Halford Flood Meadow Diary


21 Oct 2023

First flood this autumn.

Our first flood this autumn has hit just 15 days after we sowed the wildflower mix into the upstream end of the meadow. Have we lost it all in the flood or will some of it germinate and show itself in the spring? Who knows?

by Mike Hopkins

9 Oct 2023

Sowing the seed.

Over the last two years we have been stripping the nutrients from the meadow by taking hay cuts. This has reduced the phosphates to a level which is suitable for our meadow seed mix of grasses and wildflowers to establish. Instead of trying to establish the meadow in one go, we are trying just under 3 acres at the upstream end of the meadow. The reason for this is that there is a risk of flooding at any time of the year and with that there is a chance that the seed will be lost in the floods, so we would rather lose 25% of the seed than 100% in one go. You could say conditions were perfect for sowing, the ground was just soft on top and the existing sward had been grazed and vigorously scarified, exposing plenty of bare soil for the seed to make good contact with. The seed was then pressed in with the smooth side of a chain harrow to increase its chance of soil contact. Once this work was done we let the horses back out onto the meadow to tread in the seed, hopefully further protecting it from potential flood water. The horses weren't too impressed with the attack on the meadow, but they did seem to eat up the loose grass that was pulled up during scarification.

We will take the horses off the meadow in late November and bring in the temporary fencing to protect it from the inevitable winter flooding. Lets hope some of this seed germinates and any that lies dormant has dug into the soil and can hold on in the next flood!

by Mike Hopkins

10 Sep 2023

Aftermath Grazing.

Aftermath grazing basically means putting animals on the meadow after the hay cut. In traditional meadows this is normally done with horses or cattle as they are selective grazers and will leave areas that are unpalatable, providing a habitat for other insects or invertebrates to live. Sheep can be used but they will nibble most plants down so the result is a less diverse landscape. The nutrients in the dung of the grazing animals is used to balance the fertility of the soil to suit the species in the meadow - this year we are taking the dung off the field to supress the grass and give wildflower seeds a chance to grow. The hooves of the animals also press the seed that has been dispersed through the haymaking process into the ground, providing good contact with the soil without burying the seed and blocking out the much needed light.

Fencing in horses is a problem on the meadow as temporary horse fences need to be installed and then removed if there is a threat of a flood - otherwise the fence will get washed away. The meadow and surrounding low lying land at Halford is liable to flooding at any time of year. A close watch on the weather forecast and river levels is essential to make sure we have time to decamp the horses and fencing if there is going to be a flood. You can't beat nature, but you can work with it!

by Mike Hopkins

14 Aug 2023

All round good yield!

Despite the rain in August we found a small weather window of four dry days to make hay. Thanks to Anthony Spencer for making the hay and Richard Spencer for helping to load it. We went for round bales this year as we are storing them outside under tarpaulin and they shed water better than square bales. We were slightly down on the yield of hay compared to last year but that is expected as we are not putting any nutrients into the soil in preparation for sowing the wildflower seed mix in the Autumn.

We also had a "Moth Night" on the meadow shortly after the hay cut. A group of moth recorders came to the meadow with their moth traps (big lights) and managed to record 60 different moth species. One of which, the White Point was extremely rare in the UK back in the 70's but is now common in Warwickshire after it is slowly moving north as temperatures increase over Europe. The moth recorders put this movement down to climate change. As we improve the species richness of the meadow, it will be interesting to see if there is any correlation with changes in the moth community.

by Mike Hopkins

19 Jul 2023

Some success!

Finally we are seeing a good variety of plant species appearing in the scrapes. This is the reward for all the effort that we have put in so far. Species such as ragged robin, common knapweed, tufted vetch, ox-eye daisy, ribwort plantain, marsh woundwort, greater birds-foot trefoil are some of the more prevalent species that like the conditions. It is interesting to see how some scrapes have done a lot better than others which shows how the growing conditions change in the different areas of the meadow, this could be good as it will provide a greater mosaic of habitats. It is very exciting to see this evolving and we are looking forward to establishing species richness in the wider meadow.

by Mike Hopkins

14 Jun 2023

Indicator Species Found in Halford Flood Meadow

It was a warm day in June when the Chairman of Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire - Michael Slater took a walk around Halford Flood meadow to carry out an annual butterfly survey. I thought I would go and catch up with him when he was half way round and as I approached he started waving his arms in excitment at me. "What is it?" I shouted from a distance, "be careful round there" he replied. Wondering what on earth Michael was talking about it was soon revealed to me that he had found a single pyramidal orchid (pictured) in the meadow! He said that it was a good sign for other meadow species as they like similar habitats to pyramidal orchids. So this is more hope that we can establish a species rich meadow in years to come.

The scrapes have been a little disappointing - having seeded them with a pond type seed mix, they actually produced about 1000 creeping thistles! Although creeping thistles have benefits to wildlife it was considered unwise to let them flower and seed as they would have a pernicious effect on the target which is a species rich meadow. Therefore each thistle was pulled out and removed off site.

by Mike Hopkins

11 May 2023

Biodiversity Units are now on sale to developers.

We are very pleased to announce that we have the Section 39 agreement signed between Warwickshire County Council and Storm Wildlife to manage Halford Flood Meadow as agreed for the next 30 years. This makes Halford Flood Meadow a Biodiversity Net Gain offset site and provides opportunities for developers to invest in Biodiversity Units (BU) to discharge their Biodiversity Net Gain planning conditions. Storm Wildlife have a solicitor ready to get transactions through, with the process taking approximately 4 weeks from engagement to sale. Buying BU at Halford Flood Meadow will give the developer the benefit of offsetting on a private site which employees can book for picnics/fishing/relaxing for the first few years after the transaction. Offsetting with Storm Wildlife also provides the website diary resource of the offset site, giving employees and residents of the development information, knowledge and a place to follow progress of their investment in nature.

Developers are welcome to reserve units in anticipation of their forthcoming needs and should call Mike Hopkins on 07919914834 to get a quote and find out more about discharging their BNG planning conditions.


by Mike Hopkins

27 Apr 2023

The ups and downs of managing a flood meadow

Finally we reached the engrossment stage of the environmental agreement (S39) between Warwickshire County Council and Storm Wildlife. Polly and I went into the solicitors and signed the agreement which commits us to manage the meadow as described in the management plan for the next 30 years. It has taken 20 months from the date of the first survey to reaching the point where we can start providing Biodiversity units to developers that need to meet thier biodiversity targets - this is a real milestone in the history of this meadow.

The scrapes were seeded (EM08 Wetland mix) in early March and also three test areas of Meadow mix in the open field areas. Unfortunately in early April the meadow flooded and it is thought that we probably lost the seed as it was washed away with the flood! It's a risky business sowing seed - you need it warm and wet so the seed germinates and sets down some roots, but too much rain and the river floods before germination resulting in seed being lost downstream. Hopefully downstream floodplains and river banks will benefit from the lost seed as some will find good conditions to establish on the Stour and Avon as the years go by. One good thing the floods brought was water to the new scrapes. The picture here shows how well the water held in the scrape - some scrapes held water for 3 weeks, others a matter of days, it will be intersting to see if this changes over time.

by Mike Hopkins

23 Mar 2023

Time for another soil test

Our big problem with soil nutrients is becoming smaller! On the baseline soil survey of the meadow (Dec 2021) we recorded areas of high phosphourus which is not good to establish a species rich grassland, which is our target habitat. In March 2023 we took soil samples in similar locations to the baseline measurements and found that on the whole phosphourus had declined to a point where only two out of the ten measurements now exceed the reccommended level whereas there were five excessive measurements at the baseline level. Nutrient stripping is achieved by cutting the foliage and taking it away and also restricting the inputs to the field by minimising grazing and ommitting any fertilizers. This is good news for Halford Flood Meadow as it looks like there is an opportunity to sow some seed (EM02 Meadow Mixture) in Autumn 2023.


by Mike Hopkins

27 Feb 2023

Dry February

In early February we established ten shallow scrapes in the low lying areas of the meadow. The scrapes were designed from the topographic survey and their purpose is to provide habitat for invertebrates and feeding areas for wading birds. During high rainfall periods the scrapes should collect water and retain it for a length of time. When the river overtops the spillway at the upstream end of the meadow, the scrapes will again fill with water. As the scrapes dry out, the muddy margins provide habitat for insects and invertebrates where birds can feed. When the weather gets a little warmer the scrapes will be sown with a wetland seed mix which tolerates being inundated with water. Each scrape has been recorded on PhotoMapp, which is an iPhone App which automatically creates photo documents of photographs using the metadata from your phone. The image on the right is one of the document outputs you can use (click to enlarge), Now we need rain!

BTW the S39 agreement still hasn't been agreed by WCC.

by Mike Hopkins

30 Jan 2023

Time for Action.

The agreement to make Halford Flood Meadow into a Biodiversity Offset site so that developers can replace and increase the biodiversity they have taken away with their development is still to be made. This is very frustrating but is understandable as it is a new process which needs a lot of thought. We are hopeful that we are very close to an agreement now.

Before we miss another window of nature to get things growing, we have put down some trial plots for spring seeding. This involves scarifying the ground to expose 50% bare soil and then sowing the seed on top and rolling or treading it in. The trial patches are in three different areas of the field to inform how the seed reacts to low and high nutrient soils. Seeding normally happens in the autumn but it is possible to sow seeds successfully in the early spring. Fritillary bulbs are also being planted in different areas of the field, their locations will be recorded to provide an indication of the best conditions for the plant to survive. It is very exciting to have made a start but the work can't start in earnest until the agreement is complete.

by Mike Hopkins