The floodplain meadows around Eynsham were once the village’s larder, medicine cabinet, and a regenerative source of nutritious grazing. They played an essential role in our bodily, economic, communal and mental well being. Meadows such as Long Mead are thousands of years old, and were once part of a continuous floodplain meadow stretching for miles along the Thames. Between the waterways, woodlands, people and wildlife of this area, a great diversity of life emerged above and below ground. Only four square miles remain today, across isolated pockets.
To help reverse this loss, 1.6 acres of the Playing Fields were spread with green hay containing seed from Long Mead last year. This autumn, members of Eynsham’s Nature Recovery Network gathered in Carnival Meadow, trowels in hand, ready to plant wildflowers. Among them were some of the Beavers who had planted flowers in St Leonard’s Churchyard earlier this year. By getting their hands dirty and seeing the difference they had made, the Beavers seem to have caught the nature restoration bug. This is wonderful! Not only because nature can be a companion and source of wonder for the rest of their lives, but also because nature restoration is a long game. The more young people understand how important nature restoration is, and the more connected with nature they feel, the more likely they are to lead nature restoration well into the future.
Restoring Carnival Meadow is part of a wider project: to restore and reconnect floodplain meadows around Oxford and upriver being undertaken by Long Mead’s Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project. If successful, this project will (re)connect multiple floodplain meadows; restoring an ancient landscape, and providing evidence of the amazing wealth of benefits they offer including effective and secure carbon storage. It will take patience, persistence, and lots of help.