At FoBMs first AGM we were delighted to welcome over 60 people to the Scout Hut on Park Street / Eign Road, including lots of local residents, local councillors, and officers and trustees of the Wildlife Trust. After refreshing refreshments including fabulous dock seed cake and perry, Jeremy Milln facilitated the reelection of Fobm’s officers: Ruth Westoby as Convenor (aka chair), Dick Jones as Treasurer, and Gareth Dart as Secretary. In line with our constitution all ‘members’ can vote – members include anyone who supports our aims, signs up for our newsletter, and optionally supports us financially. Our constitution is on
our website link.
Dick gave a super-snappy treasurer’s report. Our accounts are made up to 2021 with a surplus of £450 and the forecast for the year to 31st August 2022 will show a surplus of just over £3,500 and funds just in excess of £4,000. Thanks so much to everyone who has contributed. If you would like our bank details to set up a donation please email us – firstname.lastname@example.org (this does not incur charges so we receive all of the donation).
Ruth gave the chair’s report. She divided FoDMs activities into three completed phases, and a potential fourth phase should the twenty-five year lease be signed.
Phase 1: Start up
- Letter to ward councillor, online open meeting
- Set up working group and website
- Develop vision and campaign strategy
- Identify and contact stakeholders: Church Commissioners, tenant, local church, Bishop, local wildlife groups
- Produced land management vision and interactive map
Phase 2: Consolidate
- Current usage survey
- Establish as Community Association with secretary, treasurer and constitution (signed July 1 2021)
- Open bank account and secure funding
- Run educational events (bio blitz, plant ID, online talk)
- Conduct surveys (reptiles on Row Ditch, moth survey)
- Volunteer events (balsam removal, tree guard removal, litter picks)
Phase 3: Support HWT Negotiations
- ‘Wait and see’ background support whilst Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and the Church Commissioners negotiate on the terms of a longterm lease
- Conduct surveys to establish baseline data and identify ‘gains’ or ‘losses’ during this two year fallow (or ‘unmanaged rewilding’) period (river reptile, hedges, grassland – and people)
Phase 4?: Local feedback mechanism
In the event that HWT and CC sign a long lease
- Communication hub for local community, fundraising support for HWT, volunteer support for HWT, consult on best practice
In the event HWT negotiations break down revert to phase 2
- Identify ideal solutions, identify partners to manage the meadows, lobby for change
Ruth emphasised the pragmatic nature of the project in seeking a practical long term solution for Bartonsham Meadows, and that the Friend’s group have never had land management control nor sought it. Instead we have sought partners who are expert in land stewardship and meadows restoration to take this work forward.
SURVEY RESULTS A whopping 437 people took the time to fill in our survey, up from 207 who filled in the survey we ran in 2021. Not only thanks to them but also the survey folders, deliverers, and collectors! The survey is now closed. The purpose of conducting the survey was to support Herefordshire Wildlife Trust in applying for Lottery funding in the immediate future and also to support ongoing funding bids. National Lottery are interested in the diversity of people who use the meadows and how this might change. We are properly delighted the 37% (165) of respondents would be interested in volunteering on floodplain meadows restoration. We asked a question about funding to help ascertain our ability to raise funds in the future. However, we will apply to institutions and organisations before asking individuals should that be necessary - and we may not do that at all. We are grateful to those who can afford to support the project financially and understand the huge financial difficulties that lie ahead for most people. Ruth took pains to explain that results in fromthe survey offer a huge variety of opinion and hopes for the future of Bartonsham Meadows, some of which is conflicting - for example on the current state of the meadows, whether to introduce greater accessibility, signage boards, and even the consultation process itself.
GUEST EXPERT SPEAKERS
We are so grateful to our two expert speakers at the AGM, Caroline Hanks of Herefordshire Meadows and Andrew Nixon of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. First up was Caroline to talk about the massive benefits and nitty gritty difficulties of meadows restoration.
Caroline Hanks told us how Herefordshire Meadows are a group of like-minded farmers who got together in 2016 with 30 members, and now number 63, with 500 other meadow owners in their network to pool resources and interests on the best of farming and conservation. Local knowledge sharing partners include Buglife, Farm Herefordshire, Wye Valley AONB, Malvernhills AONB, Verging on Wild, Wye and Usk Foundation and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust.
Caroline gave huge amounts of detail on the benefits of meadows to soil health, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, animal health, and landscape and wellbeing. She pointed us to the great resources on the Floodplain Meadows Partnership’s site and in particular this one minute video. She talked us through the 5 principles of regenerative agriculture summarised in this poster from Groundswell:
Caroline packed no punches on the 4 key principles of meadows restoration in relation to the challenges at Bartonsham Meadows:
- Preparation pays dividends – wait until weeds are under control, reduce fertility and find the right donor seed.
- Create enough bare ground for the wildflower seed without disturbing the weed seed bank – disruption of existing grass dominated sward is key, unless already cultivated or very weedy!
- Broadcast on surface – don’t bury seed, floods can carry the seed away before it germinates – slot seeding can waste hundreds of pounds
- First winter and first year is all about the broad-leaved perennials getting established – taking the seedling’s eye view. Use grazing between floods to prevent grass dominance.
Heartfelt thanks to Caroline for sharing her knowledge. Check this link for more information on Herefordshire Meadows.
Andrew Nixon, Head of Conservation at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust spoke to us about the Wildlife Trust’s work in Herefordshire and how it would seek to transform Bartonsham Meadows should the lease negotiations be successful. He told us how HWT’s vision is to create a Herefordshire richer and more diverse in wildlife, bringing its people closer to nature – and how they do this across their 59 reserves spread over 1,000 acres of woodland, grasslands and wetlands.
The prospect of a 25 year lease with the Church Commissioners will be the first time HWT has entered into such an agreement – and the same is true for the Church Commissioners. Hence the negotiations have proceeded cautiously. However, a rent has been agreed and a lease is under preparation.
What would meadows restoration at Bartonsham look like? It could end up similar to the Sturts though that is a much more rural location. The Sturts could be a source of wildflower seeds but it would be necessary to get good grassland going first, before species-rich grassland. Wetland creation in a phased manner could be implemented further down the line, along with hedgerows and tree restoration. HWT would replace the fencing with single strand less susceptible to collecting flood debris, and would seek to introduce cattle but probably not sheep. They would engage with the local community, the school, and the wider community. A mid-tier stewardship scheme has been applied for to fund arable reversion. Check out more information on HWT including becoming a member and volunteering.
The national lead organisation on floodplain meadows is the Floodplain Meadow Partnership. They have amazing resources such as this on docks and this on soil carbon.
? Fran asked about the rent costs, and though Andrew would not be drawn on the exact figure he said it was about 30% of commercial rent as it recognised that Bartonsham is not a commercial plot. Countryside Stewardship Scheme payments could exceed the rent. This is the first time that HWT has entered into a rental agreement beyond a peppercorn rent. ? How to deal with docks and creeping thistle. HWT was looking at all the options which would include herbicides as the scale of the problem is huge. HWT have only used herbicides once before and would be reluctant to do so again. Caroline noted the sea of docks on the meadow. She recommended starting with an annual ryegrass and cutting it before it seeded, but that the docks would outgun grass in parts. Different approaches could be tried in different parts of the meadows. David Straker, organic farmer of thirty years was reluctant but pragmatic in suggesting that herbicide might be necessary to get the docks and creeping thistle under control, with a view to the end goal of successful meadow restoration. Caroline clarified that there are two challenges from the docks on the site: - From existing perennial dock plants of which there are now vast numbers and which need to be reduced before enhancement with floodplain meadow wildflowers. - AND those that will germinate from the seed bank during preparation for reseeding / enhancement. She noted that different methods will be required to deal with each of these and may take years to see the results. There is great variability across the site – and regenerative grazing allowing the grass to grow long may also help to reduce the vigour of the weeds ONCE they are at a lower level than they are now. ? Who is responsible for the path alongside the treatment works? Will responded that Welsh Water are the registered owner of the land from the Canary Bridge to the outfall bridge. The land between there and the meadows over which the footpath continues is unregistered and Welsh Water have denied responsibility for it in the past. As a public right of way, Herefordshire Council are responsible for maintaining the footpath regardless of who owns the land. ? How would the Row Ditch be managed? Andrew had a mind to keep it fenced off for now to make it accessible for people separate from cattle, but was open to consultation.
A TASTY MORSEL TO TACKLE THE DOCKS!
Want to take matters into your own kitchen? Try the dock seed cake recipe that Fran cooked up for us at the AGM!
the dock seed flour has been used here instead of buckwheat flour. To prepare the flour: collect dock seeds, they will have their husks on but that’s fine; allow them to dry and any insects will leave the seeds at this point; roast for about 4 minutes until they smell toasty; grind to as fine a flour as you can make or they will be gritty. Use in any recipe that calls for buckwheat flour, as you get braver you can substitute out more wheat flour for dock flour. Online there are recipes for dock seed crackers and dock seed brownies. It can be used, apparently, for a “passable” coffee substitute but I found it too bitter. I have begun to use it with my cereal coffee (Wake-up, Barley cup, No-caff) half and half and that works.Says Fran
Oven 180oC, use a buttered, lined square or oblong baking tray. Sieve or mix the dry ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, beaten, one at a time. Gradually add the flour and beat for around 2 mins. Spread in the baking tray with apple slices arranged over the top, completely cover with apple slices, they can overlap. About 30 minutes in the oven until a skewer comes out clean, then rest for 15 minutes in the tin before taking out to cool. Eat warm or cold and drizzle blackberries over if desired.
150g plain flour
50g dock seed flour*
1 tbsp cornflour
1/4 teasp of baking powder
1/2 teasp of salt
200g salted butter
180g caster sugar
4 large apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced (if adding blackberry drizzle just use about a cup of blackberries stew with some sugar, put through a sieve and thicken with lemon juice and cornflour)