The second phase of work for Twyford Meads has now started with the restoration of the water meadows. Ditches will be cleared, structures rebuilt and land reformed. Aquascience who carried out phase 1 (the new steps in the Locks) will again be the main contractor.
Water meadows in the Itchen Valley date back to the 16th century. They were intensive agricultural systems for grass growth for over 300 years. The water running over the grass at different times of year provided protection against drought in the summer, and frost protection in the winter. The water supplied nutrients and lime to feed the grass on the meadows. The Water Meadows at Twyford Meads are historically very valuable as they contain examples of 3 different layouts of the system; rectilinear, sinuous and tear drop. These may reflect investments on the meadows at different times in history.
Some structures may be earlier but many of the structures in the vicinity of Twyford Meads water meadows probably date to about 1800. At that time, agricultural prices were high and there was investment in agricultural production generally; for example Hockley Mill was built in 1803. Volunteers have recently uncovered a previously unknown brick arched bridge probably dating back to 1800. Unfortunately, the top of the arch has been vandalised but using traditional materials and techniques, this arch will be restored by Trowel Craft as part of this project.
Work to be undertaken will include, restoration of the ridge & furrow land form and renovation of the structures (some of which were rebuilt in 2000) to enable an area to be re-irrigated.
The project is the initiative of Twyford Parish Council as landowner; they have organised the project and supplied part of the funding. It is being grant aided by European Commission (EU) grants under the LEADER programme (almost £30,000) with a further £4,500 from the Hampshire County Council Rural Communities fund. New interpretation boards will be placed to illustrate the historical and ecological importance of the meadows and the wider valley. Natural England and the Environment Agency have been consulted and the necessary consents are in place.
Not only will this safeguard the historic Water Meadow, it will maintain the special ecological nature of the area. The area is a Site of Special Scientific (SSSI) as part of the wider Itchen River & Valley. The meadows and clear chalk streams are home to many different species of fish, birds, invertebrates and mammals. The otters roam several miles up and down the valley using the meadows and streams as hunting grounds.
For more information: Contact: Chris Corcoran 01962 712951