King’s Meads, between Hertford and Ware, are the largest remaining grazed riverside flood meadows in Hertfordshire, covering 96 hectares or 237 acres. The rivers and ditches, which criss-cross the site, traditionally flooded the flat land although, due to falling water levels, this now happens less often than in the past. However, ditch restoration and the maintenance of a system of sluices is gradually restoring the water levels to the meadows during the winter months. This combination of ditches, floodwater and regular grazing has created a rich wetland habitat that is excellent for a range of flora and fauna.
These water meadows consist of a number of meads including Park Mead, Stockade Mead, Hollow Mead, Sweet Mead, Lady’s Mead, Widow’s Mead, Mill Mead, Little Mead, Tansy Mead and Broad Mead, collectively known as King’s Meads. King’s Mead itself lies centrally on the site under the A10 flyover and to the north of the New River. King’s Meads are a nature reserve managed by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust on behalf of the owners and partners, namely East Herts District Council, Environment Agency, GlaxoSmithKline, Thames Water Utilities and private landowners.
There are two areas for parking. The first is the residential area immediately east of Chadwell Spring Golf Club on the A119 (TL352137). Alternatively, at weekends, it is possible to park in front of the business units immediately west of the golf club (TL348136). From here, entry to the site is via Access Point 1 shown on the map.
The second parking area is a Pay and Display car park next to the library at Burgage Road, which is a turning off Ware High Street (TL357143). Leave the car park via the footbridge over the Lee Navigation, turn right and follow the towpath towards the flyover. Entry to the site can then be made via Access Point 5 at Ware Lock or Access Point 4 under the flyover.
The site can also be reached by rail from either Hertford East or Ware station. From Hertford East, follow Mead Lane (north of the railway track) and enter the site at Access Point 6. From Ware station follow the New River footpath in a westerly direction.
The best viewing point is from the chalk grassland on Chadwell Bank, which is the grassy bank next to the road. From here, you get commanding views of West and East Pools. Despite being deceptively shallow (see cows walk across them and you will be convinced), these pools attract a wide variety of wildfowl including Little Grebe, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Ruddy Duck, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon and, during migration periods, Garganey.
Waders include good numbers of Snipe and Lapwing, with Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper on passage. Also look out for the occasional Little Egret.
Crossing the causeway brings you to the White House Sluice. This is a good point to ponder, as apart from being an excellent place to see Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher, it is the first opportunity to look over the grasslands for which King’s Meads are so well known. It is here that you may well encounter Reed Bunting and, during the summer and autumn migration, Sedge Warbler, Stonechat and Whinchat. Hobbies are present during the summer months.
Continuing to the left of the sluice, you come to a kissing gate and a stile, which takes you over the railway. You now head west along the bank of the New River. Once again, look out for Kingfisher, as this is one of their favourite stretches. Also, over the grasslands to the north, watch out for Stonechat, Whinchat and Meadow Pipit and in the reed-bed which runs parallel to the railway for Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler.
Apart from the above, King’s Meads hold a wide range of the commoner species and, with regular visits throughout the year, it is possible to record up to one hundred species.