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Restoration Protected by vwp15099


									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

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
   our current                                c) Protecting Water Voles and vole habitat in the Tale Valley
                                              d) Helping local businesses and the unemployed
     projects.                                e) Developing community arts projects in the area                                                   o
                                              Please feel free to suggest new projects which will benefit the Valley.
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  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
                                                                                                     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

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