Building on our success of creating wetland habitats along the Blackwater Valley, we are currently investigating the options for flooding Hawley Meadows. This floodplain just north of the M3 often floods over the winter, providing both storage of flood waters to reduce peak flow downstream, and forms a valuable wet grassland habitat for wildflowers.
Together with our partners, one of the ideas we’re looking at is simply damming the Blackwater River at the north end of the site, just south of the A30. This will substantially reduce flow downstream towards Finchampstead and at the confluence with the River Loddon at Eversley. However the habitat improvements at Hawley Meadows could be dramatic, attracting notable wading birds such as dunlin and ruff.
The Blackwater Valley Path which is also a public footpath through Hawley Meadows would need to be kept open. So one option is to set up a line of floating pontoons anchored on posts, so the path surface would rise and fall with the water level. Alternatively we could construct a 6ft high raised boardwalk, with a simple chain ferry staffed by volunteers over the deepest patch near the dam.
We will shortly set up the public consultation for this exciting project, and review the options exactly one year from now on April Fool’s Day 2017.