Halford Flood Meadow History
Halford flood meadow is located on the River Stour at Halford in Warwickshire. The meadow is part of an island which is formed as the river bifurcates upstream of the meadow into two channels, a mill leat and the main river. The flood meadow is five hectares and is a functioning flood plain which is inundated with water at least two or three times a year making it difficult to sow and manage winter or spring crops.
It is not known for this particular meadow but in Neolithic times (c. 4000 to 2500 BC) the river valley would almost certainly have been woodland but the cultivation of land in the Iron Age (c.800 BC-50 AD) and Roman period (c. 50-410 AD) in the upper reaches of rivers would have created an increase in sediment and nutrients in the water which deposited on the floodplains further downstream during "out of bank" flows. Over time the silt deposition on the land filled in depressions and provided flat areas of rich soil. Once the woodland had been cleared in the middle and lower reaches of the river, mire vegetation would have moved in. Around 1000 years ago a regime of mowing and grazing of the floodplain would have occurred to produce a cycle of nutrients being pulled out and put back into the soil. This management technique also suppressed some of the more competitive and unpalatable species like thistles and docks which were unwanted in the hay that was produced each year to keep the livestock fed during the barren winter months.
In recent years a variety of crops have been grown on the meadow (maize, barley and wheat) but more recently it has been used to produce silage for cattle fodder. To get multiple cuts a year a nitrogen fertilizer has been applied to maximise the efficiency of the grass. As a result of this land management strategy there is a low biodiversity value to the meadow.
Surrounding the meadow is 1.4km of the River Stour in its middle-course. Unfortunately, in the 1980s a regime of dredging has caused the river channel to become incised in this location, thus disconnecting it from the floodplain in all but extreme rainfall events. By changing the dynamics of the river channel during this period of dredging has caused some of the habitats and species to have been lost.