As rivers and wildflower meadows in the UK struggle to recover from repeated flooding, the ecosystems they support are collapsing
For 900 years, Lugg and Hampton wildflower meadows in Herefordshire have bloomed into a wash of colour in spring. These fertile meadows were highly prized, and the Norman lords who owned them used the hay crop to help fund Hereford’s cathedrals, churches and castles. The secret to their wonderful bounty was the River Lugg flowing through the middle, fertilising the valley floor with lime and silt each winter it flooded.
But this longstanding system is broken. This winter the valley was submerged under several feet of chocolate-coloured water. It has been flooded almost continuously since October, turning the 120-hectare (297-acre) reserve into an inland lake, with just the tops of gates and fence posts peeping out of the water. Now, as spring approaches, the water is still several inches deep and swans and gulls frolic where mice and rabbits would have burrowed six months earlier.