Swindon resident Trevor Carlton tells us how a dedicated group of local people have brought nature back to an abandoned piece of land

Our project is based around a triangular section of land adjacent to Westlea Drive in west Swindon. The land is part of Westlea Park and is bounded by a cycle and pedestrian path; the road at this point has a sweeping left-hand bend. This section of land had been left unattended for more than twenty years.

In autumn 2018 my wife, Heather, witnessed what was very nearly an accident between a car travelling around this sweeping left hand-bend and a cyclist crossing from the cycle path. There was very poor visibility at this crossing point.

With the permission and support of the newly formed West Swindon Parish Council, together with my friend Suresh we started to lift the canopy of the trees to improve the visibility for cyclists, pedestrians and cars alike. Just over an hour and a half later, the canopy had been lifted. This revealed a wasteland full of dead and dying bramble, endless litter and building rubble. It was a disgrace.

With the help of several neighbours, we set about clearing this mess to create a lovely environment for the benefit of both wildlife and local residents.The clearing took some time: we removed over 50 bags of rubbish and two and a half tonnes of building rubble and cleared several blockages in the stream.

The Parish Council was given a large bag of crocuses, which we planted on the edge of the area in November 2018. There are also some mature trees (willow, horse chestnut and ash) at the site, to which we added by planting 15 hazel and two rowan trees in March 2019.

Throughout 2019, snowdrops, lily of the valley, foxgloves,  and bluebells have been planted, with a section of the grass bounding the area also planted with daffodils. A section of the stream bank, meanwhile, has been planted with purple loosestrife.

                          Snowdrops

There’s a range of wildflowers growing at the site, such as field and devil’s-bit scabious, ramsons (wild garlic) and a few red campion. However, it is our intention to clear additional areas to increase the number of wildflowers over the coming months and years. Several trays of seeds and plants are being brought on in our greenhouse to be planted out at a later date.

To add to the biodiversity of the area, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust donated oak and silver birch trees, which have just been planted.

                                       Suresh planting a hazel

This project is succeeding thanks to the support of the many volunteers, the encouragement of passers-by who thank us for brightening up the area and the help and support of the Parish Council and organisations like Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Thank you all for your support!

A special thank-you in particular to our late friend John Ball for providing not only numerous plants, seeds and advice, but also endless enthusiasm and encouragement to inspire us all in our goal to create a wonderful environment for the residents and wildlife of Westlea. Sadly John passed away this month - he will be sorely missed.

If you're interested in volunteering to help wildlife projects around Wiltshire, take a look at our volunteering opportunities.

Photo credits: Trevor Carlton / Suresh Gattapur