Somerset Rivers Authority is funding work on three ponds and a series of dams in the Meeds Valley on Abbey Farm in Montacute near Yeovil.
One pond is an ancient stewpond from Montacute Priory (founded c.1100), that was almost completely silted-up. The other two may once have been 18th-century ponds for washing flax. These too were almost defunct. They are being dug out again primarily to hold water, but also for wildlife.
The Meeds Valley is a lovely horseshoe of hills, with springs running into a central ditch. Water flows down to Montacute, on to Martock and into the River Parrett at Gawbridge Mill.
The ditch (above) has been cleared out for the first time in 40 years and new dams are being created, some with I-beams, sleepers and boards, to allow water levels to be controlled, whilst other natural leaky dams use local logs.
Alisdair McFarlane, of Abbey Farm, said: “We looked at how we could make it work as a whole, to hold water back, because what’s driving the money is – how can we relieve the pressure on the Levels? Though this also relieves the pressure on Montacute’s flood alleviation scheme…”
Alisdair said the SRA grants were “very handy”: “It was something I couldn’t afford to do otherwise.”
The photo below shows Alisdair (left) with Roy Hayes, who works jointly with FWAG SW and Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming.
The two men worked on plans together, along with Alisdair’s wife Elizabeth.
Alisdair built the dam himself. He said: “It’s been a fun project, a lot of hard work, but it’s been fun.”