Thanks to funding from Highways England and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, Sustrans has improved part of National Cycle Network Route 5 at Kennington, just outside Oxford.
Together with work funded by the Government’s Cycle City Ambition Programmes, there’s now a high-quality route for everyone travelling from Kennington into the city.
The path passes through Kennington Meadows and joins with the Thames Path and a local route into Oxford.
It also forms part of the long-distance National Cycle Network Route 5, linking Reading to Holyhead.
In 2018, we identified this section of the route as needing significant improvements in our National Cycle Network review, Paths for Everyone.
Following that, we sourced funding for the refurbishment of the poor-quality route.
We vastly improved the surface across the 1.8km route, enabling it to be used all year round.
The path is now wider, has better drainage and is aesthetically sympathetic to its natural surroundings.
We also improved existing infrastructure to ensure the route is safer and more accessible for everyone to use.
The old, rotting bridge in Kennington Meadows has been replaced.
Working with the Oxford Preservation Trust, the landowner, we found a solution for adapting a decorative gateway, known locally as ‘The Fishes Gate’.
This has made the gate easier to pass for people with adapted bikes or mobility aids.
Widening the path and removing restrictive barriers has helped to make this path more accessible for everyone that uses it.
We created a new gateway feature at the south end of the path.
Using a single bollard makes the gateway easier to pass and more enjoyable to use.
These adaptations allow better access for all, from people using adapted cycles and mobility aids, to those on bicycles, scooters and on foot.
Embracing ecological sensitivity
With the route passing lowland meadows, floodplain grazing marsh, ponds and woodland, ecology was a major factor in the project.
We conducted surveys of the site, and amongst the array of wildlife in the area, found evidence of great crested newts in nearby ponds and glow worms in the verges.
Our ecologist was on hand, with support from our local land manager and volunteers, to ensure ecologically sensitive working to protect these species.
They also ensured that the birds, reptiles, otters and water voles in the area were undisturbed.
We installed a hibernaculum and a series of log piles for the great crested newts.
And we successfully relocated the glow worms during the works, which have since been spotted back in the area.
Biodiversity in mind
Native wildflowers and bird and bat boxes are being added to the route to further support the local wildlife that thrives in the Kennington meadows and surrounding area.
Paths for everyone
These improvements have helped to create a route that is better for everyone. The paths have been widened, barriers removed and drainage improved, all working with sensitivity to the local meadow and wildlife.
We worked closely with the landowner and tenant farmer to develop access solutions that also work for the cattle that graze the lowland meadows to keep them ecologically rich.
There are now half the number of cattle grids along the route. Those that remain have been replaced by brand new grids that are designed to be safe for hedgehogs by incorporating a ramp.
All of these measures helped us create a high quality route in a way that works for local wildlife, as well as for everyone that uses it.
As a result of these upgrades, people in Kennington and the surrounding areas now have 1.8km of vastly improved shared path that can be used all year round.