September 2020

Before I talk about Marlborough Lane wildlife corridor in particular let’s first define what a wildlife corridor is – and what it does.

Well, the Woodlands UK website tells us that the term refers to any linear feature in a landscape that wildlife can use to migrate or disperse.

Put another way, a wildlife corridor is a strip of natural habitat connecting populations of wildlife otherwise separated by cultivated land, roads, etc.

Download a PDF all about The Great Copse from the Wildlife Sites Project for Wiltshire and Swindon

Marlborough Lane Wildlife Corridor - Great Copse Wildlife Site

The purpose of a wildlife corridor

Such a thing is a link of wildlife habitat – as a rule native vegetation. It joins two or more larger areas of similar wildlife habitat. These corridors are critical for the maintenance of ecological processes – including allowing animals to move from one place to another. And to allow viable populations to continue.

Wildlife corridors are critical for the maintenance of ecological processes, including allowing for the movement of animals and the continuation of viable populations. And Swindon has the great, good fortune to be particularly blessed in all things nature and wildlife. I’m thinking not only of wildlife corridors such as this but of the wildlife lagoons over to the west, Hagbourne Copse and many, many more green spaces besides. All of them important for biodiversity. Indeed a chap from Wiltshire Wildlife once commented to me how underestimated Swindon is – in general but in particular for its astonishing amount of green spaces and wildlife habitat.

About Marlborough Lane wildlife corridor

Though not too welll-known, Marlborough Lane comprises one of Swindon’s longest-standing natural wildlife corridors. It stretches from the Great Copse, along Marlborough Lane to willow trees on the embankment. Over 200 mature trees along its length provide an essential foraging route for bats, birds and bees.

The corridor also forms a vital barrier between the large car park belonging to the Marriott Hotel and all who either live on the lane or travel along it to the Croft sports centre, school and playgroup.

The tree line lies on the Marriott’s land. But it’s the residents of the lane that have planted the long laurel hedge along the mid-section and the shrubs and flowering plants on the end of the lane.

The Embankment

The embankment once had a life as the old railway line. A few years ago an initiative started by residents Adrian and Andrea Downing led to the planting of sixty trees with Cllrs, residents and the Croft School’s first intake of pupils.

The embankment is bedecked too with a host of daffodils sufficient to inspire Wordsworth himself. Or his sister, Dorothea. But I digress. Swindon Borough Council gave the bulbs towards an early spring clean by Old Town Residents Association (OTRA). Many got involved in planting them including the Scouts. OTRA created the flower bed on the embankment and maintain it to this day.

Background/context

One of the movers and shakers behind this particular wildlife corridor is Marlborough Lane resident, Carole Bent. Her motivation for highlighting the importance of this particular tree line began around ten years ago.

Said Carole: ‘like many, I’ve had a lifelong love of nature. It inspired my first small (in physical size) book Wisdom of the Catfish in which I mention learnings from our natural world – including those close to home. Earlier this year the British Naturalist Society asked me to write an article highlighting the Great Copse and the wildlife corridor.’

NB – see the link above for a downloadable PDF about the Great Copse.

At the start of Covid-19 we saw a dramatic reduction in traffic and an increase in people’s appreciation of nature and their environment in general. And that made me think how great it would be to use this period to help people take a fresh look at the natural environment. Both close to their home and on their way to the Croft.’

A chat with Croft School

‘A conversation with Elaine Murphy, head of Croft School, and her husband reinforced my thoughts about seeing the area as a mini nature reserve and a place worth looking after. ‘

Thus Carole approached Swindon artist Marilyn Trew (someone slowly mapping Swindon) to create an artwork. Said Carole: ‘I love the way that her work engages people with nature & felt that a visual interpretation would be positive  – including for the young children who go to the school, playgroup & all ages at the sports centre. I knew this would be something uplifting for them to see when they returned to school in September.

‘A group of neighbours met in our garden & we shared our knowledge of the wildlife and plants with her.  Marilyn has kindly gifted this to our community, including access to a black and white version for children of all ages to colour in! Marilyn & I intend to visit the school at a time to suit the head teacher. 

We hope to have full sizes signs also made & will follow this up with Parish & SBC Councillors. The effect of nature on our wellbeing is well-recorded and seems more important now than ever.’

If you’d like to download the black and white version of Marilyn’s map to colour in yourself there’s a link below.

Marilyn Trew’s map of the Marlborough Lane wildlife Corridor

Marlborough Lane Wildlife Corridor - map by Marilyn Trew

About Marilyn TrewWiltshire artist and resident

Marilyn has long held an interest in all aspects of nature. She now manages 3 art groups in Swindon and exhibits her work around Swindon and its environs. Currently Marilyn is concentrating her efforts on nature and heritage charities.

On the subject of wildlife corridors see also this blog from Linda Kasmaty about South Swindon wildlife corridor.