15 new seasonal and permanent ponds and wetland pools across 0.64 hectacres
Combination of nature conservation and food production within an actively farmed setting
Examplar of partnership work, attracting a visit from government minister Rebecca Pow
The project was made possible by working in partnership with Freshwater Habitats Trust and the Environment Agency to design and deliver the new wetland on the ground.
The project was also made possible through the support of the landowner and local farmer Rose Dale, who runs the 220-acre organic farm in Chearsley where the project was built. This project was funded through Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund and through our Environment Agency funded Engaging with Farmers project.
This site has become another stepping stone for wildlife along the River Thame floodplain corridor, leading on from our first wetland project at Eythrope.
The farm now holds 15 new seasonal and permanent ponds and a backwater channel connected to the River Thame which supports a diverse array of plants and animals.
Each new waterbody has a long ‘drawdown zone’ – the area which gradually dries out through the summer. This marshy habitat is the most diverse part of the ponds and supports water plants, insects as well as larger animals, including otters and wading birds.
The project also features a backwater, a shallow channel connected to the main river, which provides shelter and nursery grounds for fish.
In a catchment where the rivers have been historically straightened & dredged leading to poor habitat diversity, constructing a backwater is a way of returning a crucial habitat type to the landscape. Backwaters provide important refuge to fish during high flow conditions which are increasingly occuring due to climate change.
Bordered by the River Thame and one of its tributaries, Chearsley Brook, Manor Farm has been in Rose Dale’s family since 1969.
Rose seeks to farm regeneratively, rearing pasture-fed beef and lamb. Rose is an active member of the Thame Catchment Farm Cluster which brings together farmers and land managers with the aim of increasing collaborative working to the benefit of both farm practices and the environment.
The project will also provide benefits for the farm and its livestock, including drinking water and more green forage for cattle during dry weather.
The grazing from Rose’s cattle and sheep will ‘rough up’ the floodplain which will also hold more water back on the floodplain when the river is in flood. The presence of organically farmed livestock at low densities bring additional ecological benefits from grazing, poaching and addition of organic material from dung.
The site has excellent potential as a national best-practice demonstration site for floodplain wetland restoration and how wetland restoration can be incorperated into a farmed setting.
The farm has become an exemplary site for how food production, environmental protection and wildlife enhancement can co-exist. We have led tours for local farmers, environmental charities and funders. The project benefits from Defra minister, Rebecco Pow MP, enabling us to showcase our work and discuss wider water and environmental issues within her remit.
Our Partners & Suppliers: Fresh Water Habitats Trust and White Horse Contractors
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