All of our sites are in beautiful surroundings, but this one could truly be described as idyllic. The meadows lie beside the Henley Regatta course of the river Thames, with its sights and gentle sounds of rowing crews and pleasure craft. The site is approached by a public footpath which crosses the grounds of Fawley Court, with footbridges crossing small inlets from the river. We can watch swans, geese and other waterfowl with their young during coffee breaks.
Designated a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1981, Temple Island Meadows are probably some of the most species-rich water meadows remaining along the Thames, supporting a diverse fauna and flora. Some of these are of local or national importance, including the nationally rare Loddon Lily, and all are associated with a long history of undisturbed grassland management.
Along the western margin the fen merges into wet woodland, which contains alder with some ash and an understorey of sycamore, elder, dogwood, crack willow and the uncommon purple willow. These trees have been spreading for some years into the open fen, threatening to alter the wetland habitat.
The Green Gym’s main task is to halt the encroachment by felling, and subsequent regrowth will be discouraged by bringing in grazing cattle. One hazard for the cattle is the presence on the meadows of Hemlock Water Dropwort, which is highly toxic to all animals. We help remove these plants before they set seed, although the main eradication programme is by the use of pesticide.
We have been using time on stacking the felt wood in piles so the land can be mowed to prepare for grazing. The mowing also simulates the grazing and the vegetation is starting to change towards the aim, a wet meadow where grazing can take place. Once grazing will be possible, the will develop into a self sustaining meadow as the grazers will consume new trees and keep the vegetation low.
Through the gate opposite the entrance to Swiss Farm on the Henley to Marlow road. The gate is unlocked especially for us to enter and leave, so be sure to arrive promptly – see programme instructions.