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The Water Meadow Chronicles, part 25

These last few weeks have been extraordinary. There have been high temperatures and , more or less, unbroken sunshine. The rainfall figures have been negligible and many gardeners and farmers have been expressing their longing for rain. The grass is parched and a hosepipe ban is imminent. The most recent heavy rain was during our Bioblitz at the end of May. Now the rivers Lark and Linnet are sorry sights. The Linnet has more or less completely dried up and the Lark looks like a stagnant ditch. The weir at Eastgate holds back any flow since the water level does not reach the lip  of the weir. The consequence for the water birds , fish and mammals, such as water voles, is catastrophic. Water quality is very poor.

While some people have said that “something should be done about it” without coming up with any ideas even remotely useful, the BWMG has been actively thinking about what can be done to provide a more positive, long-term solution. While we are not able to increase the flow in the rivers, it is felt that the creation of a new scrape would contribute beneficially to the “quality of life “ for birds (local and transient), small mammals and insects. Certainly the development of the scrape in Ram Meadow appears to have achieved this.

A group of volunteers, headed by Chris Cross and including Jillian Macready and Julian Case, has been looking at No Mans Meadow to identify a possible site for a scrape. There is an area near the Linnet Ditch where reeds are growing. This may well indicate an area with wetter conditions and so, using a post hole digger,  three holes were drilled to a depth of 1100mm. One hole was in the centre; the other two were on the edges of the identified area. As the digger went down through the top soil to a depth of about 300-400mm, clay started to appear. This continued as grey clay to the full depth of the hole. Before leaving it was noted that the centre hole had water in it. When Chris returned a few days later he found that all three holes had water in them. This was very encouraging news. 

If the news continues to be encouraging and the project goes ahead, the natural depression will probably be deepened and surrounded by topsoil and clay to make a bund around the depression. This will eventually fill with water; the clay will help to retain water and prevent seepage to the side.

On a completely different tack, BWMG was invited to participate in the Bury in Bloom entry for both Anglia in Bloom and Britain in Bloom competitions. The Anglia in Bloom judging took place in July and the Britain in Bloom judging took place in the second week of August. The format was the same for both. Two judges listened to a formal welcome and then met some local volunteers who described the work done by volunteer groups, including Jillian Mcready and Iain Carruthers-Jones from BWMG, We had the chance to describe the work done by our volunteers in the Water Meadows including river and wildlife conservation. We told them about the new owl and kestrel boxes that we have put up in No Mans Meadow and that at least two of the boxes are in use already. We mentioned, as well, the biodiversity survey work that we have been conducting for the last three years. The judges were very complimentary about our volunteers’ work and our survey work. 

After this the judges were transported around Bury St Edmunds and shown our entry “in the flesh”. They saw the window boxes, the hanging baskets, the flower-planted roundabouts and the wonderful Abbey Gardens. Now we wait with bated breath to hear the results.

Iain Carruthers-Jones