James Baker, Project Officer of the nearly ten years old Greenways Project, gave members a fascinatinc, account of this unusual co-operative venture. Initiated by the Countryside Commission (now the Countryside Agency), the Greenways Project brings together the County Council, Ipswich Borough Council, and the three districts adjacent to Ipswich - Babergh, Mid-Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal. The basic concept is to have a small team of countryside officers or rangers able to look after the nearby countryside, its wildlife and landscape, without having to worry too much about local government boundaries.
James highlighted the number of green spaces found around the urban fringe of Ipswich, its river, the railways and the various important sites of scenic and often scientific importance. The main aims of the Project are to give opportunities for people to enjoy the countryside near their homes, and to involve them in the practical management of their local environment, giving them a sense of "ownership" of the countryside.
The protection and enhancement of wildlife bio-diversity and the appreciation of landscape quality are important facets of the Project's work. We were shown numerous examples of community involvement. The Project has its own group of volunteers who meet weekly to undertake tasks ranging from tree planting, pathway clearance and hedge creation, to riverside clearance (additional volunteers are always welcomed). An interesting illustration shown was that of the newly created steps in London Road to provide pedestrian access into Chantry Park as part of the new circular walk which some Society members followed last autumn.
The Greenways Project has been one of the most active participants of the River Action Group in which the Society has played a leading role. Most recently it has implemented much of the riverside enhancement which has resulted from Lottery funded schemes. These have provided new artworks, picnic areas and planting as well as the series of information boards along the riverside. James and his team, working alongside the Ipswich Wildlife Group, have been very successful in creating and developing the new reed bed nature reserve by the Alderman Canal. This previously run-down area is now part of a very attractive landscape. The development of the new park at Belstead and the expansion of Spring Wood, which is such an important buffer between the A 14 nd the new housing in that area, have been most successful.
In discussing the possibilities of new housing in the north of the town, James highlighted something quickly picked up by Jack Chapman: when we think of sites for new housing, we take it for granted that brownfield sites must be our first option. James pointed out that often it was these brownf ield sites which became colonised by wildlife, and it might well be that the greenfield site, presently arable land, could be very sterile from a naturist's viewpoint.
I have represented the Society on the Greenways Advisory Committee for many years and have certainly appreciated the value of the work done. I hope that members will have been stimulated to visit some of the interesting sites to which we had been introduced.