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The Harnham Water Meadows Framework Management Plan - Annexes

Annex VI. Priorities for Drowning

Western Meadows - clockwise from Great Mead:

GREAT MEAD is traversed by the main carrier for the eastern Meadows. Much of this area on the north side could be drowned because the infrastructure is fairly intact including the sluice at intake to S7& S7a and close to the split in the Nadder channel, but some internal hatches will need restoring. The smaller portion to the south is adjacent to Rose Cottage ‘Neave’s Mead’ and requires hatch restorations. Overall, this mead is high priority for drowning, at least from inlets on the north side of the carriage. The south side around S26 and 27 may be more problematic. Success relies much upon river water. Michael Cowan suggests that S21, S22 and 23 be restored and there is a lost hatch around S15, S10A and S17 (west side) that might be excavated and restored.

IVY or COOPER’S MEAD: While certain hatches on the western side have been recently restored, Ivy Mead presents many problems, although it has a number of interesting archaeological features. Certain hatches north of here remain un-restored, been taken over there is a portion of the meadow to the north opposite Fisherton ‘Island’ that has become a private garden and there are areas where peat soil has developed that may not be so suitable for irrigation. These contrast with mineral soils and hence encourage floristic biodiversity. As such it is a good example of abandoned watermeadow experiencing only grazing management. This mead, excepting the floatable bedworks to the south that adjoin Great Mead (by S4 and S5) is low priority for drowning. Part of Cooper’s Mead is occupied by Rotary Copse, unsuitable for drowning.

NAILS MEAD, TWO ACRES (west), FOUR ACRES, TWO ACRES (east) and PARKER’S MEAD all have hatches and ridges in reasonable condition and by common consent are candidates for floating, particularly following observations during the wet winter 2000/20001. Parker’s Mead is at the tail end of the system and adjacent to the Town Path. Should it prove difficult to irrigate, is would provide in any case a good demonstration hay meadow for public view. These meads would be medium priority for drowning but achieving this is sensitive to water levels.

SAMMEL’S ACRE or SCHOOL MEAD is small and fed by the cast iron aqueduct (an important archaeological feature) from the intake near the split in the Nadder (S7a) and being next to Parker’s Mead is highly visible from the Town Path. It is where the present interpretation board is located. This mead is high priority for drowning which is achieved for short periods during most winters; overall intake water levels are a problem.

Eastern Meadows

On one level, these are more problematic, first because there are drainage problems in returning water to the river, second the infrastructure is often absent or disrupted and finally several meadows are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), requiring consents before any major works. In many ways, decisions are made for us in that where the bedworks, hatches, channels, pipe drains and culverts are severely damaged or obliterated and watering is restricted to natural flooding, making many of these floodmeadows. On another level, these are low lying and this is demonstrated to be advantageous for irrigation.

Approximately clockwise from the Town Path at Long Bridge:

LONGBRIDGE MEAD, DEANERY MEAD, ROWLAS, HUSSEY’S MEAD, PARSONAGE MEAD constituting a block that has little or no remaining floating infrastructure attributable variously to the deliberate blocking of the main carriage, installation of a sewer or poaching in by heavy beef cattle. True drowning is not possible and these constitute floodmeadows.

SEVEN ACRES: The lower system fed from the main carriage across the Great Mead and under the Town Path and controlled through the restored S18 (2007). Regular attention is due in respect of clearing out the carriers and ditches opposite the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum (across the Avon) and this is part of the SSSI. There are floristically interesting pockets and this is currently the most floatable area, hence it is high priority for drowning. This was achieved at the end of March 2006 and throughout winter 2007/8 including trials by the EA during Feb 2008. It is hoped there will be assistance forthcoming in restoring the banks bordering Parsonage Mead, including a small control structure permitting drainage along the western side of this and lower Seven Acres, returning drainage water to the Avon. The lower part merits different management for Desmoulins whorl snails, in any case the bedworks are seriously damaged by the installation of a sewage pipe in the 1960s.

The upper part of Seven Acres was partially restored on the advice of Tom Gainsford and irrigated well 2007/2008. Furthermore, it is highly desirable to restore a main hatch in the carrier issuing from the hatch pool and a construct a small control structure at the culverts returning water to the spillway bordering Martin’s Mead. Upper Seven Acres is a high priority for drowning. And ways of restoring the lateral bedworks should be explored.

NINE ACRES: Constitutes a block that has little or no remaining floating infrastructure attributable variously to poaching by cattle and possibly ploughing. True drowning is not possible, this constitutes a floodmeadow. In 1910 it was described as ‘pasture’, the other meadows as ‘meads’.

ST NICHOLAS MEAD has much of its bedwork infrastructure in recognisable form and is not owned nor managed by the Trust, although the present tenant is sympathetic to HWMT. It is presently difficult to see how this can readily be floated in a traditional manner. This area would be mediumpriority for drowning and requires drainage improvement.

FOUR ACRES: The mead at the tip of the ‘island’ is neither owned nor managed by the Trust, although the owner is sympathetic to HWMT objectives. S29 is a structure that should be restored and may be a demonstration structure for excellence in restoration. There are implications for draining over this land and structures that need restoration, particularly culverts beneath the track that separates it from Five Acres. This area would be mediumpriority for drowning and drainage improvement is needed.

FIVE ACRES: Amead with problems of bank erosion alongside the Nadder and pockets/drain infill of peat. The bedwork has clear definition, but otherwise true floating would be difficult. This mead is low/medium priority for drowning, with the caveat that drainage across this meadow is important, including exits to the Nadder. Infrastructural change, particularly drainage improvement, may change this view. Mike Cowan adds: While Sluice 19 is restored, Sluice 12 is not and might be a candidate for scientific archaeological excavation, recording and restoration.

MARTIN’S MEAD AND SNOW’S ACRE: These contain most of the features that one would expect on a watermeadow system of classic ‘ Wessex’ type, including a mixture of humose (peaty) and mineral soil types and an intricate distribution pattern of carriages, carriers and drains. It is fed from the large carriage to the rear of Rose Cottage, under the Town Path and water enters via a number of restored hatches on the SW side. There are five carriages emerging from the main carriage, only S8 and S20 are restored. Two others may be beneath spoil heaps. The fifth has no hatch, but stone faced sides need repair. Certain bedworks on this side were restored 2006/07 where a track was driven across them, and a need is identified to add or improvise further control structures to conduct water along the carriers. Drowning is highly desirable for both intrinsic interest and public visibility provided much of the untidy ‘hedge’ is cut away opposite Rose Cottage and adjacent to the Town Path. Lower Martin’s Mead may merit separate management, as per lower Seven Acres.

ROSE COTTAGE GARDEN : The original was the small triangular plot by the town path. Across the main carriage was the small Neave’s Mead that became incorporated in the garden in 1931. This has the potential for a demonstration of floating for visitors when the river is high fed from S9a and this could be achieved by significantly reducing the tree and bush cover but without interference with other activities on the meadows. This is a medium priority for drowning for demonstration purposes, but sensitive to river level.

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