SWINDON may be a somewhat land-locked town, but residents will soon be able to bask on a beautiful beach.

The third phase of works to turn the River Ray in Swindon into a haven for wildlife and residents will start next month.

A sweeping bend will be created on the river at Rivermead, and the beach will be installed giving visitors a place to sit and enjoy the scene and animal life sights.

The beach will be along the stretch of the Ray which runs from the raised cycle bridge at Barnfield Road as far as the weir pool near Great Western Way.

The award-winning scheme, being run by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, is the latest stage in the River Ray Restoration Project which aims to restore the river from being a straight line of water through a neglected stretch of grassland.

Water for Wildlife project officer Jo Sayers said: "Whereas phase two was really about helping wildlife, this next phase will encourage people to connect with the river and the natural environment on their doorsteps.

"At the moment in some places the river is so overgrown that people can't even see it.

"This big sweeping bend will provide a shallow, graded gravel beach which will provide a community focus in the area where people can come and enjoy the river, sit and contemplate, or dip their dogs.

"Surfaced footpaths will be installed to make sure disabled members of the community can enjoy it too."

The work, which starts on Monday, July 30, will also include the creation of a fish pass at the weir.

This will allow fish to move up and down the river which until now they have not been able to do because of the weir's height.

The pass will be made from a metal basket full of boulders and placed under the lip of the weir to raise the riverbed.

It will act as a ramp and take the power out of the water so that the fish can swim upstream.

Diggers will also put more stony riffles into the river to add variety to the riverbed, and will create more pools in the river's floodplain.

A team of volunteers has done ground works with help from Swindon Council tree surgeons, with unwanted trees being cleared to make way for the water channel.

The total project length is 1.2km and stretches from the sludge beds of the Swindon sewage works to the Great Western Way bridge at the Mannington recreation ground, and the benefits of the earlier phases are already being seen.

Ms Sayers said: "The floodplain has been swamped with wildlife since we did the work last year.

"I've seen snipe, teal, a pair of little egrets, green sandpipers and lots of herons.

"When the water spills out of the river into the plain in the winter, I've practically stepped on mallards and moorhens as I've walked through the grass."