Harvey's Meadow comprises over 30 acres of SSSI land to the north-east of the town.
This land forms part of the estate of the Town and Manor of Hungerford, and is managed as a nature reserve.
The meadow is of international importance for its population of the rare Desmoulin's snail and is the largest surviving example of agriculturally unimproved pasture in the Kennet Valley with many rare plants.
The meadows are a mix of species, rich wet grassland with fen areas dominated by sedge and rush. The site is grazed with cattle over the summer months. This piece of land has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by English Nature in recognition of its the exceptional habitat and is now managed as a nature reserve.
It is also home to an active bird ringing group headed up by John Swallow. The group also operates at Freeman’s Marsh. Bird ringing at Freeman’s Marsh (as well as Hungerford Common) was originally started in 1968 by Rex Smith and Jimmy Whittaker.
The stream that runs off the River Kennet and passes through Harvey’s Meadow is now known as Harvey’s Stream. It rises about 800m south of the Kennet Bridge and ends north just past Eddington Mill.
The stream arises from Eddington Mill, runs beside the public footpath towards Eddington village, passes under the bridge by A4 Tool Hire, under the Shell petrol station,under the A338 road, then runs east adjacent to the A4 before turning undersouth under the A4 towards Harvey;s Meadow, eventually joing the River Kennet.
Harvey's Stream was badly affected by an incident in June 2017. More than 500 fish had to be rescued by the Environment Agency after the heatwave caused water levels to dramatically drop. The baking temperatures had led to oxygen depletion and slow flow rates which caused fish to suffocate. Fisheries officers from the Environment Agency accompanied by the river keeper of the Town and Manor of Hungerford mounted an operation to save the fish. The fish were stunned by using a mild electric current, before being scooped up in nets, and placed in buckets before being returned to the deeper water of the River Kennet.
If you continued walking past the metalled bridge (mentioned above), you will reach a small footbridge over Harvey’s Stream. Instead of turning right and following the public footpath, you can carry straight on by the side of the old redundant Eddington Mill and will see a lake ahead of you, originally excavated by Lord Roots. You will also see a couple of sluice gates the purpose of which was to control the flow of water into the mill stream, the lake and Harvey’s Stream. However, due to their age, they were no longer operational and this caused the low water levels in Harvey’s Stream. Under normal conditions, fish are able to migrate in and out of the side stream. It was hoped at the time that when the water levels returned to normal, fish would repopulate the stream and would be able to migrate in and out of the stream. And today in 2020, this certainly is the case…take a look and see.
[With thanks to Dr Jimmy Whittaker]
- Plan of Harvey's Meadow, 2015 (kindly sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).
- Harvey's Meadow looking very healthy in 2016 (kindly sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).
- Collecting the fish to clear the stream, 2017 (kindly sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).
- Eddington Mill sluice, 2020 (kindly sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).
- Eddington Mill sluice, 1996 (kindly sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).
- Harvey's Meadow looking very unhealthy in 2017 (kindly sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker).