Path Improvements at Hawley Meadows

This week Jenny and I have been catching up with the contractors who are working at Hawley Meadows. This exciting project sees a surfaced path created from the north to the south, which tackles the common historic problem of muddy wintery paths on the floodplain. The paths mainly follow the route of the Blackwater Valley Path, which provides year round access on our own long-distance path.

There is a small diversion at the north end of the site around the wettest area, since following the river would mean we would have had to raise up the path in excess of that allowed for our Environment Agency flood consent. The improved Hawley Meadows Path Network, joins up with new pedestrian crossing and cycleway along the A331 (Blackwater Valley Road). Together they form the Better Connectivity Project which aims to encourage sustainable transport, such and cycling and walking, by opening up new routes along the Blackwater Valley.

The contractors have been hard at work completing most of the north half of Hawley Meadows. First the paths are excavated and wooden shuttering fixed in place. Then material is forded over the river to lay the sub-base. It’s great to see that the levelled spoil at the north end has already grown into new meadow. When all the paths are prepared, fibre-deck will be sprayed as a top dressing to provide a hard-wearing surface.

Freshly excavated path with shuttering

Path base laid and meadow regrowth

Fording the river to transport path material

I was out today with our large tractor mowing alternative paths that visitors can use whilst the works take place.

Mowing alternative path in the rain

It’s great to hear all the positive comments from visitors. A huge thank you is due to my predecessor Andrew Price, who’s hard work over the last 3 years has laid the vital foundation for this project. It’s fantastic to see that it’s finally taking shape.

Acting Senior Ranger Stuart

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Kennels Lane Meadow gets a Haircut!

On Tuesday 5th of September, our volunteers joined Bobbie and I at Kennels Lane Meadow for a spot of maintenance work. The aim of the day was to enhance the grassland habitat on the site.

The Tasks for the Day

Sections of birch, as well as some willow saplings, were removed due to encroachment. The area was also in need of a hay cut. Tony, Chris, and Mike were a fantastic help using the pedestrian mower to cut the grass. Once cut, it was then raked and dragged into hidden piles. These grass piles become fabulous little nests for wildlife on the site. Check out the images below for some before and after shots.

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The Biodiversity of Kennels Lane Meadow

When Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership first inherited the site some 20 odd years ago, it was dominated by scrub with a few patches of grassland. Since then, we here at the partnership along with our hard-working volunteers, have done well to increase the size of this little meadow along with its biodiversity.

Wildflowers thrive in nutrient poor soil. By hay cutting the site, we are able to remove the nutrients provided by grass. This, in turn, encourages the growth of wildflowers as opposed to the usually dominant grasses and scrub.


Abundant on site are butterflies and frogs. On the day, we were also lucky enough to spot a juvenile Common Toad as well as a male adult Common Lizard! Tricky little things to see, let alone photograph!imageedit_1_2339854076

If you are interested in the bigger picture regarding our works at Kennels Lane Meadow, please check out this previous article with imagery from back in 2011.

Once again, thank you to everyone who came out to help with the task. Your work is greatly appreciated.

Acting Ranger Jenny

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Telephone Issues at Ash Lock

Please be aware that we are currently having issues with our landline.  Please email us if you need to get in contact.  If urgent please ring 07701 020667 which is now the emergency office number until the issue is resolved.

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Lone Ranger – Covebrook Southwood Meadows Task

On Thursday the 31st I had the joy of leading my first task ALONE !!!!

In the near future, our big Massey tractor will be on its way to the Covebrook for its yearly hay cut, unfortunately access to the meadow was restricted by many Willow and Oak branches.


But with such a great team it was light work that was done before tea time.


Stuart and I had fun with the robomower here on the 24th. It was very useful for cutting the path on the wet ground.

Me steering the Robo-flail around the rushes

However, the robo-flail is no match to our volunteers who cleared the branches and cut back hedges to make the path easily accessible. In fact they did it so quick I didn’t get a chance to get a before picture.


With all jobs completed we wandered through the woods for a good litter pick and path cut all before the storm came in.

Thank you ever so much Paul, Janet, John and (Meticulous) Mike, I couldn’t ask for a better team to lead my first solo task.

Assistant Ranger Bobbie

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Volunteers tackle Blackwater Reach

On Tuesday the volunteers joined Sam and I at Blackwater Reach to hay cut the SSSI meadows, following on from our bramble clearance with a robo-flail the week before. The volunteers did a fantastic job in the heat, cutting back paths and scrub to let light into the reclaimed grassland gap between the two meadows.

Hay cutting Blackwater Reach

Thank you to everyone for all their help.

Acting Senior Ranger Stuart

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BV Trust’s Farnborough Airfield Walk

On a bright but breezy morning on saturday eighteen of us met at the Cody Sports and Social club off the Fleet road for the start of the Trust’s longest walk for a while. 

This was to be a just under ten mile route starting off by the old RAE establishment perimeter fence which we followed to the Basingstoke Canal. We continued along the towpath for a couple of miles and on the way had views over Eelmoor marshes and checked out a secret viewing spot at the runway end, before leaving the canal to explore the new paths created by the BV team through Wharf Copse. We rejoined the canal to watch many young children being given a kayaking lesson amid much splashing and shrieking! 

Turning north we headed up the quiet Shoe Lane past the Army golf course, pausing briefly to view the grave of five heroic horses. We then entered the airfield site, this is always a bit of a nostalgic trip for me and I hope I didn’t bore everyone too much with my tales of the black sheds, the 5m wind tunnel and restored balloon shed outline. 


Leaving the airfield we continued into Southwood meadows and stopped for tea and cake on a bridge over the Cove Brook. After this we crossed the golf course and on to Southwood Woodland, another area managed by the BV staff and volunteers. Crossing Kennels Lane we followed tracks through the woods stopping to investigate the old concrete structures showing evidence of much army activity and gunfire. We next turned towards and followed the perimeter fence of the old NGTE establishment. After going through a tunnel under the Ively road this took us back to enter the sports field near the old gardening club.

I think a couple of our walkers had been a bit wary of taking on a walk of this distance but we all managed ok despite a few aches and pains. Many thanks to everyone who accompanied me on this event and especially thank you to Marilyn and Angus for the refreshments, despite the wheelbarrow tipping over en route, grumpy neighbours and negotiating broken bridges!


Walk Leader Paul

More pictures of the walk can be found here


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Reaching new meadows in Blackwater

Last week Sam and I headed over to Blackwater Reach between Sandhurst Memorial Park and the River Blackwater. These two meadows are SSSIs (sites of special scientific interest) due to their grassland flora species. To supplement our annual hay cutting with volunteers, we’ve also been tackling the encroaching bramble and scrub which is reducing the area of these special meadows.

Over the last few years a bank of bramble has become established to divide the two meadows. So once we placed warning signs and with Sam watching out as banks man, I could get to work with the remote controlled flail we had on hire. The machine took a while to gently get the hang of, but it quickly proved it’s mettle clearing bramble and weaving around old tree stumps. It’s also far safer than rangers or volunteers getting tangled in the bramble to cut it back.

Blackwater Reach view 1 bramble

Blackwater Reach view 1 meadow

Once we’d checked for stumps we used it to repeatedly nibble at the blocks of bramble.

Blackwater Reach view 2 bramble

Blackwater Reach view 2 meadow

Clearing the remaining scrub islands and mulching the stems, finally cleared the view through to the second meadow.

Blackwater Reach view 3 bramble

Blackwater Reach view 3 meadow

Thank you to Sam for his help keeping watch.

Acting Senior Ranger Stuart

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