Just a short distance outside Whitchurch, a home, farm, garden, and butchery cluster together on a site called Bere Mill. The actual mill itself, built in the early 18th Century, has an illustrious history of producing everything from corn and electricity to paper for bank notes. But nestled among the trees are other, stranger structures: the relics of an old water meadow system.
For over 400 years, water meadows were at the centre of Hampshire's agriculture. Chalk streams were partially diverted across nearby meadows, the constant flow avoiding stagnation and flushing in nutrient-rich sediment. 'Drowning' a meadow in the spring protected the ground from frost, allowing for earlier plant growth, and the resulting lush vegetation was a boon for wildlife too.
During the late 19th Century, however, water meadows started to dwindle in number. Changing agricultural practices saw the land put to other uses, and many systems were abandoned or destroyed. Bere Mill is one of the few places where the remains of a system can still be seen, and the Watercress and Winterbournes Landscape Partnership Scheme has been preserving this precious heritage.