The latest of Wokingham Borough Council's greenways, a network of mostly traffic-free routes linking major destinations in the borough, has been officially opened to the public.
It crosses Woosehill Meadows, between Reading Road and Heron Road in Wokingham town, as part of a new link between Cantley Park and Arborfield Cross.
This, in turn, is one of several planned connections between the borough’s major new housing developments, with funding largely provided by the developers, and existing settlements or sites of historic and recreational value.
It is already proving popular with residents, including pupils of the nearby Windmill, Hawthorns and St Paul's primary schools, who use it to get to school instead of being driven. Both are designated “air quality schools” which work with the council’s My Journey Wokingham team to monitor air pollution and reduce it by changing how they travel.
The air quality schools scheme, funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is one of the council’s many measures to promote active and sustainable travel for everyone.
A safe and healthy new route to school
The new greenway has a hard, permeable surface to make it accessible in all weathers, particularly for users of wheelchairs, buggies and more, and will gradually blend in with its surroundings as the grass on either side grows back.
It starts north of Woosehill Meadows, near the Reading Road underpass, and winds south through the meadows to the Kingfisher Bridge with an additional link from Smiths Walk to Heron Road. The area around Kingfisher Bridge, which was muddy and messy, has been tidied up while the path leading to the underpass has been widened.
Work started in June and finished at the end of August, and the crossing over the Emm Brook to the north of Woosehill Meadows will soon be improved with features to channel water under the path.
Improving a cherished green space
Cllr Ian Shenton, executive member for environment, sport and leisure, said: “I'm delighted with the comments we've received from residents, who say we've improved access through Woosehill Meadows and made the area look prettier.
“As the pupils have shown today, this greenway serves a very practical purpose for travelling around the borough but the beautiful scenery also makes it perfect for a leisurely ride - and this will become an even more attractive proposition as future phases are finished.
“We're thankful to neighbours for bearing with us and hope they'll agree it was worth the wait as this is sure to benefit the community for many years. It’s been shown that children perform better in class when they are more active and walking to school is a big part of that.
“It's pleasing to see our greenways taking shape as they can help achieve so many of our aims, from increasing opportunities to get out and about to reducing vehicle emissions, which will improve our air quality while tackling the climate emergency.”
Paul Fishwick, executive member for active travel, transport and highways, added: “We’re proud of all we’ve done to educate our borough’s pupils about the importance of our air quality and the detrimental impact that car use has on it.
“This new greenway offers another opportunity to make a difference and put those lessons into practice. On top of learning about the bigger picture, it’s important that children have somewhere safe to get out and be active. We’re so pleased that now it’s even easier for them to enjoy the health benefits of walking or cycling daily.”
In an email thanking the council, a Woosehill resident said: “I wanted to say how brilliant it is to have a proper path in the fields […] it will make such a huge difference in the winter not having to struggle through thick mud.”
Part of the bigger picture
Next on the schedule is a section along Coombes Lane and Coles Lane near Barkham, which the council’s contractors are resurfacing in stages, with the next phase due to run for several weeks from early October. Unlike most of the greenways, this will remain open to vehicles with a new and more accessible bridge at Coles Lane ford to follow.
The following stage will run from Heron Road to Bearwood Road via woodland at Fox Hill, with the exact route to be agreed in discussion with landowners. More details will be announced as this progresses.
Residents are also invited to discuss continuing another section of greenway from Cantley Park at Milton Road through to Woosehill Meadows. A meeting will take place at 7.45pm on 27 September at Emmbrook village hall, where council officers will explain the options and seek people's views. Anyone wishing to attend should email the project manager.
The council is creating a number of greenways and the first one, running from Arborfield to Finchampstead via the California Way through California County Park, opened in 2020.
They will help the council honour its pledge to do it all it can to make the borough a net-zero carbon producer by 2030. It set this goal when it declared a climate emergency in 2019.
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