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Halford Flood Meadow Diary (click images to enlarge)

1 Nov 2022

Halford Flood Meadow features in Seville Conference.

Halford Flood Meadow featured in The Council of European Surveyors conference in Seville, Spain on 27th October. Mike Hopkins, director of Storm Wildlife and a Member of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors was asked to present at the conference in the "Blue Surveying" session. Mike had recently written an article in the Civil Engineering Surveyor publication titled "Why the geospatial profession is critical to saving planet Earth" and the presentation was centered around the vital points made in the article. Although Mike wasn't able to be there in person, he sent on a video which was played in the Blue Surveying session which can be watched on YouTube via the link here:

https://youtu.be/Kgp3RtMkMAU

by Mike Hopkins

22 Sep 2022

Making way for orchards.

It would be great to start planting the orchards this autumn/winter. One of the three orchard areas was cleared in September in preparation for harrowing and seeding.  I have been told by the Environment Agency that there are restrictions on planting trees within 8m of the top of the riverbank unless we apply for land drainage consent, this limits the space we have within some of the tight bends of the river where two of the orchards are planned.  An orchard is defined as a minimum of five trees together and the spacing of our trees will need to be 10m as they are on a standard rootstock (big trees!). Initially the plan is to plant whichever fruit trees are available and then fill in later with trees that are a rare species which will add to the biodiversity of the meadow.

by Mike Hopkins

4 Aug 2022

Purple-loosestrife

I can't be entirely sure that our wetland seed planting back in April is producing the wildflower purple-loosestrife in abundance but there is certainly more around this summer than I have seen before. It is great to see something battling back against the nettles with their magenta spears conquering some ground on the river bank. This is an invaluable source of food for long-tongued insects like elephant hawk-moths, so we will be looking out for those around the river.

Since the hay cut we have put 100 weaned lambs on the meadow - only for six weeks just to keep the grass down before preparing the meadow for seeding. We are still waiting for the important Section 39 agreement to be reviewed by Warwickshire County Council before we can firmly commit to our 30 year management plan. September and October will be busy months in the meadow with seeding and tree planting but we must have the agreement signed before we can make the investment. Watch this space!

by Mike Hopkins

30 Jun 2022

Making Hay

We had four days of hot weather that started on 23rd June so thanks to a great team of local farming friends we managed to make hay. This has two purposes - the no.1 reason is to strip nutrients out of the soil (which are drawn out by the grasses and then taken away as hay) and no. 2 to provide a quantity of hay that is enough to pay for the cost of the harvest as a minimum. We were lucky that we made this cut and got reasonable hay made as it started raining as we were carting it off the field. 192 bales (4 string) were made and we expect this yield to diminish over time as the soil nutrients reduce. The photo shows just three of those bales on the back of my 1962 Fordson Super Major so you can imagine how much storage is required for the remaining 189!

 

by Mike Hopkins

20 Apr 2022

Sowing the seed!

We have been trialing some UK wetland seed mix in the very margins of the River Stour around Halford Flood Meadow. At current river levels the dominant vegetation in 95%  of the bank faces is nettles - which is great for caterpillars and butterflies. We are taking small steps to introduce different UK wetland plant species to provide a richer habitat within the riparian zone. This will attract more birds and insects near to the water and a better riverine ecosystem for existing fish and invertebrates and any new species that want to move in. It's an experiment and we will soon see what level of success is achieved. We will be monitoring this and we'll report back in our future diary entries.

It is likely that we will sow spring barley in some areas of the meadow soon. This is known as a catch crop which will draw excess phosphorus out of the soil in an effort to take the nutrient levels down to a point which is tolerable for a species rich meadow. It is well known that species rich meadows are very difficult to establish so we need to follow the management plan for the soil preparation to give the meadow the best chance of success.

by Mike Hopkins

20 Jan 2022

The time is now!

We submitted our flood meadow management document to Warwickshire County Council just before Christmas. The document was well received and there have been one or two clarifications made about the type of vegetation to be established and how it will be managed. We are now in the coldest part of our winter so far and we are looking forward to getting the green light on our designs so we can move forward in February with some initial preparation. We feel we are close to getting approval and moving forward with this so we can make a difference to our local environment and beyond.

by Mike Hopkins

19 Nov 2021

Considering the Flood Meadow Management Plan

We have received the thirty year draft management plan for Halford Flood Meadow. The 158 page document is comprehensive and details a mosaic of vegetated ground coverings and management strategies for them to thrive. We have shared this with our neighbour downstream and talked about the soil conditions and logistics of managing the meadow to achieve a good condition. He sent me a photo of Halford Bridge during the peak of the July 2007 flood event which certainly helps in the consideration of how we establish and manage the desired mosaic of vegetation.  You can see the destructive nature of the river at these high flows, this flood washed the parapet of the bridge away as the river overtopped it, turning the bridge into a weir. With the temperatures rising owing to climate change, the warmer air holds more moisture and therefore produces higher rainfall events, so although the 2007 flood was extreme, as long as the temperature of our atmosphere rises, the annual probability of events like this become greater.

by Mike Hopkins

18 Oct 2021

Fish live in trees too!

Downstream of Halford Bridge (old bridge) there are willow trees that have come down into the river. It seems like the right thing to do to remove them, but this is not the case. Unless the trees pose a flood risk then it is better for the health of the river if you leave them in place. We have some substantial trees down at the moment and these were assessed on site by the Environment Agency Flood Risk Officer in September who consulted with colleagues. Between them they have said that the trees don't create an increased flood risk as they are downstream of the bridge and adjacent to a functional flood plain. They said that the longer we leave the wood in the river the better for biodiversity.  The trees are also hinged from the fixed landward trunk so there is little chance of the trees becoming mobilised in a flood and causing problems downstream. You can find out more from a really good Wildlife Trust document called "Fish live in trees too", it's worth a search on Google!

by Mike Hopkins

14 Oct 2021

Full House at the Village Hall.

Mike and Polly Hopkins gave a talk to a full house at Halford Village Hall last night. The LEO club (Ladies Evening Out) invited them to do a talk about their plans for Halford Flood Meadow. Polly started by providing the background to the acquisition of the flood meadow and Mike went into the reasoning behind choosing biodiversity as the leading factor for the proposed land use and then explaining the risks and challenges that lie ahead. Sharon Alexander from the club thanked Mike and Polly for an interesting talk and wished them every success in the regeneration of Halford Flood Meadow.

by Mike Hopkins

15 Sep 2021

Environment Agency initial approval in principal.

Today we had a visit from two Environment Agency (EA) officers Vicki Liu and Tracy Doherty to look at potential gains in biodiversity and flood alleviation on Halford Flood Meadow. Dr Nick Stegall from Middlemarch Environmental was also present to collaborate on the many different exciting design proposals that the flood meadow presents. The Environment Agency officers were extremely helpful and supportive of plans to reconnect the river to the floodplain and create a more biodiverse habitat within both the river channel and floodplain. The words incised and over deep were used many times when referring to the channel shape which means that the river doesn't have many opportunities to use its floodplain and therefore the energy of the river is causing vertical erosion of the bed, lowering it and disconnecting it further from the floodplain. If the floodplain was more connected the river would spill out more often taking pressure off the river channel and therefore allowing habitats to form through natural processes. Thanks to the EA and Middlemarch for this time today, it was insightful, encouraging and very exciting to know that we can make a difference to this part of the River Stour and contribute to the wider goal of reversing climate change.

by Mike Hopkins

13 Aug 2021

Initial results from topographic survey.

It is very clear that the flood meadow isn't flat! The accurate topographic survey clearly shows the low channels in blue where the main flow across the meadow occurs once the river overtops. It is also noted that the banks around the upstream end of the meadow are raised which prevents the floodplain becoming functional until later on in a high rainfall event. This very valuable topographical survey will be used to make decisions on the best way to manage the meadow for an uplift in biodiversity and provide a reduction in flood risk.

by Mike Hopkins

9 Aug 2021

Detailed Topographic Survey

Storm Geomatics is a surveying company that focusses on capturing geospatial data in and around water. The data is mostly used to inform flood mapping projects and environmental studies however it has been used for a multitude of other interesting and watery projects too! Storm Geomatics threw all available resources on the regeneration project and coordinated a magnificent team effort to get the five hectare flood meadow surveyed in 2 hours flat! The survey results will provide a detailed floodplain map showing flow paths and spill points as well as the legacy embankments made up of dredging's from the 1980s. By understanding how the floodplain functions will help inform the best management plan for biodiversity across the meadow. Storm Geomatics will continue to support Storm Wildlife and will be measuring the river channel, bridges and flood tunnels in the area to add to the flood meadow data and create a hydraulic model of the immediate river catchment. The model is then used to experiment with potential changes to the embankments and management of the meadow to produce the optimum outcome for an increase in biodiversity and flood alleviation.

by Mike Hopkins

4 Aug 2021

Habitat Assessment.

Part of the baseline survey requires a habitat assessment which is scored by sampling small areas of the field and identifying different vegetation species within the sample. By creating a species rich grassland will provide a more diverse habitat for a wider range of living things to thrive and multiply. A senior ecologist from Middlemarch Environmental carefully analysed the sample plots and found an average of 6 species per sample with common species being rye and timothy grasses, dandelion and dock. It will be a few weeks before the full report is available and the ecologists have enough survey information to calculate the baseline biodiversity value of the site. Once this is available we will be in a better position to decide how we can create an uplift in the biodiversity of the meadow. A species rich grassland would have more than 15 plant species per square meter with more than 30% cover of wildflower and sedges. Could this be our target for the meadow and what is the best way to achieve this? Hopefully all will be revealed soon!

by Mike Hopkins

3 Aug 2021

The surveys begin!

Today we are looking at the soil structure and nutrient levels in different areas of the meadow. This could inform us that we need to manage different parts of the meadow in different ways to achieve better biodiversity and flood alleviation. We are finding that soil depths vary in relation to the overland flow paths - interesting! These surveys and many more will all be used to create a management plan that will maximise biodiversity and have the greatest benefit to flood alleviation.

by Mike Hopkins

21 Jul 2021

Middlemarch Environmental Appointed

We have appointed Middlemarch Environmental to carry out a habitat condition assessment, biodiversity offset strategy and management plan for the meadow. This will inform us of where our starting point is with biodiversity on the site and the potential uplift we can achieve and what we would need to do in order to reach the desired target condition. Ecologists will use an equation called the Biodiversity Impact Assessment Metric which will score the site in “biodiversity units”. The uplift in biodiversity units for the meadow will be predicted against different management styles that are appropriate to the ground conditions. What will the advice be? Grassland, wildflowers, wetland, woods or a mixture?

by Mike Hopkins

11 Jun 2021

Storm Wildlife have purchased Halford Flood Meadow

Today Storm Wildlife have purchased Halford Flood Meadow. We thank everyone involved that has supported us to reach this goal and now we must start our mission to create a significant uplift in biodiversity over the meadow.

by Mike Hopkins