BATHAMPTON MEADOW AND OXBOW WETLAND
The Reserve was created in the period 1994-1997 to the east of Bath on the River Avon flood plain during the construction of the controversial Batheaston by-pass to compensate for the loss of flood plain. It is wedged between the river and the by-pass and was formed by lowering the level of the fields by several feet and by excavating an oxbow measuring 320m x 25m connected at either end to the river by large pipes. The geology of the site has allowed a large shallow pond to form from ground water run-off. In normal years other areas are flooded temporarily by heavy rain in winter and dry out in the summer. This is the only wetland in the Bath area and there were early hopes of it becoming an important bird reserve when Little Ringed Plovers bred. However, the disturbed ground and shingle became covered in vegetation and the occurrence of early spring floods have deterred ground nesting birds for the last few years.
When the Oxbow was created, several metre-Iong pipes were inserted into the steep bank to persuade Sand Martins to move from their traditional breeding location in Batheaston to the Reserve but the pipes have either been dislodged by erosion or have been clogged up with soil so the Martins have remained on the other side of the river. In fact, in April 2000 when the birds were starting to breed, the pipes were under several feet of water. At this time the Swans made two unsuccessful attempts to build nests but Canada Geese somehow managed to raise five young, The smaller birds such as Whitethroats and Reed Buntings nest in the newly created shrubby areas whilst Tits and Blackbirds use the old hedges and trees.
Whilst the Reserve has not lived up to its early promise as a major bird site, it has developed as an important place for flowers and insects. 16 species of dragonflies have been recorded in each of the last two years and 18 species of butterfly occur including Essex, Large and Small skippers. Other insects such the Hornet Robberf1y and short and long-tailed Coneheads (field crickets) have made Avon’s entomologists sit up.
The area was seeded with several different mixes of native plants and some 10,000 trees and shrubs were planted in and around the Reserve on a variety of different soils exposed by the construction work. Cattle graze the site in the autumn and internal fencing can be used to allow different intensities of grazing. At the end of 2000 the site was under a fathom or more of water and it will be interesting to see the effect this has on the insects in 2001. Access to the Reserve is very restricted and the intention is to keep the site primarily for the benefit of wildlife. At present, permit holders can only view the site from a blind but limited access to other areas is under consideration.
Avon Wildlife Trust on behalf of the Highways Agency manages the 20-acre reserve.