Being a forgotten and neglected area for many years, particularly in the post-war years in the 1950s and 1960s, the Valley became a general dumping ground and
home to many back-yard industries. Many
of these were associated with gravel extraction, which was taking place in the Valley, and many sites were used as landfill. As the pressure for development in and around the area increased so land values soared. Combined these factors resulted in the valuable habitats and greenspace, that we all enjoy, gradually being nibbled away. Where once there had been open fields, hedgerows and a healthy river, by the 1970s much of the area had been degraded and the river was heavily polluted.
The three English counties that the Valley borders (Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey) and the local district / town councils have all adopted similar planning policies designating the narrow band of open countryside remaining in the Valley as a strategic gap. These planning policies restrict built development, but promote landscape enhancement and restoration, and seek to promote land use for outdoor recreation, and nature conservation.
To implement these policies in 1979 the Blackwater Valley authorities, the Countryside Commission and Sports Council formed the Blackwater Valley Project with project staff employed to implement major landscaping and environmental improvements in the area. Building on the success of this original Project, the now permanent Blackwater Valley Countryside Service has achieved much since its inception in 1990.
For example, the 23-mile path alongside the river is now almost complete, providing links to a wide variety of
- nature reserves
- country parks
- watersports and recreational areas
that the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership has brought into being in partnership with local people, landowners and Councils.
Today we continue to co-ordinate a unified approach in the Valley working towards a vision of:
“A continuous green space along the Blackwater Valley; attractive to wildlife and the community.”