A MANAGEMENT plan to enhance the biodiversity of the Town Field adjacent to the rowing club has met with some concern at a recent town council meeting.

A report authored by Cllr Steve Wadley commissioned by the town council suggests a biodiversity plan to enhance the area.

At the last full town council, a member of the public addressed the council about the impact some of the suggestions would have on users of the field. This was supported by Cllrs James and Lucas. It was stressed, however, by members of the Working Group including Cllrs Evans and Wadley, that the aim is not to prevent dog walkers or other activities from happening on the Town Field (bonfire night, raft race) but instead to increase and improve biodiversity on the site in conjunction with maintaining it as an open space for residents.

The report identified that the Town Field itself, pictured right, is species poor except for the field margins which have an increased number of plant species particularly along the east and west margins and along the north margin where the former skate park, pictured below, is situated.

The riverbank to the east of the field is moderately overgrown and has high potential for nesting birds and foraging / commuting mammals due to extensive growth of bramble, willow and willowherb. The margins of the field hold potential connectivity for foraging and commuting dormouse, birds, Otter, hedgehogs and bats.

The report recommends a number of actions.

Cutting should not be carried out between February and late June and should be cut firstly in July after the flowering plants have seeded.

However, that could impact the 90-year-old Monmouth Regatta at the end of May, which has been allowed to use the field since the 1960s

The report says all grass cuttings should be removed and used for compost piles locally if possible. As much of the field as possible should be managed in this way to allow for greater wildflower seed dispersal and establishment of a wildflower meadow.

Seeding of the field is recommended using local provenance wildflower seed. This will speed up the rewilding process.

If possible and practicable, field margin areas should be “lightly rotovated” and wildflower seed sown onto the soil in March – April at 2m wide along the north and east side.

The report also recommends planting trees on or around the field which produce fruit which is edible to wildlife such as Crab Apple, Rowan, Wild Cherry, Hawthorn, and Hazel and says: “if possible, restrict access by the public and dogs to the riverbank along the field. This will also improve the safety of the public along the footpath.”

The report also suggests to erect a sign with information about the management of the field for wildlife.

Looking at the former skatepark area, the report identified that the site is primarily tarmac covered and is in the process of being reclaimed by nature.

To assist the process and create a diverse habitat, the report suggests to break up sections or all the tarmac to allow plants to take hold within cracks and holes and spread a thin layer (3-4 inches) of poor-quality topsoil onto the tarmac then sow wildflower seed “of local provenance onto the thin layer of soil. “Create a small shallow scrape 2m wide and 6 inches deep to hold rainwater and introduce artificial refuges for amphibians and reptiles using corrugated tin, large logs, or brash piles in strategic areas of the field.”

The report adds that installing bat and bird boxes will greatly enhance the opportunities for roosting and nesting on the site. Creating a dark corridor to the north of the site with brash piles will provide shelter for foraging and commuting mammals as well as further nesting sites for birds. The recommendations in this report are not limited and further enhancements to biodiversity can be actioned.

The field is within the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean SAC, and the River Wye (Lower Wye) SAC therefore it will be appropriate to discuss the recommendations with Monmouthshire County Council biodiversity team who are currently working on a project regarding green corridors and green infrastructure.

The town clerk suggested the management plan should be completed by September Full Council so that it can then be out for community consultation starting at the ACE Festival, however, this has not yet been confirmed.