Water Meadow Restoration

April 27, 2010

Trustees are currently investigating an area of ancient water meadows in the Tale Valley with a view to restoring one small section to recreate the only working example of a “bedwork water meadow system” in the county.

The wide low-lying valley bottoms of the Tale were once deliberately flooded on a regular basis to increase ground temperature and to provide nutrients from the River Tale to encourage grass growth.

“There is currently no working example of a bedwork water meadow system”

With the mechanisation of farming and the relatively low costs of inorganic fertilisers this practice has died out. There is currently no working example of a bed-work water meadow system that we know of in Devon.  

The Trust is currently investigating the feasibility of restoring one small area of an originally extensive water meadow system in the Tale Valley. 
To date we have commissioned studies and reports from a number of leading authorities on water management systems. 

These reports are available to be viewed at our offices if anyone is interested.

The next stage of this project is to conduct an archaeological dig to make careful measurements of the original water management eats, floats, culverts and drains. This will ensure that any future restoration does not destroy the ancient system but reflects the nature of the way our farming ancestors managed the River Tale for agricultural benefit. 

The picture above shows how water supplied to a meadow is carefully managed in channels to 'drown' the grassland. 

Once we have completed the feasibility studies we will be able to present a restoration plan to the local community and to some major funding organisations with a view to securing the project funds required.

We are extremely grateful to the Local Heritage Initiative who have funded the initial investigations and to Frances Griffiths, Martin Watts, David Brown, Tom Williamson, Museum of English Rural Life and Exeter Archaeology for their in valuable assistance.

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