Our course started with a welcome from our Cricklade Court Leet Town Crier Eric. We were delighted to have David Gowing as our tutor. David is the Professor of Botany at the Open University and director of the Floodplain Meadows Partnership. He has carried out research on North Meadow for 30 years.
David had prepared a fascinating presentation for us covering many aspects of floodplains with his deep insight into how they work and why this creates such species rich plant communities. We were surprised to learn floodplain meadow soil stores huge amounts of carbon. One hectare of floodplain meadow stores 100 tons of carbon in the top 100mm of soil. David explained that research had shown we need to value the role of floodplains much more. Floodplains compare very favourably with peat bogs and woodland which receive so much attention. This has led to tree planting on floodplains which actually releases carbon!
Many floodplain meadow plants are deep rooted as the above diagram shows (see explanation). His presentation generated many questions which David answered very fully with yet more new and interesting information.
After a very enjoyable morning we set of to North Meadow to have our lunch, stopping on the way to discuss the plant communities in the central drainage channel.
Next we looked at some of the plants characteristic of a floodplain meadow which are found on North Meadow.
We then headed to one of the most species rich areas of North Meadow and after splitting into groups attempted to identify as many plant species as possible with occasional help from David. We found the grasses challenging!
David explained the importance of soil structure in the morning session and used his augur to show us a soil core sample. We looked at the composition of the soil to a depth of about 80cm down to the gravel aquifer layer.
We headed back along the opposite side of the meadow. On the way we stopped to look at one of the dipwells used to monitor the water depth on the meadow at 6 hour intervals. Dipwells provide important data used to model meadow hydrology for the many research projects carried out by the Floodplain Meadows Partnership.
Our final stop was in Priors Ham a restoration meadow adjacent to North meadow. David and Anita explained the restoration process which has been informed by David’s work. Much of this advice is available in the Floodplain Meadows Technical Handbook.
We ended our fantastic content filled day back at the Jenner Hall. We must thank David for such a brilliant course which everyone really enjoyed as can be seen from some of the many positive feedback comments below:
“Well organised, friendly atmosphere – an excellent introduction to floodplain meadows. Has helped me to appreciate my local context and do more to support it. Thank you very much!”
“It was a really well structured day with context set by the talk , a lovely walk plus lots of helpful instruction in plant identification.”
“All very interesting. Not just plant identification but why the plants grew where they did.”