HELLO Welcome to this latest edition of the FoBM Newsletter.
REPORT OF PUBLIC MEETING 9TH NOVEMBER
We held an online lecture, Q&A and discussion with the experts on floodplain meadows restoration. We were delighted to be joined by local and national leaders in floodplain meadow, grassland, and wetland restoration and management.
Emma Rothero from the Floodplain Meadows Partnership
Caroline Hanks from Herefordshire Meadows
Andrew Nixon from Herefordshire Wildlife Trust
This information-rich event is available to watch on our YouTube channel (minus the discussion and Q&A) and Jenny-May has written a full blog report available here on our website.
See some sneak peeks of the presentations below!
Slide 26 by Emma Rothero.
“On one level my task was easy -as these meadows are naturally stunning -and art that communicates the beauty and wonder of the natural world draws our attention to it, brings us joy and reminds us how much we value it and that we should protect it.”
“But more than that it was important to me to amplify the message that these vital floodplain meadows are still under threat; from agricultural practices, housing and road developments and even flood defence measures.”Words by artist Alice Walker
5 principles of regenerative agriculture. Groundswell, the regenerative Agriculture Show and Conference.
LAND MANAGEMENT UPDATE At our online event the land agent for the Church Commissioners responsible for Bartonsham Meadows gave a management update. Matthew Scott, of Strutt and Parker, stated that Bartonsham Farm forms an important green space in central Hereford, without which lots of people wouldn’t have access to outdoor green spaces. The Church appreciates that it is a key asset to the people of Hereford. He said that the Commissioners are looking at changing from an arable farming system to some form of floodplain meadow restoration - ‘that’s a plan we’re looking to put together’. He said they are considering how best to do that as they come out of the environmental stewardship scheme (which was in place for the previous tenant farmer). This involves looking at a range of options for future tenancy. The final word of the event went to Andrew Mottram (erstwhile Vicar of St. Paul’s Church) who was kind enough to share his views on the project. He flagged up that the Church of England has a serious zero carbon target and environmental programme, which both congregations and commissioners have to work to. It will be published next Spring. Church Commissioners are stewards, and they have responsibility as trustees to ensure a return on investment; but also a responsibility to ensure that assets ‘do not suffer from loss, degradation or depreciation’. This is the other side of the Bartonsham Meadows project. It needs to be recognised that the mistake of it going to arable has done a lot of damage. But look at the way that land recovers. The site needs to be given time, and the Church Commissioners need to have a longer-term view, for example 25 years rather than five. Andrew shared the example of the flood plains down the Thames in Oxfordshire that are now beautiful, richly biodiverse grasslands. Andrew had these final words of encouragement to everyone involved with Friends of Bartonsham Meadows: ‘It’s a great project. It’s brilliant that the community of Bartonsham have woken up to this. It could so easily have been lost. So well done to everybody involved’. Please see our blog and YouTube for further details. Friends of Bartonsham Meadows will continue to work hard to promote a long-term solution with floodplain meadow restoration accompanied by heritage and environmental restoration - ponds, hedgerows, orchards and wetlands.
SPOTLIGHT: “ARE YOU TESTING THE WATER?” CITIZEN SCIENCE AND THE WYE RIVER
Fran Morgan has been volunteering for a citizen science project monitoring the health of the River Wye as it passes by the Meadows. We asked her for an update.
“Are you testing the water?”
I was delighted to be asked. Here was my opportunity to talk with people about the state of the river and quite often they will have typed Friends of the Upper Wye into their phones before they walk away. Today my conversationalists were also searching for veg box deliveries near you before they carried on across the Victoria Bridge! Well it’s all joined up, they said, and I had to agree with them.
Sue Bywater and I have been monitoring the water quality from the middle of the Vicky Bridge twice a week for about 4 months now and today, 16th November, was another “mass testing day”. This means that the quality of the river and its tributaries is measured that day at around 150 sites between the source and Mordiford. The results are transferred via an app to Cardiff University where they are collated and analysed.
What are we checking? Well, the main ingredients of concern are nitrates and phosphates largely running off the land or leaching into the river because of over application. The poo of 20 million chickens in the Upper Wye catchment has to go somewhere and extra fertilisers added to fields can also contribute to this eco disaster which has seen the spread of blue green algae through the river, blocking out the sunlight, depriving the river of weed and oxygen for fish and invertebrates at the bottom of the food chain. It is suggested that swans have not been able to successfully rear their cygnets for 2 years now as the weed has disappeared and the numbers of fish are declining rapidly. A number of angling clubs are involved in river testing too as they see the future of their sport in jeopardy.
The university is looking for correlations with temperature and conductivity so we measure that too, it’s about 12 oC in the river at the moment but summer temperatures of over 20 oC were apparently really too hot for the fish. We also measure the turbidity of the river to give an indication of recent heavy rainfall and flooding and we estimate the size of patches of algae or evidence of particular pollution spills. A serious incident will be reported immediately to the Environment Agency.
It’s feels so hopeful testing the river twice a week, it really complements the meadows campaign. The chance it offers me to talk to folk as they pass along the bridge has been so encouraging. Comments like, I wouldn’t drink it or, as I lower our bucket into the river, you’ll never catch a fish like that, have given way to real interest in the process of testing and enthusiasm to get involved.
I’m sure the world is going to change one test tube at a time.
Fran Morgan – volunteer for Friends of the Upper Wye
(Fran will provide a further contribution in a future newsletter looking in greater detail at the science behind the project. Thanks Fran!)
BIRD SURVEY AT 9:00AM, FRIDAY 26TH NOVEMBER Two grey wagtails were spotted very near Greenway Bridge. Three female gooseander were on the Wye. A few birds listed were heard but not seen: great spotted woodpecker, jackdaw and wren. Half a dozen or so birds in flight were finches and listed as chaffinches. No swans, redwing or fieldfare spotted. List of birds: Pied wagtail Pied wagtail Pheasant Grey wagtail Grey wagtail Great spotted woodpecker Mallard Mallard Gooseander Black headed gull Black headed gull Kingfisher Magpie Magpie Jackdaw Wood pigeon Wood pigeon Rook Bluetit Bluetit House sparrow Wren Wren Robin
JOLLY HISTORY WALK 28TH DECEMBER – AN INVITE FROM THE BARTONSHAM HISTORY GROUP
Famous families from composer Edward Elgar’s to Victorian photographer Alfred Watkins’ have wandered the Wye at our ‘Bassom’.
Keep their company with Bartonsham History Group for a (free! but donations ALWAYS welcome) family amble across the Meadows on Tuesday 28 December. Gather at the Meadows’ Green Street end around 10.15am – and expect a slice of history from our local experts! Bring your own mince pies.
CALL OUT Please get in touch with your sightings of flora and fauna - and floods! We keep a record and would really appreciate any notes or images you take. Send to email@example.com
We’re delighted with progress so far but will definitely not let up the pressure. We’re going to take a break from the monthly newsletter and skip the December update. But we will continue all our efforts!
Look out for the next newsletter sometime towards the end of January 2022, just on the cusp of spring, with details of exciting developments and events to look forward to.
In the meantime, the Friends of Bartonsham Meadows committee would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas (if Christmas is your thing) or a very relaxing holiday season (if it is not) and a very Happy New Year.
Anna, Bill, Charlie, Chloe, Dick, Gareth, Jeremy, Mo, Rhys, Ruth, Will – and our super guest writers Jenny-May While and Fran Morgan