20 Sep 2010

Areas of wet and marshy grassland habitat in Northamptonshire have significantly declined over the last few decades with less than 5% now remaining. Barnes Meadow Local Nature Reserve has for many years been a much underused area of green space lying on the floodplain of the River Nene at the southern edge of Northampton. The low-lying fields have been managed as hay meadows and as a result of their dry nature the biodiversity value of the fields is extremely low. Public access is encouraged onto these meadows. The area was targeted for the creation of wet and marshy grassland to help reverse the decline in associated species with this habitat type, especially wading birds for which the County is of national importance. Creating such Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS) is a far more environmentally effective way of managing such floodplain areas/ creating flood retention schemes.

View of a wetland scrape at Barnes Meadow
View of Northampton Town Centre from Barnes Meadow Silhouette of reeds at barnes meadow

Under the banner of the River Nene Regional Park the Wildlife Trust for Northamptonshire was awarded funding from the Growth Area Fund to initiate this project which has created an impressive wildlife and community resource.

Swan on the River Nene at Barnes Meadow

The project aim has been to improve the biodiversity value of the Local Nature Reserve by transforming the fields into a complex of permanent pools and seasonally wet scrapes, which are proving particularly attractive to wading birds and invertebrates including dragonflies. Access improvements have been carried out providing attractive community greenspace within walking distance of Northampton town centre and surrounding housing and commercial development.

The project area also lies within the boundary of the site of the 15th century battlefield of Northampton, which took place on the 10th of July 1460, as part of the Wars of the Roses. The battlefield is of national importance and so the works have been designed sympathetically to the existing heritage value. The project has also involved an investigation into the battle of Northampton and interpretative information has been provided to encourage a greater appreciation of the historic and wildlife assets of the area. The project builds on works previously carried out by the Environment Agency which showed that attractive wetland areas can be created relatively easily in this area.

Further Environment Agency funded work has included safety works on the large willows close to the Nene to ensure that high winds do not blow over the stems resulting in the destruction of the trees.