May 2021 Newsletter

HELLO

A warm welcome back to our Friends of Bartonsham Meadows newsletter. Thank you so much for supporting our campaign.

This month has seen…

  • A set-back to progress on regeneration of the meadows. The proposed regenerative farmer has pulled out of taking on the tenancy as the Church Commissioners were unable to offer a workable solution to lifting the Bartonsham land parcels out of the former tenant’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Under the agreement, the former tenant signed up to retaining the meadows as permanent pasture. See below for details.
  • The first #FoBMSummer event! The litter-pick a couple of Sunday’s back was a great turn out and we made some solid progress on removing the plastic tree guards from the saplings across the Canary Bridge. A huge thanks to everyone who came along and took part. We also raised a generous £35 from attendees – thank you for supporting us!
  • We’re delighted to welcome onto the committee two key new members. Gareth Dart has agreed to become our secretary and Dick Jones joins us as treasurer. Big thanks to them both for being willing to get stuck in and support our progress towards constituting as a democratic community association.
  • Published an interactive map showing the potential regeneration of the site developed by Rhys Ward here.
  • The results are out! We’ve compiled the results of our current usage survey – thanks to the everyone who contributed – check out our infographic below.
LAND MANAGEMENT UPDATE

Kate Bradshaw, who farms regeneratively at Tan House Farm, Upton Bishop, Ross-on-Wye www.attanhousefarm.co.uk negotiated with the Church Commissioners’s land agent to take on a five year tenancy at Bartonsham Meadows. The agreement included reseeding with a biodiverse grass sward, running a herd of traditional Hereford cattle, managing the land regeneratively to increase soil health via livestock grazing, without pesticides and artificial fertilisers, and introducing a 100% pasture-fed beef box scheme for local residents.

Kate withdrew from the tenancy negotiations when the Church Commissioners were unwilling to put in train the removal of the Bartonsham land parcels from the former tenant’s (Matthews’ family) Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Natural England, who run the scheme, are able to take out sanctions in the event of a breach and require the return of monies paid if an agreement is breached - for example when permanent pasture is ploughed up.

Kate said, ‘I am committed to regenerative farming practices and producing 100% pasture-fed beef and hogget. I was excited about the potential to restore the Meadows to their former glory with traditional Hereford cattle within sight of the Cathedral. I was also planning to relocate the soon-to-be decommissioned scout hut as a farm shop and education hub at the heart of the Meadows and its community. But in the end, I felt it was better for me to step aside from the potential liability of a breached subsidy scheme which could prejudice any future applications to the same funds.’

The 5 year Countryside Stewardship Scheme has a further 18 months to run and was entered into by the Matthews family who recently relinquished farming management of the land.

Any future tenant who wishes to apply for Stewardship would need to do so based on the reality of the meadows today, not what they were formerly, which is why the current agreement needs to be discontinued before any further changes to the land are made.

We spoke with the Church Commissioners this week to follow up after Kate’s exit from the negotiations. They have registered the land as fallow as part of their Basic Payment Scheme application and intend to reseed at the earliest opportunity.

The Church Commissioners have confirmed their intention to revert the land to pasture and manage it in an environmentally positive way. We have repeated our position that ploughing, spraying and using artificial fertiliser is not the way to restore the Meadows, especially due to the proximity to the River Wye - already heavily polluted with industrial farming residue. After the recent excessive rainfall during May, the Wye is exceptionally high for the time of year with a possible flood risk.
By Christine Earl

FRIENDS OF BARTONSHAM MEADOWS HAVE…

  • Secured the support of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust to manage the land if they were granted a minimum 25-year lease
  • Secured the backing of the council to explore purchasing the land on behalf of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust
  • Secured the backing of the Bishop of Hereford, the local MP Jesse Norman, the local church of St Paul’s and St James’, and the local Eco Church
  • Secured the support and advice of such expert groups in floodplain management as the Floodplain Meadows Partnership
  • Collected data from local residents that demonstrates the extensive use of the meadows, a natural asset cherished all the more due to the Covid-restrictions of the last year and a half
  • Secured the support of 189 people with whom we share these monthly newsletters, plus regular social media updates

Friends of Bartonsham Meadows are continuing to make the case for the long-term benefits that could be realised by a floodplain meadows restoration plan:

  • Carbon sequestration
  • Natural flood defences
  • Biodiversity
  • Improved river water quality and protection
  • Contribute to the health and wellbeing of Hereford’s population
  • Sustainable agriculture and food production

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust has the support of a consortium of advisory groups including the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, Herefordshire Meadows, and the Plantfed Livestock Association who are all perfectly positioned to advise on a visionary restoration programme.

The current state of the meadows is dire. Some areas do not have plant cover due to flood damage (making the meadows vulnerable to further topsoil erosion), most coverage is self-seeded crop that is not being grown for harvest, and the rest has gone to weed including large swathes of docks.

FRIENDS OF BARTONSHAM MEADOWS ARE DETERMINED TO PRESS THE CASE FOR FULLY FUNDED, LONG-TERM AND VISIONARY RESTORATION.

SCOUT HUT

In February 2021, the Church Commissioners sold off the farm buildings and all land above flood-level, to the outgoing tenant, a decision that makes the land difficult to manage for any new grazier tenant, who would need a shelter for animals and the storage of fodder. FoBM has also highlighted the need for office and meeting space. When the Scouts construct their new facility in 2022, their present hut is planned to be demolished. The Scouts are amenable to the idea of giving it a new lease of life if it can be relocated to a new site. The options are few as we would like to keep it in the area, if possible to serve the Meadows in some way. If you think you can help, please get in touch.

KISSING GATE

The kissing gate on the public footpath across the Meadows shortly before you reach Outfall Works Road has twice been damaged by floods since Feb 2020. This is to be replaced by a simple self-closing gate resituated higher up by the road itself and the badly eroded path at this point will be made good. We are aware how hazardous it is at the moment.

INTERACTIVE MAP

Rhys Ward, final year undergraduate at the University of the West of England, has developed a state of the art interactive map to demonstrate what restoration could look like.

“May flowers in the meadows” Elaine Underwood

UPCOMING EVENTS

The next event on our summer line-up is the Himalayan Balsam Bashing event: Join us for an overdue active summer project to rip away the Himalayan Balsam from the river bank to prevent any further damage to other plant life. Himilayan balsam takes over our native flora and leaves river banks exposed to erosion. Help us pull out as much as we can! Eventbrite registration is now open, book using the link below.
Next up will be the Wildflower Walk with Plant ID in July… look out for more details soon!

WE NEED YOUR HELP MORE THAN EVER. PLEASE:

  • Join our summer events
  • Send us your images of the meadows
  • Share this newsletter widely
  • Become a member of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust here
  • Make a donation to keep our project going here

Best wishes,

Ruth, Chloe and all at Friends of Bartonsham Meadows

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