21 May 2012
Water has been released on to the Water meadow at the Wicksteed Park Nature Reserve for the first time in at least 100 years. Over 550m of the main water channels have been dug out by volunteers since December 2010 while a further 900m of the smaller channels were ploughed out by tractor in 2011. Since then with the county being in drought the river level has never been high enough to feed water on to the Water meadow. After the rain of the last three weeks the river level was finally high enough for the sluice to be opened on Thursday lunchtime. The ditches were all filled and the water control systems were working well before the river level fell back to below the required height. But by Monday morning the level was up again and the water channels across the water meadow we full and water was spreading over the meadow for the first time in living memory.
Now that the ditch systems are full of water the specialist wetland plants should now have sufficient moisture to thrive. Several large stands of Marsh marigold are in flower at the moment, with Cuckoo flower also coming into flower. Now the coarser tall vegetation is not dominant specialist wetland plants such as Meadowsweet and Great burnet are also in evidence. The project led by Dr Robin Field, the Revital-ISE Project Manager and Jane Pearman, Reserves Manager for the Wildlife Trust has also cleared scrub from the site, cut the meadow several times, created a riverside path and fenced part of the site. Only jobs left to complete are to finish the fencing and put up the interpretation panel then grazing can resume.
The Wildlife Trust is managing the site as one of their Northamptonshire nature reserves. Jane Pearman, Reserves Manager said 'The Water Meadow is such a rare habitat so this is a fabulous opportunity to be able to restore and improve it for wildlife.' This type of habitat is rare in the midlands and this is the only working water meadow in Northamptonshire.