In 2003, national charity, the Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT) acquired the 16th century Turnastone Court Farm to save its ancient meadows from the plough and secure the farm’s future.

Situated in the heart of the Golden Valley bordering the River Dore, the 247-acre farm is home to unique water meadows and grassland, which have remained unploughed for over 400 years. 

The fields are thriving with diverse flora and fauna. Our monitors have recorded yellowhammer, common redstart, grey wagtail, water vole and dipper. Many species of fungi associated with unimproved grassland have been recorded on the farm.

During the late 1500s the land was owned, along with other properties, by Rowland Vaughan, generally credited with development of irrigation systems which greatly increased crop yields during the 'Agricultural Revolution'.

His method involved the creation of artificial channels and trenches linked to brooks and the River Dore. The flow of the water was controlled through a series of sluice gates. This enabled a large plot of land to be flooded in a series of periodic ‘drownings’, an early form of modern irrigation.Whilst the sluices no longer function, a portion of the water meadows remain and have been unploughed for 400 years, unique in this day.

Previous work on another sluice on the farm was completed in 2015/16. 
Previous work on another sluice on the farm was
completed in 2015/16. 
Even during two world wars, as the farmers were directed to increase production, the fields were protected by the then owner William Watkins. A portion of the land was saved from cultivation and the historical and ecological site preserved.

These structures urgently needed conservation work to ensure they continue to be an important feature of this historic landscape. In summer 2020, another phase of restoration work has begun on an historical features of the farm. The work for the sluice conservation work in has been funded by a number of donors, including The Pilgrims Trust; this charity helps heritage building and social welfare projects. 

Native white-clawed crayfish
Native white-clawed crayfish

As with all major construction works, restoration and conservation work to buildings and structures there must be a consideration of the ecological impact. The protected species on the sites, particularly the riparian species, have been considered as part of this long-term project. Along with the ongoing monitoring carried out on the farm, additional ecological surveys were carried out in 2018 to inform the work. This included native crayfish surveys and otter and water vole surveys as all are present on the Slough Brook.

Despite the work being undertaken during the height of summer, Bob Heath and G J Williams LTD have come up against some very wet conditions to restore this sluice. 

If you would like to support this and other CRT restoration projects, DONATE! 

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