The expansion of Witham over the last 40 years from village to market town, of necessity encroached on much of the neighbouring countryside. Whilst this development could have been to the detriment of the local wildlife, a far-sighted decision was made to create a River Walk going through the centre of the town. The walk, which extends for about three miles through the town, is a mix of formal recreational areas and untended natural areas; the latter providing habitats for a wide variety of animals and birds.
Facilities for wildlife were further enhanced by the creation of the Whetmead Nature Reserve at the end of Blackwater Lane, off Maldon Road. This was originally a rubbish tip, which was landscaped, and a lagoon created. The Rivers Blackwater and Brain border two sides of the Reserve and create a picturesque walk. The area is now home to foxes, herons, cormorants and a host of smaller creatures.
The Town Council manages four areas of open space in and around the town. The largest areas are those of the River Walk, a linear park that meanders along the site of the River Brain and the town’s nature reserve known as Whetmead.
In 1993, Witham Town Council purchased 14 acres of land adjacent to Olivers Farm, off Maldon Road, to create a Community Woodland for the Town. The woodland is now well established and the trees provide a haven for wildlife.
In the Town Centre, behind Newland’s Car Park, there is a Closed Churchyard which is an oasis for plants and animals, as well as having some significant war graves commemorating many well-known Witham family names. In addition, behind the Town Hall, there is a medieval Period Garden, a formally laid out garden, which is a magnet for wildlife and also provides an area of quiet and calm for many of Witham’s residents.
Should you have any queries regarding the River Walk, Whetmead Nature Reserve or James Cooke Wood please contact Jane Coleman on 01376 520627. Alternatively she can be reached by email.
The Friends of the River Walk Group was set up in September 2012, for those people interested in the River Walk, the James Cooke Wood, the Whetmead Nature Reserve and the Closed Church Yard.
The first Friends of the River Walk Group Newsletter is available from the Information Centre in the Town Hall or a copy can be emailed to you by request if you contact Jane Coleman at firstname.lastname@example.org