Meades Water Gardens, a 3-acre site located off Red Lion Street, is a splendid natural habitat in the centre of the town and forms a stretch of the Chess Valley Walk.
Originally the site of the mill pond for Amy Mill and later developed into water cress beds, the River Chess was converted into an ornamental lake to create recreational gardens in 1979. The Garden was awarded a commendation by the Civic Trust in 1980. Unfortunately, the design of the gardens was unsustainable as the lakes silted up over time. The lakes were dredged in the 1990s, but this expensive process would need to be continually repeated to maintain this ornamental feature. Therefore, it was decided to restore the original chalk stream in a major environmental enhancement project in 2007-08.
Meades Water Gardens Regeneration
The Impress the Chess project, led by the Council and the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project, raised over £60,000 to regenerate the Water Gardens and improve its wildlife value. The ornamental lakes were converted back to the natural stream habitat. The River Chess is a chalk stream, which is a globally rare habitat and characteristic of the Chilterns. Chalk streams support a huge range of wildlife from brown trout to watercress, so the restoration of this habitat is very important to the area.
Read more about this award-winning project
This popular site is now maintained according to a Management Plan (PDF, 1.2 MB) devised by Impress the Chess. The work is carried out by the council's Parks and Premises Team and volunteers from Chesham Environmental Group and the River Chess Association.
Meades Water Gardens Wildlife
The River Chess in the Gardens is home to wildfowl, including moorhens and ducks. A variety of birds nest in the trees, and grey squirrels set up their drays. More unusual wildlife is sighted from time to time, including grass snakes, tawny owls and little egrets. The stream homes a number of plants, including watercress and ranunculus, and sticklebacks and freshwater shrimp rapidly re-colonised the new stream channel after the regeneration works. The invertebrate life of this stretch of the river is monitored monthly by the River Chess Association to assess the health of the river. This stretch of the river is unable to support much in the way of fish populations, as the river frequently dries out. Impress the Chess is involved in an investigation with the local water companies, the Environment Agency, Bucks Council, the River Chess Association and the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project to monitor the impact of water abstraction in the area on the river in Chesham.
Meades Water Gardens is supported by the work of the Impress the Chess project. To find out more, visit the Impress the Chess page.