Restoration Protected The Trust have protected an historic feature in the Tale Valley near Clapperentale Farm. “Leat 2” as it is known on archaeological plans is the main water channel that feeds the Lower Tale water meadow system. The Trust have repaired some of the Victorian brick sluice gates and are investigating nearby springs and land drains to see if they can fill the leat system with water without having to build eight hundred metres of culvert. Once the Trust have solved the water delivery system they will be able to start the next phase of the project to recre- ate a bedwork water meadow system in exactly the same way it was built over two hundred years ago. The ambition is to hold working dem- onstrations of this traditional meadow management system and run the only working water meadow system in Devon. At one time every river valley in the county had water meadows, which were “drowned” each winter and spring to promote grass growth. With the agri- cultural revolution this practice died out and the wildlife benefits of this gentle technique went with it. These days green monocultures predominate the Devon landscape, with prolific grass production fuelled by inorganic fertilisers. The Trust does not want to take agriculture back in time but would like to retain working examples of the practices that made the Tale Valley the beautiful A new electric fence protects the repaired sluice and leat system from the place it is today. unwanted attention of cattle. This winter we will see if local springs and land drains can fill the header leat saving the Trust several thousand pounds of restoration expenditure. Tale Valley Trust Questionnaire We are raising Please prioritise these areas of work from 1 as the most important, down to 5 as the least important and return with a donation to the Trust office. funds for a) Restoring the Tale Water Meadows b) Environmental education for local children o o our current c) Protecting Water Voles and vole habitat in the Tale Valley d) Helping local businesses and the unemployed o o projects. e) Developing community arts projects in the area o Please feel free to suggest new projects which will benefit the Valley. Please send Your Name Telephone us a donation. Address Email / Fax Your name will be added to our database to receive news of the Tale Valley Trust, its events and activities. Could we restore Devon’s firs We do not believe there is an example of a working bed-work water meadow system in Devon. If we restore one small area of water meadow in the Tale Valley and can find a team of volunteers to manage it a couple of times a year we may have the only working example of this once commonplace winter activity! Water meadows were once In the water meadow itself the widespread across the country. Every archaeologists exposed a trench and stream and river system in agricultural discovered a few remains of the land was once harnessed for water original water meadow construction but power and as a source of valuable found that much of the site had been nutrients and warmth to promote grass disturbed by later drainage and growth. ploughing. The winter task of “drowning” The use of a mechanical digger for a meadows to increase temperature and day was donated by Nick Spence to fertility meant that there was a “early help with the excavations. We are bite” for stock in the spring. This indebted to him and to the local farmer, process was sometimes used to Mr Collin Gibbins, who let us dig freshen a summer pasture to produce Trench 1 in the corner of his potato a better hay crop. field, the site of the original leat which fed water to this extensive meadow “. . . this traditional, system. labour intensive practice Clearly visible in the wall of trench 1 has died out . . .” were layers of deposition of sediment. With the modernisation of agriculture A digger loaned by Nick Spence The pungent smell of rotting vegetation and the relativly cheap inorganic exposing the original leat in the demonstrated that even after many fertilisers available, this traditional, corner of Collin Gibbins’ potato field. years buried four foot underground the labour intensive practice has died out. evidence of the water channel was unmistakeable. A simple revetement The Tale Valley has examples of both structure on the downhill side of the The two main water meadow systems catchwork and bed-work meadow leat showed how millers or water were “catchwork meadows” where you systems. The Trustees are currently meadow managers re-used old timber poured water from a stream or leat investigating the feasability of restoring floor boards to line the leat. Perhaps to evenly down a hillside to cover the a small area to working order. combat natural erosion or the meadow in a thin layer of water and “bedwork meadows” where water unwelcome hooves of grazing cattle. channels were cut into a level meadow to provide a water source and exit route to regulate the flow. Tim and Cedric from the Exeter Archaeology Unit exposing a timber retaining feature marking the northern (down hill) edge of the leat in Trench 1. The general condition of Alan Bruford, the Tale Valley Education Ranger, coordinated a team of young this timber work suggested it was a people to help with the excavations. During the three days of the dig several simple erosion control measure volunteers came to help and a number of enthusiasts visitied to look at the perhaps using old floor boards. work and share their experiences of water meadows and their management. st “bed-work” water meadow? 3 separate water drainage All hands on deck - John Hickey, our systems visible in trench 2. river advisor, volunteered a day in the sun to help with trench2. The “carriers” which fed water along the tops of the ridges seem to have been destroyed by later ploughing - no evidence of these channels could be found. There is however evidence of three separate water drainage systems in the field. In the vicinity of the water meadow “tail drains” you can also see two more recent water drainage features; a simple stone drain to one side and a victorian clay pipe drainage system tom the other side. Once the water meadow had severed its useful Sketched by Exeter Archaeology Unit purpose, farmers ploughed and drained these fields until almost all Carrier Tail Drain evidence of their former management had disappeared. Sketched by Lizzie Bishop We are extremely grateful to the Local Heritage Initiative who have funded the initial investigations and to Frances Griffiths, Martin Watts, David Brown, Tom Williamson, Museum of English Rural Life and Exeter Archaeology for their invaluable assistance. Cross section of leat showing sedimentation layers and simple revetments on downhill side of channel.
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