The restoration of Greenham Common
Greenham Common Trust actively encourages environmental projects and nature conservation and has donated nearly £1 million towards the restoration work being carried out on Greenham Common.
Work to remove the runways and hardstanding on the Common started in April 1995. Over 1 million tonnes of material, mostly concrete and tarmac, were broken up, recycled from site and sold. The revenue from the sale of materials is being used to help fund the restoration of the open areas to heathland and the demolition of the disused buildings and fuel installations.
A programme of spreading heather seed has also been undertaken in areas where concrete has been removed, and the regeneration of heather has so far proved extremely successful. Further seed spreading is continuing. Heather and gorse on the Common are now being mowed in a rotating cycle lasting several years. The rampant spreading bracken is also being kept under control by spraying with Asulox, a fern specific herbicide.
Funding also helped to clean up fuel contamination with a bioremediation process. This contamination resulted from 60 years of aviation fuel storage in large (and progressively leaky) underground tanks at over 25 sites around the perimeter of the Common. Bioremediation is a process whereby natural fuel degrading bacteria are sprayed onto the contaminated soil. This avoids the use of chemicals and solves the problem in a natural way. This innovative process was developed especially for the site and worked successfully at the fuel depot sites where it was used. This resulted in large scale excavations with 'biopiles' of contaminated material undergoing treatment. The bioremediation process was completed by 2003.
Greenham Common Trust and English Partnerships have both assisted with funding to help with bioremediation work.
The demolition of the disused buildings and fuel installations began in September 1997. There is a proposal to keep the fuel depot located at the far eastern end of the site as a feature. The centre cross of the main runway, the control tower and the fire fighting plane are also being kept as mementos. It is also hoped that at some stage in the future the control tower can be made into a visitor centre where people can learn about the varied wildlife on the Common.
Open to the Public
The opening of the Common started in September 1997 with a small section at the western end. The perimeter security fence was removed and replaced by a stock proof fence and ditch with suitably located public access points. Cattle were introduced onto the Common in May 1999, and their grazing will help to maintain the heathland. The final areas were opened to the public in May 2000. At long last local people and visitors can enjoy Greenham Common once again.
Berkshire Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust BBOWT is undergoing a conservation project which takes in around 27 square kilometres including Greenham and Crookham Commons to preserve important wildlife habitats. For more visit www.bbowt.org.uk/content.asp?did=24722
If you would like to help look after the Commons you can join the Conservation Volunteers Group - visit their website at www.gccv.org.uk.