Monday, 04 July 2022

We’re looking after meadows

We’re looking after meadows

ON the first Wednesday of each month the Greener Henley Wildlife Group runs a working party at one of the town’s green sites.

The group is led by Sally Rankin, who is an expert in wildflowers, and Lex Vokes, who is Henley’s conservation officer.

More often than not, we work down at Mill and Marsh Meadows and last week was no exception.

Henley Wildlife Group has managed a portion of the meadows and the banks of the Coldbath Stream under a licence agreement with Henley Town Council since 1995 — and a jolly good job it has made of it!

A month ago the snakeshead and white fritillaries were flowering. Last week, there was cuckoo flower, ragged robin, garlic mustard and buttercups to cheer us as we worked.

If you are interested in finding out more about the wildflowers growing in this area, Sally will be leading a wildflower walk here on May 24 as part of Greener Henley’s contribution to the Chelsea Fringe Festival. For more information, email or visit

Cutting back brambles is a regular task wherever we are working. Last week we were also pulling up Himalayan balsam seedlings before they swamp everything else and digging out some of the pendulous sedge plants along the stream which are likely to take over if not kept in check.

And, of course, there is always litter to pick up. Surprisingly, people manage to carry all kinds of junk food, bottles and cans to the meadows but they don’t seem to be able to take the rubbish home with them.

Apart from the fact that our young people are doing themselves a lot of harm consuming so much alcohol and other substances, it disturbs me how they have no concern for our wildlife.

For instance, it seems to be part of the fun to smash their glass bottles, leaving very sharp fragments for fauna or even pet dogs to cut themselves on.

Equally hazardous for birds and mammals is the plasticised packaging that nearly all crisps, biscuits and ice creams are wrapped in these days.

This plastic disintegrates into tiny shreds which won’t compost down and instead are eventually washed into the river where they become part of the bigger plastic pollution problem.

I recently read that a third of British-caught fish contains plastic and 44 per cent of seabirds have plastic either around or inside their bodies.

There are alternatives to plastic packaging but food companies are dragging their feet in making the change.

We have been thinking about a Henley Repair Café for some time.

The idea is that in a relaxed café atmosphere there are tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need, along with volunteer specialists such as electricians, seamstresses, carpenters, bicycle mechanics etc. to show you how to make the repair.

This is such a good idea on all levels — you can learn new skills using the correct equipment, things are saved from going into landfill and you save energy (and money) on new products having to be made.

The good news is that we have three possible places where we can hold a repair café, we just need some skilled people to volunteer their expertise and time.

If you have some spare time and a willingness to share your know-how, we would love to hear from you. Please email

Diana Barnett

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