CAGE (Communities Against Gravel Extraction) has been set up to fight Oxfordshire County Council’s plans to promote a new gravel pit to extract five million tonnes of sand and gravel on land between Wallingford and Cholsey. These plans will severely damage the countryside and affect the lives of the 10,000 people who live in these two communities.
Wallingford and Cholsey are separated by just under a mile of countryside made up of arable and grazing farmland, hedges and trees along lanes and footpaths. It is peaceful and largely undisturbed, supporting an amazingly wide variety of wildlife. There are foxes, roe dear, hares, weasels and even otters have been sighted in recent years.
The number of bird species is huge including buzzards, tawny owls, barn owls and short-eared owls, red kites, lapwing, golden plover, fieldfare, redwing and roosting herons. Other birds of interest regularly seen include snipe, reed bunting, yellowhammer and green woodpecker and many more.
All this natural landscape, this treasure which we take for granted, will be lost forever if it becomes a gravel pit. The well-trod footpaths, including the Agatha Christie Trail from Winterbrook to Cholsey Church, will be ruined.
The Cholsey and Wallingford Railway, a heritage and tourist railway set up thirty years ago, runs for most of its length alongside the proposed pit. Almost all its funding comes from the pleasure of paying passengers and its future would be dire should the pit go ahead, as it would inevitably lose its appeal.
The road between Wallingford and Cholsey is an important thoroughfare for many commuters travelling to Oxford, Reading and London by train from Cholsey station, and large numbers of people go the other way everyday to school, business and shopping trips in Wallingford.
A gravel pit would not just destroy the scenery along the Wallingford Road but the heavy lorry traffic will add nuisance, dirt and dangers for all the cars, pedestrians and cyclists.
We believe there are other more appropriate places to site new gravel pits, if indeed new ones are actually required, and that this largely undisturbed natural piece of countryside should be protected for the well-being of the two communities and posterity.