invertebrates. Although there is an important safety aspect - verges must be managed to give motorists a good line of sight and allow pedestrians to walk safely alongside busy roads – biodiversity is not helped when verges are mown as a result of pressure from local communities to maintain a certain aesthetic appearance.
If the first cutting is delayed until late July, it enables seeds to set. RBWM is one council which is leading the way on verges and wildflowers: the Council is one of only nine named by the wildflower charity councils as leading the way in better managing their road verges for wildlife.
Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs)
Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs) are those areas within a district where conservation action is likely to have the greatest benefit for biodiversity. Such action includes wildlife habitat creation, habitat restoration and habitat expansion.
In addition, such areas were chosen because they provided opportunities to link existing biodiversity-rich areas to create wildlife ‘corridors’. There are four BOAs in the Wild Maidenhead catchment area (see Map).
Local Nature Reserves
There are four Local Nature Reserves in the Wild Maidenhead area with a further five in adjoining areas. They are managed by RBWM or a partner organisation. They are rich in diversity of habitat and wildlife. They are among the most studied and long-term managed areas for wildlife in the area and we need to make sure they continue to be looked after.
Braywick Nature Reserve
Ockwell’s Nature Reserve
Gordon Harris Nature Reserve in Cookham Dean
Bisham Woods (part)
There is also a new, southerly extension to Ockwell's Park, comprising 86 acres of land, recently (summer 2016) acquired by RBWM. The land includes ancient woodland and flood meadows. This area is currently having ecological surveys carried out to find out more about the habitat.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
These are areas designated by Natural England as the very best wildlife and/or geological sites in Britain. Seven SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) are located in or near the Wild Maidenhead area:
Bisham Woods (part)
Bray Pennyroyal Field
Cannon Court Farm Pit
Great Thrift Wood
Local Wildlife Sites (LWS)
Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) are places that support wildlife-rich habitats or particularly important species which are not legally protected nationally. Most are in private ownership. There are 61 LWS in the Wild Maidenhead area. LWS do get some protection from development in the Planning System but often, according to the Wildlife Trusts, “their value is poorly recognised and understood”. Because of their ownership, they can be inappropriately managed, and they are not protected from this, unlike nationally protected sites. Their long-term survival and biodiversity status depends on the interest and goodwill of land managers and owners.
Parish Council land
There are eight Parish Councils in Maidenhead: Bisham, Bray, Cookham, Cox Green, Hurley, Waltham St Lawrence, White Waltham and a less formal group at the Shottesbrooke meeting. Parish Councils own and manage several sites that can be important for nature such as local nature reserves, playing fields and cemeteries. A few examples are give here:
Long Lane Cemetery, Cookham
Hurley playing fields
Although the prime aim of allotments is to provide food and/or flowers, often their margins and hinterlands have wildlife potential which ought to be recognised and managed. Allotments visited by Wild Maidenhead have, for example, old fruit trees, often neglected or not harvested. These provide a valuable food source for many non-humans – nectar and pollen for nationally threatened bees and other insects, fruit for birds and small mammals. There may also be opportunities for wildlife components such as bee/insect hotels.
Old fruit orchards are good for wildlife and there are a number in the area. One is a community orchard located south of North Town Moor, on National Trust land.
Some local schools do a lot for wildlife. These were not just classroom based ‘Environmental Clubs’ but also dedication of parts of the school grounds as wildlife areas.
Church grounds, cemeteries and similar
These sites can offer a lot of potential for wildlife habitat creation or better management than current ‘mow all’ practice which some adopt. We would like to encourage faith groups with outdoor spaces to consider wildlife in the management of those spaces.
Hedgerows are not only vital habitats for much wildlife; they also act as 'corridors’, allowing better connectivity of other habitats. They have to be managed carefully to fulfil this potential.
This area has many ponds and lakes which are not in gardens, though the number has reduced over time. The presence of great-crested newts can now be tested using eDNA kits provided by Thames Water.
These are used by amphibians and wildfowl. The Ray Mill Road East/Deerswood Meadow common toad colony breeds in a former gravel pit and currently numbers over 1,500 adults.
The built environment
There is a major opportunity to support biodiversity by making new as well as existing structures wildlife-friendly. Leading house builders and developers now often have biodiversity-friendly approaches to incorporating wildlife into building development. Birds, bats and insects are given space in office buildings and bird nesting spaces can be built into new housing. Even the deliberate inclusion of cavities can help overwintering insects. Residents can help by including bird boxes in extensions or putting up external nest boxes on their houses for several bird species.