Drowning of Harnham Water Meadows in Salisbury

Twice a year, in January and February, the public are invited to watch the Drowning of the Water Meadows – organised by Harnham Water Meadows Trust. The whole event lasts around 1hr 15min.

It’s a centuries old technique which brings water and nutrients to the land which speeds up the growth of grass which is then used to graze sheep.

For the public, it’s a great chance to be able to explore these lovely meadows, which are usually off limits. There are also fabulous views of Salisbury Cathedral.

The event, which can attract over 200 people, starts with a short talk at Rose Cottage and then a walk over to the first hatch which is closed by the Chief Drowner. He’s easy to spot in his bowler hat, holding his drowning tool. The water slowly drains away and it’s then possible to walk where the water once was.

The next demonstration is at a larger hatch by the Town Path. This is where water from the River Nadder is released into the meadows to travel across the man-made channels into the River Avon. If the hatch is opened quickly, the water rushes with a bow wave down the channel. Even if the hatch is opened slowly you can still see a rush of water.

There’s then a chance to explore a bit and splash in the water.

Top tip – bring wellies!