Popular Saffron Walden facility to get major makeover

A MAJOR project is getting underway to breathe new life into a popular Saffron Walden location.

The duck pond at Swan Meadow Car Park is benefitting from extensive remodelling thanks to the Saffron Walden Initiative and Uttlesford District Council.

The long-awaited project will see the pond re-sculpted and replanted to make it a more welcoming home for wildlife as well as a more attractive place for people to visit.

Initial plans date back 10 years but due to a lack of funding the project has been unable to proceed until now.

Chairman of the Saffron Walden Initiative Peter Riding said: “This is an exciting project and we’re delighted to be able to get it off the ground. As a non-profit community organisation, the Saffron Walden Initiative has been able to secure grants from both Viridor Credits Environmental and Biffaward totalling �31,600.

“We look forward to seeing how the redesigned pond area takes shape over the coming weeks.”

As well as the grants obtained by the Initiative, the district council is giving the project �3600. It is also supervising the work and covering the future maintenance of the pond. The project also has the support of the Bridgend Residents’ Association.

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The project was coordinated by the district council’s Saffron Walden Town Centre Working Group, which was wound up earlier this year after its list of projects, which included the refurbishment of the Market Square, was completed.

Uttlesford councillor Alastair Walters, who chaired the working group, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the pond will be getting a face-lift.

“On becoming chairman of the town centre working group in 2007, I was able to look at a list of several unrealised improvements in the town and set about getting them achieved.

“The district council was unable to apply for grants but has been able to support the Initiative in doing so. The result is that we now have the money needed to carry out this worthwhile redesign and I am sure that everyone who visits the pond once it is complete will appreciate the difference.

“This is an excellent example of the district council working in partnership with another organisation to make a real difference to where we live.”

The work, which gets underway in November and should take six to eight weeks to complete, will see the pond redesigned from a deep bowl with vertical sides to a gently sloping and shallower shape.

The pond is fed from an underground spring which, while it is flowing, keeps the water fresh.

The advantage of the new design is that when the water stops flowing and the water levels change it will remain an attractive area.

The sloping design also means that the ducks who live there will be able to get in and out of the pond more easily.

Appropriate natural planting such as water irises and reeds around the edge will help keep the pond looking attractive even when the water level drops.

A company called Anglian Land Drainage will be carrying out the work and Mark Iley from Essex Wildlife Trust has been involved from the outset to advise on the best way to deal with the existing plants and animals that call the pond home. The fish that live in the pond will be carefully removed and given a temporary home elsewhere, while the ducks will simply move downstream to another spot until the disruption has ceased.

The pond will then be drained, de-silted and excavated, the island removed and the soil re-distributed to form part of the new sloping sides. Clay will be imported to improve the pond’s water-holding capability and to create a more natural looking shape.

Following this, topsoil will be put down on the newly-shaped banks and local stone used to strengthen possible erosion areas.

A wide range of native aquatic, marginal native and oxygenating plants will be planted and temporary bird netting will be added to protect the newly planted vegetation.