About 100 people were at this two-day national conference (held in the Gloucestershire section of the Cotswold Water Park), including academics, community groups, statutory agencies, and wildlife organisations. GNS sponsored and was represented by Mike Smart and Juliet Bailey who have a long-standing interest in the flood meadows of the Severn Hams. We were taken to jewel sites just in Wiltshire– North Meadow at Cricklade and Clattinger Farm near Somerford Keynes, too late to see the Fritillaries in flower, though the orchids at Clattinger were knock-out. Back at base there were nine talks on the themes “Ecosystem Services of floodplain meadows” (meaning what floodplains can do for us), and the reverse – “What we can do for floodplains”. All this was interspersed with copious good food and chat with names put to faces, new links forged, and individual in-depth discussion. The Floodplain Meadows Partnership who organised the event, has a well-illustrated website with all sorts of useful information on the wildlife, history and management of these rare and amazing places. See http://www.floodplainmeadows.org.uk/
Additional thoughts from a non-botanist:
Having spent many years looking at the birds of hay meadows along the Severn and Avon, I have gradually come to realise the importance of understanding the botany (and also the soils) of floodplain meadows. These floodplain sites on the Cotswold dipslope are so different from the meadows in the Severn and Avon: I would hardly have recognised Clattinger Farm as a flood meadow, so different (and drier!) is it from sites like the Great Hay Meadow at Twyning, or the meadows along the River Chelt. For years we have been arguing on how the Gloucestershire flood meadows fit into the National Vegetation Classification (NVC), developed by Prof John Rodwell; and there was the great man in the flesh, presenting a fascinating lecture, not on the botanical intricacies of these meadows, but on their history, beauty and aesthetic value, with quotes from Henry V to show that Shakespeare too knew perfectly well what a flood meadow was. And in addition, other experts explained that Mesotrophic Grasslands of the MG4 category are now split into four different subgroups, of which North Meadow is the driest with the widest floral richness, while those in the Severn are in the wettest subgroup, less rich botanically, but no less interesting. A really rewarding session!
Mike Smart, a mere birdwatcher