Roding Valley Meadows Local Nature Reserve is a mosaic of flower-rich water-meadows and ancient hedgerows sandwiched between the M11 motorway and the River Roding as it flows through Buckhurst Hill in Essex on its way to join the Thames at Barking Creek. It is the largest surviving area of traditionally managed flood-plain hay meadow and marsh in South East England and also includes veteran trees, scrub, secondary woodland, tree plantations and a lake. The reserve covers some 65 hectares (161 acres), and within the site are four fields, totalling 19 hectares (47 acres), that are designated as a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest because of their biodiversity. The LNR is owned by Epping Forest District Council and Grange Farm Trust, and is managed by Essex Wildlife Trust. Edit
Address: Roding Valley Meadows Nature Reserve, Grange Farm, Chigwell, Essex IG7 6DP.
The Roding Valley flood plain and meadows are the legacy of an ancient and conservative system of management, and some of the meadows have almost certainly existed virtually unaltered for many hundreds of years. One meadow is mentioned in a 16th century document as a “mead” (a flood meadow) and there is every reason to believe that most of the remaining meadows have been in existence since medieval times.
Traditionally, the flood meadows were grazed by cattle and to a lesser extent by horses, with the higher meadows cut for hay. The meadows were often flooded in winter when the Roding overflowed its banks. The valley's long and stable management history has allowed a rich and characteristic flora to develop, and with it a distinctive fauna.
The meadows form one of the largest areas of grassland in Essex to be still traditionally managed as hay meadows, flood meadows and marshland. The meadows have never been subjected to artificial fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides.
Records of the valley’s flowering plants since the 1980s have revealed the presence of some 250 species. This rich variety of plants includes the largest beds in Essex of the rare Brown Sedge (Carex disticha). The flood meadows alone account for some 150 species, including uncommon plants such as Carnation Sedge (Carex panicea) and Kingcup (Caltha palustris). Individual meadows support between 40 and 50 species. Many of them, such as the Southern Marsh Orchid, Kingcup, Ragged Robin, Pepper Saxifrage and Tufted Sedge, are characteristic of ancient grassland and are becoming scarce in a county that is intensively farmed and increasingly urbanised.
Management of the reserve is mainly undertaken by Essex Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers. In early summer they carry out a traditional haycut, and this is followed in the autumn and winter by aftermath grazing by Longhorn cattle, a rare breed supplied by a local farmer. The10 miles of hedgerows that enclose the meadows are managed through an annual programme of laying and coppicing.
In recent years more than 90 species of bird have been recorded in the Roding Valley. In late spring and summer Sedge Warbler, Skylark, Reed Bunting and Whitethroat can be found about the river and meadows. Late summer sees flocks of finches and other seed-eating birds on the dying heads of thistle and teasel, and cold late autumn weather can bring uncommon migrant ducks to the gravel pit lake. In September 2017 a juvenile Red-necked Grebe spent several days on the site’s lake.
Other vertebrates Edit
Car — The main car park is next to the David Lloyd Tennis Centre off Roding Lane. Parking is also available at Grange Farm Centre (which is the headquarters of Essex Wildlife Trust).
Public transport — The site is not easy to reach by public transport. The nearest railway station is Buckhurst Hill on the London Underground’s Central Line, but it is a 25-minute walk from here to the reserve. The best bet is probably a Central Line train to Chigwell Station, a 167 bus to Guru Gobind Singh College and then a short walk from there.
The reserve is open all year round, day and night. It has numerous paths, both hard-surfaced and grass. The gradients over the reserve are mainly gentle. There are no stiles, but there are numerous gates. After heavy rain and through the winter the meadows can be uneven and are prone to flooding. Cattle graze on the fields at certain times of the year.
Toilets, etc, are available at Grange Farm Centre.
This information has been cobbled together from various internet sources by Andrew Haynes, who has never visited the site but thinks that it deserves a detailed description on the London Bird Club Wiki. If you are familiar with Roding Valley Meadows, feel free to correct, expand and/or update this information.