Draft Management Plan
Friends of Bartonsham Meadows are delighted to publish HWT’s draft management plan. We summarise the plan in brief before reproducing it in full. Please get in touch with us or HWT with feedback on the plan.
In addition Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) plan to restore the floodplain grassland; manage the scrub, woodland habitats (including veteran trees), hedgerows and in-field trees; create a natural regeneration area and restore the two former ponds; control non-native, invasive species like Himalayan balsam; use low-level grazing by cattle, sheep or ponies to allow natural succession on part of the Meadows and allow natural regeneration to take place on the remainder of the land. HWT wish to support community involvement, celebrate the Meadow’s wildlife and cultural history; and to maintain safe public access, balancing those needs against those of wildlife and biodiversity. HWT is also considering creating additional features such as wetland ‘scrapes’ (to encourage more wildlife and assist flood water retention) and planting fruit trees.
HWT recognise a number of challenges including the regular seasonal flooding; the lack of on-site storage; vandalism; disturbance from dogs; the Public Rights of Way; and the presence of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the Row Ditch.
However, managing the Meadows as a nature reserve will benefit both the neighbouring community – this is the city’s largest urban reserve – and, more importantly given the state of climate change, ‘improve water infiltration, store carbon and flood waters, support pollinating insects, increase biodiversity and improve water quality’.
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust Bartonsham Meadows Draft Management Plan
- General Information
- Site Description & Background
- Primary / Overall Management Objective
- Secondary / Specific Management Objectives
- Restore Floodplain Grassland
- Manage Scrub & Woodland Habitats
- Manage A ‘Natural Regeneration’ Area
- Encourage Community Involvement
- Inform People About The Wildlife & Cultural History
- Maintain Safe Public Access While Balancing The Needs Of Wildlife & Biodiversity
- Control Non-Native Invasive Species
- Measure Biodiversity, Carbon Capture & Nutrient Capture
- Create Wetland Features
- Monitor Key Wildlife Groups
- Provide An Income For Site Management
- Manage Grazing
- Key Management Constraints
1. General information
Bartonsham Meadows lies adjacent to the River Wye near the centre of Hereford. The River Wye is both a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and is particularly well known for its unique flora and fauna. Historically Bartonsham Meadows has been managed as floodplain meadow grassland. Over the years the land has been intensively farmed, first as a dairy livestock farm, and more recently as arable.
2. Site Description & Background
The land, which ceased to be farmed in 2020, had been ploughed, leaving bare soil on the majority of the site. Since then tall ruderal (plants that grow on waste land) vegetation has colonised much of the land. This community is dominated in places by ruderal vegetation including Broad-leaved dock – Rumexobtusifolius, Creeping thistle – Cirsium arvense, Spear thistle – Cirsium vulgare, teasel, cow parsley and hogweed. A grassland sward is now developing on the majority of the site. The vegetation now provides a habitat for a variety of wildlife including birds (the species list currently numbers 60) feeding on the abundant seeds during winter months, good numbers of butterflies and bees, and an abundance of the dock beetles, hosted by the Broad-leaved docks.
The site is heavily used by (mostly local) people for informal recreation with a large number of users using the site to walk dogs.
Following the cessation of farming activities in 2019 HWT was invited by local residents to establish and manage the site as a Nature Reserve. Since May 2023 HWT has leased the site from the owners, the Church Commissioners.
Key Ecological Features
The majority of the site is/has been dominated by tall ruderal species since 2020 after intensive agricultural management. The site lies in the floodplain of the River Wye SAC/SSSI. There are mature hedges and veteran trees within the formerly farmed area while the banks of the River Wye provide some riparian habitat including shingle beaches, marginal vegetation and riparian trees including alder (Alnus glutinosa) and several species of willow (Salix spp) and poplar (Populus spp).
Historical & Cultural Issues
Given the site’s position close to the town there is considerable interest in its past and current management. The local historical society (Bartonsham History Group) has a wealth of information about the area and its history. The Row Ditch on the northern boundary of the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Much of the site was known to have ridge and furrow topology, although it is thought that much of this has been degraded due to in-appropriate agricultural activities.
Geology, Hydrology & Soils
The site lies on the alluvial floodplain soils of the River Wye. The majority of the site is subject to flooding during autumn and winter. Characteristically the soils are well draining but some areas of the site lie wet for longer periods.
3. Primary / Overall Management Objective
To manage the site as a Nature Reserve to enhance and maintain biodiversity and to maintain public access for quiet enjoyment of the natural environment.
4. Secondary / Specific Management Objectives
Restore Floodplain Grassland
To restore the floodplain grassland and/or mosaics of related grassland communities. See Map.
The creation of an MG4 (Alopecurus pratensis – Sanguisorbaofficinalis) grassland community within a mosaic of other associated grassland communities. Simple standard monitoring of key species will indicate progress towards this target.
Initially the standing vegetation will need to be removed and taken off site either to an anaerobic digester or composting plant. We anticipate that after a few years the species composition will change and result in a crop that will be palatable to livestock. We aim to use a variety of techniques, which may vary according to feasibility, soil fertility and structure.
It is our intention to minimise the use of herbicides on the site, but this may be required in some areas to speed up this process.
We will seek expert advice from specialists in flood plain meadow restoration. Detailed plans (separate to this plan) for specific compartments will be produced and actioned.
Initially (and once a phosphorous index of 2-3 has been achieved) an area of between 1 – 5 ha will be identified for specific interventions such as: mechanical or chemical weed control; the addition of yellow rattle and other wildflower seeds and or plugs. Once the initial area has achieved a prescribed number of species, these will be used on other areas of the site provided phosphorus levels have reduced sufficiently.
Grazing. Fencing, handling facilities, water for cattle grazing will be an integral part of the on-going management of the site. In the long term the aim is to manage this area of the site as a traditional floodplain meadow involving the annual cutting of hay and grazing with cattle and/or sheep.
Hay cutting. An essential part of creating the floodplain meadow habitat will be the removal of vegetation annually in June. The aim is to create a grass-dominated sward, which will have an economic value and which will be removed from site without cost.
Manage Scrub & Woodland Habitats
The management, restoration and enhancement of tree, hedgerow and scrub habitats will include restoring and allowing the expansion of existing hedgerows through a mixture of flailing/topping, hedge laying and coppicing, and planting/gapping up to encourage a mixture of hedgerow and scrub features. It will also involve establishing new trees within the hedgerows and fields to provide continuity. The existing veteran trees including those along the river bank will be maintained so that they continue to act as wildlife features within the grassland and riparian habitat.
Manage A ‘Natural Regeneration’ Area
The area will be fenced to allow grazing with cattle, sheep or ponies at very low stocking rates to create more structural and habitat diversity. None of the existing vegetation will be mechanically removed. Monitoring will be carried out to record changes in species composition and structure. This provides an excellent opportunity to compare the carbon, biodiversity and nutrient capture capability of this habitat and compare it with the surrounding land where interventions to restore species-rich grassland will be carried out. (See also secondary objectives 8 and 10)
One of the most important aspects of managing land in this way is to demonstrate its value to wildlife. Regular surveying and systematic interpretation are essential to show how the habitat evolves and how different species use it.
Encourage Community Involvement
The Meadows has a large group of public supporters including The Friends of Bartonsham Meadows, who have been campaigning for several years to have the land managed for wildlife and public enjoyment.
It is important to involve people in the ongoing management, monitoring and wardening of the site. The local community needs to feel involved in the journey to enhance the site and develop a sense of ‘ownership’ and pride in being part of it: the Meadows offers huge scope for further species enrichment and has the potential to be a key site for public engagement in the natural environment. In order to achieve public ‘buy in’ it will be vital to have ongoing conversation with the community and provide opportunities for feedback. Local community engagement, including discussions over educational opportunities and the potential of the Meadows to enhance people’s ‘wellbeing’, can be maximised.
Inform People About The Wildlife & Cultural History
This will involve on and off-site interpretation including notice boards and links to a Bartonsham Meadows section of the HWT website. Regular guided walks and talks will be held on aspects of wildlife, cultural history etc.
Maintain Safe Public Access While Balancing The Needs Of Wildlife & Biodiversity
In order to benefit wildlife and use traditional grazing it will be necessary to maintain public access, particularly for that of dogs and their owners, in a way which is compatible with both. A selection of currently used access routes and paths, which circumnavigate the site while keeping people and dogs separate from livestock, has been devised as shown on Map. To enable this, the new fencing will be set in 3-5 metres from field edges to allow people access around the site without coming into contact with livestock. In addition there will be 3 ‘open’ areas of the site of around 1 ha. See Map. This is also partly a safety consideration. The use of flood resistant stock fencing and ‘NoFence’ satellite collars and/or electric fencing/barbed wire for cattle will be considered and trialled. In addition the public rights of way (PRoWs) will be managed and maintained.
Control Non-Native Invasive Species
Invasive non-native species including Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed will be monitored and controlled.
Measure Biodiversity, Carbon Capture & Nutrient Capture
There is significant funding available for the management of this reserve from Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) and/or Carbon Credits. Work related to Carbon Credits and/or BNG will need to be funded by the respective credit systems.
Create Wetland Features
Two ponds, which have been filled in, have been identified as potential wetland features and we aim to restore both, depending on available funds and permissions. Subject to more detailed feasibility studies using dipwells, scrape/ephemeral ponds will be created to not only attract wetland birds but also act as natural flood management features.
Monitor Key Wildlife Groups
Using standard methodology to monitor key species and wildlife groups including birds, insects, flora etc, we will involve volunteers and specialists in collecting and interpreting information on how the habitats and species within the reserve are developing.
Progress towards the MG4 target of the floodplain meadow restoration areas, which has recognised key target species and ‘unfavourable’ species, will be carried out using this methodology.
Monitoring of the development of the Managed Natural Regeneration areas is less standardised and protocols will be required that are specific to the site.
Monitoring of physical features such as the site hydrology will be carried out using dipwells, their position dependent on expert advice.
Provide An Income For Site Management
- BNG – Church Commissioners to provide expertise to carry out Baseline Parameters and Metric to ascertain the available units and potential financial return.
- Carbon Credits – as above.
- National Lottery Heritage Fund – Church Commissioners to provide written assurance to National Lottery Heritage Fund to enable HWT to access this funding ie commitment to maintain any capital assets funded by NLHF grant.
- ELMS/Capital Stewardship – ditto as above re Capital Grant
- Nutrient Neutrality – HWT to explore option for this.
An integral part of the management of the Meadow restoration will be the removal of the ‘aftermath’ growth, after hay cutting. This can be carried out by cattle or sheep which will need to be transported to and from the site. Grazing is also key to maximising biodiversity of the Managed Natural Regeneration areas. This can be carried out through very low stocking rates of hardy cattle (1 Lu /2 ha?) and possibly hardy pony breeds such as Exmoor or similar, more local breeds.
Bartonsham Meadows is in a prime location for the restoration of floodplain meadows despite the fact that this habitat has not been present for several decades because of agricultural improvement. The River Wye is suffering from poor water quality due to diffuse water pollution from agriculture. Restoring part of the site to permanent floodplain grassland management will have several ecosystem service outcomes including removing nutrients, particularly phosphates, from the river catchment (by annually taking hay crops) and by improving soil infiltration which will reduce the amount of surface water runoff entering the river.
Part of the site will be managed to enhance natural succession and increase the biodiversity that has already taken place. Allowing this to continue together with very low intensity grazing will create an area that will also provide many ecosystem service outcomes without the need for substantial management interventions. In summary the management of site as planned will improve water infiltration, store carbon and flood waters, support pollinating insects, increase biodiversity and improve water quality.
6. Key Management Constraints
Geographically, the site is essentially urban, with all roads leading to it being narrow and residential. Previous management of the land was based from on-site buildings with livestock and machinery. Future management will require machinery, livestock, mowed grass etc to be transported to and from the site as there is currently no on-site, secure storage facility. This will put constraints on any potential financial income from management of the site.
- The site is criss-crossed by services of various types both overground and underground.
- The site is very well used by the public, which, while providing huge opportunities as far as HWT’s wish to engage and involve people with nature, also presents challenges with regard to some aspects of management for wildlife, for example vandalism or disturbance from dogs.
- Regular seasonal flooding, a natural process which gives the site its characteristics, also presents challenges to the upkeep of fencing, and the deposition of all that the River Wye carries. This will also involve statutory restrictions imposed by Environmental Agency on some management proposals, such as the creation of scrapes and ponds.
- Public Rights of Way.
- Scheduled Ancient Monument.