Grant to preserve 'best view' in Britain

Ancient water meadows in Avon Valley will be preserved by a £100,000 grant over the next ten years. The were voted best view in Britain in a Country Life magazine poll in 2002.

The meadows, made famous in John Constable's painting 'Salisbury Cathedral - A View from the Water Meadow', is managed by the Harnham Water Meadows Trust and owned by the Trust and the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury Cathedral.

The Trust has already cleaned some of the four kilometres of ditches and channels and is continuing to restore old sluices and hatches which enable the control of water around the fields.

The Trust has now signed an agreement with Defra that means it will receive 80% of the approved restoration costs for bridges, sluices and culverts. The funding also includes help with land management costs.

The new grant could also resurrect the old practice of 'drowning' the meadow. It will encourage the existing wildlife such as duck, snipe, geese and little egrets to continue to use the water meadows.

Conservation Minister Ben Bradshaw said during his visit: "Sustainable development and protection of our countryside is at the heart of Defra's business. We, at Defra, are keen to support the traditional management of these water meadows. They are a reminder of an historic farming system, which was once so common in Wiltshire."

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