13. Rye Meads Nature Reserve
Theme: Ecology and biodiversity
- Improve bankside and in-channel habitat
Rye Meads Nature Reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest located between the River Lea and the River Stort.
It is a large area of ancient flood meadows, reed bed, marshy grassland, fen, open water and streams, forming part of the Lea Valley RAMSAR site (a group of internationally important wetland sites.) The reserve is jointly managed by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and The RSPB and offers a visitor centre alongside a number of trails and wildlife-watching hides.
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust manage their part of the reserve for a number of important wetland species, such as wintering wildfowl and waders like Teal and Green Sandpiper, water voles, grass snakes and marsh orchids. An ongoing programme of management is delivered each year and involves:
- Grazing with cattle to promote vegetation diversity
- Rotational ditch clearance to maintain open waterways
- Reed bed cutting to maintain a mosaic of open water and vegetated habitats
- Scrub control to keep the flood meadows in favourable condition
Management of the reserve is challenging due to it having a complex hydrological system. Its conditions are influenced by seasonal flooding, climate change, and water treatment at a nearby Thames Water facility. This means that drainage is often affected, making it difficult to carry out the required management and grazing.
To help inform future plans to enhance the reserve, funding is sought to deliver the following projects from 2019 onwards:
- Commissioning a full hydrological survey
- Scrape creation and large-scale ditch excavation