|HCC Site ID:||1288||Parish:||Cove & Southwood Ward, Rushmoor|
|Designations:||Area:||4 mile linear path|
|Access:||Public Access||Ownership:||Rushmoor Borough Council|
Location and Site
Cove Brook Greenway is a three and a half kilometre wildlife-rich linear park running alongside the Cove Brook, which is a short stream whose main source is the Long Valley. The Greenway starts in the south by the Southwood meadows that adjoin the golf course on Ively Road with a path which navigates north through the old village of Cove, under the railway line and the M3 motorway, and on up to the road bridge on Hawley Lane.
In the 1930s, Cove Brook was a shallow, slow moving natural stream meandering through a patchwork of small marshy fields and meadows in a very rural area. Local historian Arthur Lunn describes how it could grow into a torrent 10 feet deep and 100 yards wide after heavy rain. When the West Heath, Prospect and other estates were built in the 1960s and 70s, the brook had to be brought under control. The channel was deepened north of the railway and widened to reduce the risk of flooding. The banks were kept mown very short and the channel was frequently dredged.
These original flood prevention measures were scenically unsympathetic with the brook flowing along a straight concrete lined course. In 1996, the Cove Brook Greenway environmental initiative began as a partnership between the Environment Agency, Rushmoor Borough Council, Hampshire County Council and the Hampshire Wildlife Trust. The concrete channel was removed, creating a more natural course and new paths and bridges built together with a dipping area with safe access.
The Environment Agency did major works to re-naturalise the southern section of the brook. North of the railway, the channel was reshaped so that at normal low water levels the stream would scour itself, reducing the need for dredging. Shallow dipping areas were installed with gravel underfoot, creating safe access and helping to oxygenate the water to improve it for fish. Vegetation was allowed to grow in the channel and on the banks, making it a haven for wildlife
In the late 1990s paths were created and the Cove Brook Greenway Group (CBC Group) was formed so that local residents could maintain and build on the improvements that had been made. In 1998 large amounts of rubbish including a motor bike and a car were cleared and more than 1000 young hedges and trees were planted by volunteer members of the Group.
Successful grant applications enabled the Group to transform disused allotments at Birchett Road into the Birchbrook reserve, intended to be a resource for schools and a dog-free picnic area for families. In 2004 a BBC ‘Breathing Places’ grant enabled the group to put on its first Family Fun Day; the Group has also worked with Rushmoor Council to supply maps, and information boards along the brook.
The new Greenway that was formed passed through a surprising variety of habitats: grassland, meadow, marsh, woodland and hedgerow, which support a wide range of animals and birds. Cove Brook itself, though not of perfect quality, supports a good number of fish.
The Greenway runs North to South alongside the brook which follows a course passing through Cove Village to the west of Farnborough. The path passes through woodland, scrub rough grass as well as a wet meadow in the South. Partway along, it reaches a Victorian ‘five-arches ’bridge where the brook flows under the railway line. Wooden footbridges cross a re-naturalised section of the brook near Hazel Avenue that was previously in a concrete channel.
There are mixed deciduous trees and shrubs controlled by the sides of the pathway but left wild further away. Trees include several weeping willows, oak, alder and some elder. Along the parkway there are good interpretation and directional boards, including one about Cove Village near the road bridge on Cove Road. High density housing borders the greenway in the northern and middle sections, replaced by low density further south.
The wildflower-rich grassland north of the golf practice area has been restored and new features and planting have been introduced by the CBG Group, which over the past twelve months has included such new hedges in the northern section. The area around Cove Brook is unrecognisable from that which greeted the first volunteers in 1996.
Summary & Significance
An important public green space, created in the late 1990s, through collaboration with different parties as a linear park along the existing Cole Brook. Now supported, planted and managed by a voluntary group, there is clear evidence of wide community use emphasising its value. Interpretation boards identify wildlife interest along the route.
Talk by Hilda Anscombe, Chairman of the Cove Brook Greenway Group
A E Lunn, Our Hampshire Cove: Recollections of Village Life and Speculations on the Origin of Cove, 1995
Click here to visit Cove Brook Greenway web page