Upper Thames Living Landscape

Upper Thames Living Landscape

Chimney Meadows by Andrew Marshall

The floodplains of the upper Thames tributaries make up one of the six best wetland areas in England.

Shaped by centuries of farming, the Upper Thames Living Landscape area covers approximately 2,760 hectares of riverside meadows and pastures, ditches and riverbanks that stretch from Lechlade-on-Thames to Northmoor in west Oxfordshire. Internationally important plant communities still thrive here, together with rare wading birds that find a haven among the meadows.

At the heart of the Living Landscape area is Chimney Meadows nature reserve

BBOWT has managed the Chimney Meadows National Nature Reserve (NNR) since 1999, and in 2003 we bought the neighbouring intensively-managed Chimney farm to create our Chimney Meadows nature reserve next to the NNR.  With further acquisitions, including Duxford Old River in 2017, BBOWT now manages an impressive expanse of 307 hectares of Thames floodplain, the first nature reserve to span the River Thames.

In the last few years we have turned the landscape of Chimney Meadows farm from intensively-managed arable cultivation to beautiful wildflower meadows surrounded by wildlife-rich hedgerows, with new scrapes and ponds for amphibians and wading birds. To help manage the meadows we established a herd of Dexter cattle and flock of Hebridean sheep. Every summer a high quality hay cut is taken and sold.

Valuing nature's capital

Alongside the restoration work we studied the effects of the new ways of managing the land, and carried out an Ecosystem Services Assessment. This showed that the public benefits of managing the land for nature are four times more valuable than managing the land for food production only. The Ecosystem Services Assessment Report can be downloaded here.

Chimney Meadows is a financially viable demonstration site within the Upper Thames Living Landscape, and we host visits by groups of farmers and land managers to show how they can manage their land in ways that are beneficial for wildlife.

Chimney Meadows nature reserve is a wonderful outdoor classroom for children who visit as part of their National Curriculum school work and  in formal groups enabling more young people to get closer to nature.

BBOWT is very grateful to our supporters and funders including WREN, the Environment Agency, Natural England, RSPB, Wild Oxfordshire, the Floodplain Meadows Partnership and Trust for Oxfordshire's Environment.

Contact Lisa Lane, the Upper Thames Living Landscape Manager to find out more, arrange a visit to Chimney Meadows, or organise a talk or presentation. Call 01367 870904 or email lisalane@bbowt.org.uk

Lapwing and golden plover at Chimney Meadows by Louise King

Lapwing and golden plover at Chimney Meadows by Louise King

Nature matters

Ecosystem services

Read more about our work to recognise nature's value, using Chimney Meadows in the Upper Thames Living Landscape as a case study.

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