Shropshire Star

Squelch! New wetland project at visitor attraction should be ready in the spring

A new wetland area is being created at a south Shropshire visitor attraction - and it is hoped that the work will help prevent flooding in the area.

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Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre has received funding through Severn Trent’s Community Fund to create a new wetland area in its meadows.

The project, titled Squelch, will have a 200 square metre wader scrape, a bird hide and accessible paths allowing free public access for people of all abilities.

Introducing 'Squelch' to members

There will also be some interpretation and a live video feed into the centre showing visitors some of the wildlife which lives in the meadows.

The scheme is part of an ongoing management programme to develop the Onny Meadows under the stewardship of Ian Cheeseborough, the Meadows Ranger.

Since joining the team in 2021, Ian has overseen improvements to the ponds, meadows and woodland areas, and the Squelch project creates another new wildlife habitat within the 30-acre site.

A spokesperson for the project says Squelch has three main objectives. The first is to provide a place for nature to thrive - it’s hoped the site will attract Great Crested Newts as well as a wealth of invertebrates and wetland birds.

The second is to develop people’s love for and understanding of their local wildlife.

The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, Craven Arms

Through some immersive displays and a new bird hide, there will be opportunity for close encounters of the natural kind!

Thirdly, the area will hold back river water during times of flood, helping to alleviate flooding in residential areas further downstream.

Grant Wilson, the centre manager who helped secure the funding, is excited about Squelch, and said: “Getting this project from the idea stage to the contractors arriving on site took rather longer than we expected, so it’s especially pleasing to see it underway at last.

"A key part of our mission as charity is to connect people to the landscape of this beautiful area and I believe Squelch will play a key role in achieving this aim.

"For me personally, it was important that as many people as possible could benefit from Squelch, so the accessible paths and live video feed complement the scheme really well.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Severn Trent for funding Squelch and look forward to working with them to bring the project to completion.”

Jade Gough, Severn Trent community fund officer, said: “Severn Trent’s Community Fund looks to support projects that help people to lead a healthier life and gain new skills; help to create better places to live in and use, and also projects that will help look after our natural environment, which is why we’re delighted to have been able to support the Discovery Centre with their wetland project.

"It will not only create new habitats for a whole host of wildlife and birds, but also give the community and everyone who visits the chance to connect with nature and access the beautiful local landscape for years to come. We’re really excited to see the new area once it’s finished.”

Squelch is expected to be completed by the spring and will be free to visit during normal centre opening hours. If you would like to learn more about Squelch, visit the centre or drop them a line.

Entry to the Discovery Centre and Onny Meadows is free but there is a charge for visitors to enjoy the Shropshire Hills Through Time exhibition and visit the famous mammoth.

The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre is operated by Grow Cook Learn, a registered charity connecting people to the food and landscape of the Shropshire Hills, providing opportunities to local people and visitors to learn and discover.