Know before you go
Parking informationPark in designated BBOWT car park at the entrance to the reserve. Please don't park in Chimney hamlet.
You can use a bridleway, public footpaths and permissive paths to access much of the reserve - see map near car park. The Thames Path National Trail runs through the reserve along the river.
Flat terrain, bumpy underfoot, boggy in winter; bridge and gates. Wellingtons required to cross ford at Great Brook and Duxford, may be impassable if water level is high. Great Brook Road becomes impassable due to flooding, when water levels are very high.
Some paths and the two bird hides are suitable for people with limited mobility. Contact BBOWT for further information.
Public access to certain areas of the site, including Duxford Old River and the National Nature Reserve, is limited, to protect wildlife. You can enjoy views across them from the Thames Path National Trail and visit them on occasional guided walks.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitJan - Dec
About the reserve
Restoring a wildlife haven
Chimney Meadows is the Trust's largest nature reserve and its fields are part of an ancient landscape, created by the Thames and shaped by centuries of farming. Once a commercial farm, the rich wildlife of this remote and tranquil place has been restored since the Trust started looking after it in 2003. Fields once planted with wheat and barley are now colourful, species-rich wildflower meadows. This type of habitat is important for its remarkable diversity of plant-life and as a home to nationally declining wading birds such as curlew, which breed here.
Part of the site is a National Nature Reserve (owned by Natural England). These wildflower meadows make up one of England’s largest remaining areas of unspoilt neutral grassland. They were the seed source for the meadows that have been restored elsewhere at Chimney Meadows.
In spring and summer these grasslands are transformed by an ever-changing display of wild flowers that attract busy communities of insects. In April and early May cowslips are in flower, whilst in June and July, plants such as yellow rattle, common knapweed, oxeye daisy and pepper-saxifrage can be found in abundance.
Whilst Chimney Meadows lies on the Thames floodplain, it is dry for much of the year. During autumn and winter, however, the River Thames starts to rise, ditches fill with water and fields can flood to varying depths, favouring different species of wildfowl and wader. The Trust is creating and restoring valuable wetland habitats like old water courses, ponds and ‘scrapes’. Scrapes are shallow depressions that hold water and provide feeding areas for wading birds.
The large hide overlooking our wetland area provides views of heron, mute swan, teal, little egret and stonechat. At the smaller hide, which overlooks our northern pond, you can see long-tailed tit, marsh tit, goldfinch, dragonflies and if you are lucky, a tree sparrow or kingfisher.
A Living Landscape
Chimney Meadows lies at the heart of the Upper Thames Living Landscape. Many wetland habitats throughout the country have been lost, as land has been drained or built on and wetland species which depend on those habitats have declined. However, in the Upper Thames there are still river and floodplain habitats such as wildflower meadows and wet grassland that support species such as curlew, lapwing, redshank and snipe.
Farmers, landowners and conservation organisations are working together to look after and restore the Upper Thames, a special place for people and wildlife. It is one of five Living Landscapes managed by the Trust.
Chimney Meadows is one of three of BBOWT’s most charismatic wildflower meadows that have been named Coronation Meadows. HRH Prince Charles, as patron of RSWT, Rare Breeds Survival Trust and Plantlife, initiated the Coronation Meadows project. It celebrates the historic and extraordinary diversity of meadows, and encourages the creation of many more in the next 60 years through seeds and green hay from the Coronation sites. Chimney Meadows, Moor Copse and Upper Ray Meadows are prime examples of a Coronation Meadow because they are rich in a wealth of wild flowers. On each reserve there are meadows which have been regenerated using green hay from nearby land, a natural spread of species from field to field. The meadows are managed carefully using traditional farming methods, sometimes with rare breed livestock for conservation grazing. Ancient hedgerows and tracks connect each meadow to the next these are just as important for wildlife as the meadows themselves. They help to create patchworks of habitats greater than their individual parts. Coronation Meadows is supported by Biffa Award.
Duxford Old River
In 2017 the Trust was able to purchase Duxford Old River, 113 acres of floodplain meadow adjacent to Chimney Meadows, which contains an ancient meander of the original River Thames. The plan is to restore the river and floodplain habitats making it a haven for wildlife.
Thank you to our supporters
The Heritage Lottery Fund supported the Wildlife Trust in 2003 when BBOWT had the opportunity to buy the land at Chimney Meadows and transform it into a wildlife haven. Since 2013 WREN, a Landfill Communities Fund distributor, has funded management work at Chimney Meadows through the Biodiversity Action Fund. In 2017 the generosity of many individuals, several charitable trusts and the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled the purchase of Duxford Old River.
Reserve champions - BBOWT members supporting their favourite reserve: Jackie and Eric Lewis-Leaning
Things to do
Come along to one of our seasonal guided walks for all ages and interests. There are two bird hides for bird watching, both with wheelchair access.
Volunteer! We run regular work parties on the reserve.