Construction of a natural reed bed water treatment system in West Swindon over the next 9 months means that an informal footpath and cycleway used by many residents will have to close from early February whilst work takes place.
The route from Sparcells to the River Ray Parkway, right, is not actually a designated footpath which means statutory notices have not had to be published on lamposts in the area or in the media, so the closure may come as a surprise to many.
There is an alternative walking and cycle route by taking the footpath close to the bridge over Sparcells brook which leads up onto Shaw Forest. Turn left on the stoned footpath after a steep climb and carry on for 400 yards, then go left and drop down, back onto the River Ray Parkway.
The water treatment construction work is going on at the same time as a £2 million project to refurbish phase 3 of Shaw Forest park and make the former landfill site ready for public use.
The reed bed has been designed by Swindon Borough Council with assistance of the Wildlife & Wetland Trust at Slimbridge, and approval of the Environment Agency, to filter surface water running off Shaw Forest phases 1 and 2 which may contain low level contaminants.
Pictured right, the Slimbridge pond on which the Sparcells is based.
The £750,000 project includes digging a lined ditch around the perimeter of Shaw Forest to allow surface water to flow by gravity to be filtered by reeds planted in shallow, gravel bottomed ponds. See photos below.
At present the council is paying around £250,000 annually for up to 250 tons of surface water a day to be pumped from temporary collecting ponds and removed by tanker for specialist treatment. In Spring 2008 Swindon Council was fined £8,000 by the Environment Agency because water from the temporary ponds overflowed into the Sparcells brook which feeds into the River Ray.
Deep level leachate from the landfill is collected by a pipe system under the forest and pumped to the Thames Water treatment works at Barnfield.
Bob Fisher, Swindon Council site manager responsible for work on Shaw Forest 3 and the water treatment project, said the council had no choice about undertaking the works. "The Environment Agency requires surface water from former landfill sites to be free of any contaminants. Our project is long term cost saver as the reed bed will filter out contaminants without any intervention once it is established.
"The area around the footpath which we have to close is the closest and lowest to Sparcells brook which means we have to close the route whilst we construct the pond. We will be reinstating the footpath way but on a different line to the existing. It will be very attractive as it will run over the ponds. In the long run people will see all manner of bird and insect life; it's going to be a very interesting environmental site.
"The last part of the project will be what we're calling a 'community pond' where we will be involving local people in establishing a clear water pond next to Sparcells brook."
For more information about the work at Shaw Forest and the natural filtration project, call Bob Fisher on 07786 020886.