Heron at Fishlake © Roger Betteridge

Heron at Fishlake © Roger Betteridge

A spectacular wetland and a birder’s paradise


Cupernham Lane
SO51 7AA

OS Map Reference

SU 357 221
A static map of Fishlake Meadows Nature Reserve

Know before you go

59 hectares

Entry fee

Donations welcome

Parking information

The visitor car park is open 8am-6pm.


Parking is available in Romsey Town. From there follow the canal path to the nature reserve. Disabled access is very limited at present.


Under effective control

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times.

The visitor car park is open 8am-6pm.

From Fishlake Meadows Road, turn into Oxlease Meadows through the main entrance to the housing estate. The car park is located at the end of the first left turning, after entering Oxlease Meadows. Please be aware that the road turning is not yet signposted to the reserve but called “NOS. 3-11 ODDS”. Once you turn down here, follow this short road round to the right and the car park is on the left through the height barrier.

It is open daily, barring closure for management purposes. Alternatively park in Romsey Town and walk up the canal path.

Best time to visit

Visit in winter to see wildfowl, visiting marsh harriers and majestic great white egrets. Spring brings reed and sedge warblers as well as a great variety of migrant birds. In summer you’ll see dragonflies, fen vegetation and marsh orchids.

About the reserve

Fishlake Meadows nature reserve is a spectacular wetland, home to hunting ospreys, elusive bitterns, migratory cuckoos and murmurating starlings. It also supports other species like otters, water voles, 24 species of dragonfly and damselfly, and an impressive variety of plants. It really is the ultimate destination for all nature lovers.

The unique habitats of Fishlake Meadows established themselves after farming of the land ceased over the last two decades. Unusually, the reserve now boasts a mix of floodplain habitats rarely seen in our chalk river valleys.

NB. Work will be taking place to pollard poplar trees on the Reserve. Please see here for further information.  

Contact us

Jo Iddenden

Location map

Map key

Map Key

Winter Tree Works

This winter we will be carrying out works to trees along the barge canal. The orange outlines on the map below show which trees will be pollarded. Crown cleaning and canopy reduction will also be carried out on the mature ash and poplar near to the junction with the path that runs east/west. The tree species are willow, alder, ash, black poplar and grey poplar.

Pollarding means the trees will be cut to a height of around 2 metres, and then allowed to regrow on a short rotation, before being cut again, this was a common form of traditional management for willows, resulting in longer lived trees with high wildlife value. This practice increases the life span of the tree, because if they are left until they fail the tree will then die, but fresh shoots can grow from a cut stem.

Crown cleaning and reducing the crowns of mature ash and poplar means any dead branches will be cut down to reduce the risk of falling branches. Reducing the size of the crown means cutting back several branches spaced evenly around the crown. This reduces the pressure on the tree and the weight in the canopy, which makes the tree more stable.

Several of these trees along the canal have begun to die off in the last few years and it’s likely the rest will continue to do so, therefore we have decided to begin pollarding the trees along the canal to extend their life. The branches of the felled trees will be stacked along the fence line. The logs will be left in situ as decaying wood; other sections of the trees will be used for a variety of things such as making hibernacula for reptiles, insects and mammals.

A path closure is being applied for from Hampshire County Council for safety while the work is being carried out. The term of the closure will be 6 months, however the path will only be closed when works are in progress, this is to give us flexibility depending on weather and ground conditions.

In preparation for the works we have:

  • Met with the local TVBC tree officer to discuss the works.
  • Had bat surveys carried out looking at roosting and emergence, undertaken out by our ecology team. Just prior to the works one final survey of the trees will be carried out by our ecologists looking for roosting bats and nesting birds.
  • Sought TPO consent from TVBC as the trees are within a tree preservation area. Permission pending application number; 20/02946/TPOS
  • Followed the European protected species checklist.
  • Secured a felling licence for the necessary trees.


  • Remove the risk of the trees falling across the path and damaging the SSSI Barge Canal.
  • Prolong the life of the trees by pollarding them rather than allowing them to fall and die.
  • Allow more light to reach the canal and promote vegetation growth in the channel.

The tree works are planned to begin week commencing 1st February 2021 and be completed by the end of March. The footpath will not be closed for the full period, it is only intended to be closed whilst works are underway. To keep up to date with when the path is open, please check twitter and Facebook for updates; @HantsIWWIldlife on twitter and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Facebook page. If you have any questions, please contact Jo Iddenden the Reserves Officer on jo.iddenden@hiwwt.org.uk

Fishlake meadows tree works winter 2021


Why are you pollarding the trees?

Over the last few years, several trees have fallen down across the barge canal path, posing a significant risk. These trees are getting very mature and prone to failing, and it’s likely more will do the same. The trees are growing next to a ditch, on a bank or very close to the canal which can lead to uneven and vulnerable root systems. If the trees were left to fall in their own time, the heave of the roots could damage the canal banks and therefore the canal itself. The canal is designated a SSSI so we have a duty of care to protect the banks and the canal itself from damage.

Why don’t you only cut the ones leaning towards the path?

Lots of the trees are multi-stemmed, with at least one stem leaning towards the path. If we were to only remove the stem leaning towards the path it would put a huge strain on the remaining stem and base and would quite likely lead to the loss of the tree. However, pollarding all stems and allowing them to regrow will preserve the tree.


Test Valley Borough Council logo

Fishlake Meadows Nature Reserve is managed on behalf of Test Valley Borough Council. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What progress has been made so far?

As of August 2018, we’re pleased to have made some significant progress improving the nature reserve for wildlife and visitors alike.

With the help of our volunteers and partners, visitors will now be able to enjoy new facilities including two viewing platforms along the barge canal with vistas across the site, freshly-surfaced and accessible paths, and a pathway and boardwalk to new viewing screens to watch the wildlife in the heart of the nature reserve.

What is planned next for the nature reserve?

We have much more work to do improving the habitat and accessibility across the site, and further information and signage on site to help visitors learn more about the wildlife that makes it so special.

We hope to share more about our plans in the coming months.

How can I get involved in or support the nature reserve?

We have a brilliant team of local volunteers who help with everything from practical conservation to volunteer wardening and cattle lookering. If you would like to know more, please contact the reserves officer listed above.

Can I bring my dog to Fishlake Meadows nature reserve?

We welcome responsible dog walkers along the canal path and on the west-east path across the site.

However dogs are not permitted on the new permissive path that leads to the new central viewing areas, because of the disturbance this would cause to the wildlife there.

As with all wildlife havens, we ask that visitors keep their dogs under control, and clean up after them.

Can I fly my drone at Fishlake Meadows nature reserve?

In order to avoid disturbing wildlife and other visitors, we ask that drones are not flown across Fishlake Meadows nature reserve.

Can I fish at Fishlake Meadows nature reserve?

Fishing is not appropriate at Fishlake Meadows nature reserve, and neither we nor Test Valley Borough Council has granted permission to fish here since taking occupancy.

We work with a number of fisheries and angling clubs on land we manage elsewhere - however our priorities at Fishlake Meadows presently are access and habitat improvements. In the future we will look at the suitability and practicality of managing fishing here.

News from Fishlake Meadows

Forthcoming events at Fishlake Meadows