Why Battlemead is special
Battlemead is a very special place in a relatively small area which underpins the Council’s focus on the need to protect it. The ecology consultants employed by the Council identified several different habitats: woodland, some natural, some plantation; grassland/meadow; hedgerows; waterway (in the form of the White Brook which runs through Battlemead); and wetland. Each habitat has its own special qualities and wildlife.
Of the more than 70 species of bird seen there recently many are nesting birds in the Spring and Summer in the hedgerows and woodland areas, as well as ducks, geese, swans and Kingfishers in the wetland areas and along the stream. The flooded areas in the winter attract wild ducks, including Teal and Wigeon, coming to Britain from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and beyond. Migrant and breeding waders can also be seen there – Oystercatchers, Lapwing, occasional Snipe and Sandpipers along with a few rare visitors.
Raptors, in the form of Kestrels, Sparrowhawks, Buzzards and Red Kite, are regulars there and, in the summer, the rarer Hobby is there catching dragonflies and other insects. Barn Owls were breeding there until, sadly, the disturbance caused by human visitors following the acquisition was likely the cause of this ending last year; Tawny Owls and Little Owls also nest locally.
Roe Deer and Muntjac are frequently seen, along with Foxes, Hares and Moles. There is also evidence of Otters visiting.
Butterflies, Dragonflies and Damselflies are among the many insects seen there (just under 100 species so far reported), including recent finds of two rare Damselflies spotted close to Battlemead suggesting they will also be on the site near the White Brook. The botany of the area has not yet been fully assessed but well over 130 plant species have been identified there so far.
Intensive cattle grazing in Battlemead’s latter farming days has had its impact and the hope is that, with the right management, the richness of the grassland and water meadow areas can be restored to bring back even greater species variety.
The White Brook (its original name was the withy or widdy brook, for the withies or willows growing alongside it) plays a significant part, flowing out of the Thames most of the time (and providing water to the Maidenhead Waterways project in central Maidenhead) but flowing the opposite direction in times of flood, taking water back along the Strande Water and the Fleet Stream towards Cookham.