Meadowlands in time: re-envisioning the lost meadows of the Rother valley, West Sussex, UK

Alastair Pearson, Philip Soar

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    Historically, meadows provided an essential crop of hay and common grazing in a delicately managed sustainable system in harmony with their environment and were of vital importance to the agricultural cycle of farming communities. Using archival and remotely sensed data, this paper provides a speculative re-construction of a former floodplain water management system and examines the changing fortunes of the floodplain meadows of the Rother valley, West Sussex, revealing the process of change in both the physical and cultural landscape. The inevitable decline of the floodplain meadows of the Rother was part of a nationwide transformation brought about by the introduction of new farming practices operating in a fast-changing tenurial landscape, dominated by the growth of landed estates where commoners’ rights were viewed with growing contempt. Today, the current vista of the Rother reveals only remnants of the past landscape where marginal habitats, riparian fringes and meadows have made way for a monoculture of permanent pasture of poor conservation value, supporting low biodiversity and offering little to mitigate against flood risk and poor water quality. If floodplain meadow reinstatement is to be considered as part of a catchment-wide programme of landscape restoration measures then the results of this historical landscape analysis could act as a ‘guiding image’ for environmental managers and policy makers and a platform to rekindle once again community engagement with its landscape.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)25-55
    Number of pages31
    JournalLandscape History
    Issue number1
    Early online date20 Apr 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • meadows
    • George Wyndham
    • 3rd Lord Egremont
    • Revd Arthur Young
    • tithe surveys
    • land use
    • catchment
    • floodplain restoration
    • Rother
    • West Sussex
    • Rother Navigation


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