Exploring and mapping historical floodplain meadows

We are interested in assessing the historical extent of floodplain meadows and have worked with a range of individuals over the years who are researching their local meadows in terms of their historic extent. This work requires in-depth research, exploration of the archives and a good knowledge of the local area and is therefore quite specialised. However since 2021, we have worked with Fjordr Ltd, who have previously undertaken related work on the historic character of watercourses to explore the possibility of using easily accessible GIS maps to identify the extent of floodplain meadows in two pilot catchments. 
We have several projects at the moment relating to this type of historic research:

a)    Historic Extent of Floodplain Meadows: Dorset Stour and Thames Tributaries March 2022. This project developed a methodology to identify historic floodplain meadows using a GIS approach  in two study areas – on the Dorset Stour and the River Thames. 

The project focussed on using GIS to draw together map-based evidence to estimate how much of a floodplain in a river catchment was floodplain meadow in the past; how floodplain meadows were distributed relative to parishes; and to explore whether the amount of floodplain meadow might be related to the size of previous populations.

b)    Ground-truth the method developed by Fjordr, against already established archive research on the Yorkshire Ouse

Test the method developed by Fjordr in 2021 along the Stour and parts of the Thames floodplain against archive research previously undertaken along the Yorkshire Ouse to determine the extent of private versus common meadows. This comparison would assess the extent of floodplain meadows inferred from GIS data (Fjordr method) against what can be shown to have been meadows from archive data (research along the Ouse undertaken by local historian Martin Hammond). This would give us an indication of both the extent of common meadows present in a floodplain and the extent of additional private meadows in the Ouse catchment.

c)    Map records of meadows in Domesday and link to population size across the UK.
The recent study by Fjordr and the FMP found there is an apparent relationship between the number of households in a settlement and the extent of its floodplain meadows as recorded in Domesday.  The hypothesis would be that the extent of floodplain meadow determines  the size of the population. We propose to extend the examination of this relationship by looking at a larger sample size (across several counties).

For more information see our news article here