Drowning Harnham water meadows
Here are the photos of our trip to the Harnham water meadows on Saturday. It was a very successful morning. The weather was perfect. We brought a group of 26 + people including several children and Hadrian Cook, gave us an excellent guided tour of the meadows explaining and demonstrating the drowning process which probably started in Harnham in about 1660.
The natural water meadows were made from the 13th C when mill ponds, drainage channels and hatches were constructed to create a controlled system to irrigate the meadows.
A regular flow of nutrient rich warm water from the stream or river nearby was diverted onto the meadows. This water was flowing gently, so not stagnant. This was controlled by hatches in channels which were lifted to allow the water to flow from one area to another and the hatches lowered to stop the flow after about a week.
This resulted in this early ‘bite’ for sheep. The grass was much earlier and richer than that found on the downs at that time of year. This process would be done during January and maybe throughout the summer. When the numbers of sheep decreased in the first half of the 20th C as a result of mechanisation and wartime the practice of water meadow irrigation ceased.
However, a Trust was formed in 1990 to restore and preserve this internationally important heritage site in Harnham. It is managed mainly by a team of volunteers and Rose Cottage by the Town Path was purchased in 2006 by the Trust. It is a meeting place for all activities connected with the meadows including public walks, educational visits and lectures. It has an exhibition inside showing historical and scientific details about the meadows and photos of work done and recent events.
The Trust welcomes visitors and school groups and also volunteers.
More information is available by email: email@example.com or there is a website www.salisburywatermeadows.org.uk
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Photo: Avocets (Izzy Fry)
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