Maintaining the meadows

We're launching a programme to care for the meads and riverside, encouraging diversity by protecting delicate species.

By Tim Hitchens

Those of you who cross over the Wolfson bridge may know that the College owns ancient meads across the Cherwell river which are a site of special scientific interest (SSI). They have been managed in the same way for over 500 years. The meads are second only to peat bogs as the landscape which sequesters the most carbon from the atmosphere.

Over the last twenty years or so the College has not been able to find the funds to manage the willows along the river bank properly. They have grown too big, and their roots and branches are encroaching into the river and onto the meadows, endangering more delicate species and posing potential risks to passersby. But we are delighted that, thanks to a generous five year grant from the Aspen Trust, we're launching a programme to bring the meads and riverside back to their proper standards.

Work begins with pollarding the willow trees along the river bank. For non-specialists, that involves cutting the trees back sharply, allowing smaller and less invasive branches to grow back, and to ensure the presence of willows in this ancient meadow is sustainable. Please be reassured, we are not cutting the trees down; we are protecting an ancient landscape!