South Gloucestershire community will soon be planting their own woodland – thanks to unique land dea
Residents in Old Sodbury, South Gloucestershire, are set to benefit from a new five-hectare woodland after Network Rail sold them the land for just £1. The land was sold to Sodbury Town Council as a ‘thank you’ to the rural community which saw years of work on its doorstep during the electrification of the Great Western main line between London and Cardiff.
The land itself will now be turned into a woodland with volunteers planting trees and maintaining it.
Network Rail originally bought the land next to railway at Old Sodbury to enable it to replace an aqueduct which was too low to accommodate the overhead line equipment (OLE) required to power electric trains. A higher aqueduct was built a few metres away and the course of the River Frome altered to serve the new structure.
Working with the Environment Agency, Network Rail created a new stretch of river and a flood attenuation pond. Planting was carried out to slow the river flow and protect biodiversity.
Network Rail’s environment specialist Mike Franklin then worked with the local community and town councillors to realise their ambition of creating a woodland, which includes an orchard and a nuttery, in the area around the river.
The deal to sell the land to Sodbury Town Council has now been signed and the plot officially handed over by Network Rail interim Western route director, Chris Pearce, who helped to plant the first tree.
The area will be managed by volunteers from Sodbury Woodland and Nature (SWaN) who have secured funding from the Woodland Trust for the trees; Cotswold Conservation Board; and South Gloucestershire Council member-awarded funding from Councillor Adrian Rush.
The arrangement will benefit the railway, too; Chipping Sodbury tunnel is prone to flooding and planting more trees will reduce the impact of rainfall on the line. It also helps to cut Network Rail’s carbon footprint.
Councillor James Ball, Mayor of Sodbury, said: “We are delighted that Sodbury Woodland and Nature will now be in a position to be caretakers of this beautiful piece of land in Old Sodbury. The planting of hundreds of trees will provide a new haven for wildlife in our parish and will also benefit many residents with better views. With the current climate emergency, the planting of these additional trees will also play an important part in reducing our carbon footprint. We would like to thank Network Rail for this wonderful opportunity and SWaN for their commitment to this new venture.”
Network Rail interim Western route director, Chris Pearce, said: “We are really pleased to be able to give something back to the residents of Old Sodbury who patiently put up with a lot of noise and disruption while we electrified the Great Western main line. Our work to install new equipment and build or adjust bridges along the route meant we needed to remove substantial amounts of vegetation. We’ve been working with local authorities, conservation groups and others with suitable land to plant or enhance equivalent areas of native woodlands. The community at Old Sodbury would not have been able to buy the land at market price, but selling it to them for this nominal sum means there will be an orchard and woodland for people and wildlife to enjoy for generations to come while benefitting the railway by helping prevent future flooding on the line.”