David Beeson, late August 2021
With time to spare in Salisbury I took the opportunity to re-visit the water meadows there. (If this topic is of interest see the previous article.)
The C17 innovation of water meadows changed agriculture in Southern England. Comparatively warm river water was flooded onto the meadows to warm the soil and produce a flush of grass. Excess was lead away through lower channels.
The new grass provided food for sheep when there would otherwise be none, and allowed far more animals to be kept on the same land. It was a technological breakthrough, but at considerable cost and effort. Whole meadows needed changing to dig the input and output channels. The river needed weirs, or similar, to divert the water into the input channels.
Few working meadows exist today. There is one near Winchester, on the River Itchen, and another just south of Salisbury – the Britford Meadows. There remains are, however, common along the wet margins of local rivers.
Clearly this meadow can not have been ploughed since it was made in the 1700s or early 1800s. Hence an interesting flora with many unusual grasses. Few were seen in August as they had been chomped by the sheep!
The meadows will be FLOATED in late February or early March 2022. Go to their website for updates.
Now, just for fun – late summer colour.
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