Wilsons in the Community: Harnham Water Meadows

6 January 2020

Not just digging and wading...

Tom Harriott from Wilsons' IT team tells us about the Harnham Water Meadows Trust, of which he is a Trustee.

Harnham Water Meadows Trust was formed in 1990 to manage and maintain the land to either side of the Town Path between Salisbury and Harnham.

Back in the early 17th century this land was a series of fully functioning water meadows which were an essential part of food, wool, and craft material production, and therefore the economy, of the day. Now the meadows are a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and provide a natural beauty spot, and flood defences, for Salisbury.

Academic groups of all ages study the meadows, some for their historical significance, others for their modern ecological role. Rare species of flowers and insects can be found there, which provide important information on the current state of the UK’s wildlife as a whole. The meadows are actively grazed, and the Trust holds various open days and events throughout the year. Guided walks round the meadows; tours of Rose Cottage, the Trust’s visitor centre; and artists’ days are all part of the Trust’s work. There are also regular working parties who perform essential maintenance and repairs, not all of which involves digging or wading!

During the winter months we demonstrate the flooding, or “drowning” as it is known, of the meadows. This is part of our obligation to keep the meadows in working order, and serves as an event the public can enjoy.

Besides the daily workings of the meadows, the Trust works on promoting the meadows as a place to be enjoyed by local people and visitors alike.

Tom explains how he got involved...

"Alison Morris, Partner at Wilsons and a fellow trustee, approached the Wilsons IT team to consult the Trust regarding a technology refresh back in 2015. Around this time Wilsons introduced a scheme whereby staff are allowed an annual day off to do voluntary work in the community. The water meadows seemed a good place to put in some honest work for a good cause, so I arranged for a group of us to visit and renovate some of the channels that carry the water across the meadows.

"By this time the Trust had turned the upstairs of Rose Cottage into a meeting and education centre, and I helped them with the acquisition of a new touch-screen presentation system. After that I was involved in an update to the website, and have continued to organise working parties from Wilsons.

"I became a trustee in 2018, and my main role is the maintenance and administration of the website, but I provide general support for events and have organised an open day for artists, something I’m keen to repeat next year, allowing visitors to capture the different seasons. The meadows are still extremely important to Salisbury, and the environment in general, so I’m proud to contribute something to their on-going efforts.

"The Trust receives some funding from central government, but it is the local people of Salisbury and the surrounding areas who make the water meadows what they are, and I hope as many people can benefit from them as possible."

How can people get involved?

The meadows are there for the benefit of everyone, and the Trust has a lot to offer. We have meeting and presentation facilities, and can arrange access to the meadows for groups or individuals. School visits are free of charge, and talks or presentations can be arranged. If anyone would like to get involved, either with the physical side of maintaining the meadows, or the administrative side of things, we would love to hear from them.

We’re very happy that we’ve been shortlisted for Wiltshire Life’s Conservation project of the year (https://www.wiltshirelifeawards.co.uk/) and are Fisherton Mill’s charity of the year, so sales of their calendar, generate funds for the Trust.

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