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Raising awareness of the importance of the Wylye watermeadows

Wylye Valley Watermeadows designed critical ecological and worth preserving in a changing climate.

With generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Wiltshire Council the project will raise public awareness of the historical and environmental significance of the watermeadows of the Wylye Valley,
hopefully leading to archaeological investigations as a second phase.

Watermeadows are an important and historic part of the English landscape that could be of great benefit to us again.

A watermeadow is land by a river that has been altered to allow water to flow over it in a controlled manner for the purpose of increasing grass growth. They were created in the 17th century and at their peak, extended across the river valleys of most of southern and eastern England. Those in southern England utilised the relatively warm spring-fed rivers that emerged from the chalk and limestone bedrock to nourish and protect grass from frost in winter, accelerating its growth significantly and increasing agricultural production and wealth. They also filtered the river water and controlled winter flooding.

The artificial channels, earthworks and control structures created hundreds of years ago are still visible across the river valleys of most of southern England and some survive in an operable condition. Everyone who spends time alongside our rivers – anglers, canoeists, wildlife enthusiasts, gardeners or just walkers - dwells amongst the remains of one of the engineering wonders of the ancient world.

The historically and ecologically unique watermeadow systems of the Wylye Valley in Wiltshire are the subject of an historical research and public awareness project financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Wiltshire Council, undertaken by The National Archaeology Centre. This is, hopefully, the first of a multi-stage project that will investigate the historical and ecological significance of watermeadows and their archaeological complexity. The results of the first stage have been presented in a series of lectures and magazine articles and in this interactive that has been distributed free-of-charge.

It is hoped that, through better public understanding of the significance and potential of our watermeadows, we might be able to preserve those that remain and possibly use some of them again to control pollution and flooding.

Michael Heaton
The National Archaeology Centre

Anyone who would like to know more about the project please contact Mike on watermeadows@hotmail.com

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