Watery Meadows and Late Summer Colour

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.)

More details in the previous nwhwildlife.org article
Harnham is a Salisbury suburb. This is a view of the cathedral, River Avon and between the two will be the water meadows.
The meadows are currently being grazed. Warm water would run into the system at sheep height and overflow down to this output channel and eventually back to the river, but downstream of its origin.

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!

Humps and bumps!
Watercress, burr reed and watery channels.
Ferns and liverworts at the water’s edge.
Hemp agrimony in a larger channel
Purple loosestrife
Harnham Mill, now a small hotel with wonderful views across the meadows to the cathedral.
Harnham Mill’s building materials.

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.

Late summer colour 1
Late summer colour 2
Late summer colour 3
Late summer colour 4
Evergreen colour
Celia, in the chair, is one of our subscribers. Annette and I met up with her and Michael at Wisley RHS gardens.

http://www.nwhwildlife.org for the HOMEPAGE. From there you can scroll down for 100+ ad-free articles. Topics include: wildlife gardening, mayflies, butterflies, botany and even slime molds!

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