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FROXFIELD WATER MEADOWS RESTORATION PROJECT

Froxfield Water Meadows

As you may know, the water meadow was donated to the Froxfield Parish Council on 17 November 1976 by the Rt Hon. William Geoffrey Baron Rootes of North Standen Manor Hungerford, to be used as a village amenity. The Parish Council is therefore charged with its maintenance and protection.

At its recent meeting, Froxfield Parish Council was pleased to welcome Mr Tim Clarke. In his professional capacity as a Farming Advisor and specialist on water catchment management, Tim (who lives at No1 Manor Park) spoke to the councillors and members of the public who attended, about his experience of working with the Action for River Kennet (ARK) which has had great success in restoring the health of tributaries of the Kennet and their water meadows.

ARK Director, Mrs Charlotte Hitchmough also recently visited the meadow with Councillor Vanya Body and her feedback was that there is great potential to create a really beautiful and beneficial natural asset of the community. ARK will also be very willing to extend advice, based on its wealth of experience, whilst Tim Clarke is prepared to act as our ‘advisor in residence’ and to use his own river bank as a ‘model’ for how we might be able to improve the health of the stream itself.

Issues which have been noted include:

• the overgrown state of the river bank and the meadow… too many nettles to the detriment of some more valuable water meadow species

• the willows which have taken hold in the meadow also the detriment of the open flower areas and may need to be cut back

• the silting up of areas of the riverbed with run-off from the fields, which has discouraged spawning trout and other river life which historically were very evident in the stream

• lack of easy access for residents of the village who have, largely, become disengaged and no longer regard the water meadows as a village amenity, whereas historically, there was very active support for maintaining the meadows

• a range of approaches (well-meaning) to the localised management of sections the riverbank which could benefit from better co-ordination
inappropriate usage of the water meadow.

It is clear that there is much to be done, but much that can be achieved if a willing group of locals could lend active support to the work.
Charlotte Hitchmough of ARK says there are sources of generous funding availavble, if we can demonstrate strong community support to improve this wonderful natural environment.

The next step is to draw up a list of priorities and then to discuss these at the next appropriate Parish Council meeting — probably the one at the beginning of 2017, to which all residents will be invited.

It would be very good to get an idea of who among the immediate Riparian owners and other villagers, who would be willing to join a Froxfield Water Meadows Working Group with the possibility of becoming ‘willing workers’ for the improvement of this valuable village amenity. Once in place, and with the agreement of the Parish Council, this group could then begin to co-ordinate working parties in the meadows, under the guidance of Tim Clarke and ARK.

Please get in touch with Councillor Vanya Body on vanya@vab1.demon.co.uk for further information and to get involved in any future work to improve the water meadow.