A STRETCH of grassland between Old Town and East Wichel could become Swindon’s newest country park – if wildlife experts and councillors get their way.

And parts of the proposed park might be grazed by Belted Galloway cattle, a distinctive fluffy black-and-white breed beloved by nature reserve managers wanting to boost flora and fauna on wildflower-rich fields.

The proposals were presented by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to members of South Swindon Parish Council’s leisure committee this week.

Stephen Davis, head of conservation policy at the nature charity, said the area was home to a remarkable diversity of wildlife, including six different bat species, barn owls and song bird species like yellowhammer and linnet. He wanted to ensure people, especially children, could come face-to-face with wildlife: “We don’t want people to grow up thinking these are things to be fearful of, but things to engage with and be enriched by.”

Swindon Borough Council has a pot of up to £300,000 in Section 106 funds paid by East Wichel developers Taylor Wimpey, with the cash expected to help get the country park scheme off the ground.

The borough commissioned Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in 2016 to look at how to manage better for wildlife the ribbon of former farmland that runs alongside the Old Town railway path.

The country park proposal presented to the parish this week would see the land between Old Town and East Wichel zoned.

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Parts, including fields bounded to the south by the new development and to the east by homes off Croft Road, would be given over more to leisure use such as dog walking or running. Elsewhere, the proposal would be to manage the area more for wildlife, for example by using a management technique known as conservation grazing – where cattle or sheep nibble grasses to the right height to allow more delicate flora to grow.

Funding of at least £140,000 would be needed to develop the site as a nature reserve-cum-country park, it was estimated. The bulk of the cash would go towards building boardwalks to save people from walking on nature-rich marshy parts of the fields.

For now, the proposals are just that. Mr Davis said: “We’ve been excited about the potential to be involved in the future development of the area at Wichelstowe and work with, nurture and support the communities that are there and we would hope this is the start of a conversation and dialogue.”

And South Swindon parish councillors said they wanted to go further, with Wichelstowe part of a five mile “wildlife corridor” connecting parks like Shaftesbury Lakes in Park South and Coate Water.

Chris Watts, parish chairman, suggested the creation of a working group to develop the plans.