A community campaign to preserve one of the town's green fingers has succeeded in conserving the site as a nature reserve.
The five-acre Beane Marsh next to the River Beane has been bought by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust after a community group led a fundraising drive to save the site. The new reserve, a short distance from Hertford North Station, was put up for sale in 2019 and the fundraising drive that followed raised more than £100,000 to protect the site for wildlife. This funding, coupled with additional funding of £30,000 from Hertford Town Council, enabled the Trust to purchase the land and protect it for future generations.
The floodplain grassland sits within the Beane Valley and provides a rare and valuable habitat as well as a crucial connection by river to other nature reserves such as Waterford Heath to the north and King's Meads to the south.
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust will now start work on a management plan to care for the site so that the wildlife can flourish. As a wetland site, public access will be limited but the Trust will work with the local community to plan how the site can best be enjoyed by people.
The Trust’s Head of Living Landscapes, Dr Tom Day, says: "I am delighted, not only that we managed to help save this fantastic place, but also about the level of engagement shown by the local community. The people of Hertford are clearly passionate about wildlife and we are honoured to be chosen to look after this amazing new nature reserve. Beane Marsh needs specialist management and we’re looking forward to getting started to tap the full potential of this site for wildlife."
John Howson of the Save Beane Marshes community group says: "A wonderful community effort made it possible for us to raise the money for the purchase of this amazing piece of land, a task that seemed nearly impossible when we started. It is one of Hertford’s most visible and iconic pieces of countryside lying as it does a short walk from Hertford North railway station. We must pay tribute to those people whose amazing generosity has made this happen. We are so delighted to have been able to see this through to completion."
The campaign to buy the land was started by Hannah Lilley, who started a crowd funding initiative to purchase just one of five plots which were up for auction. She was joined by John Howson of the Bengeo Area Neighbourhood Plan to form a wider group. A charity "Save Beane Marshes" was set up to raise the money.
Hannah Lilley said: "Local interest and support has been crucial in the development of this project. We are thrilled to have finally reached our goal"
Save Beane Marshes will now focus on the education aspect of the project,
Cllr Peter Ruffles, Chairman of the Finance, Policy and Administration Committee at Hertford Town Council says: "The project not only protects the valuable wildlife habitat for future generations but is another example of the wonderful community spirit of Hertford residents. The Town Council was delighted to be able to support this project through awarding a grant of £30,000 from its New Homes Bonus grant fund."
The protection of Beane Marsh comes at an important time for wildlife in Hertfordshire. The Trust’s recent Hertfordshire State of Nature report shows that 47% of species associated with wetlands and rivers have declined in the last 50 years. This decline has largely been caused by loss of floodplains, over-abstraction of groundwater and climate change.
This article was updated on 4/9/20 to clarify the role of Save Beane Marshes and to include a quotation from Hannah Lilley.
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