Through the meadows runs the barrier bank (the actual flood bank runs nearer the River Ouse), since in times of potential flooding the meadows are filled with water to protect the city. This would historically have occurred quite naturally giving the reason for the existence of the ‘Ings’ (a Yorkshire dialect term of Viking origin), which were the flood meadows, where hay was cut in summer and beasts grazed before and after the hay cut, whilst in winter they were very wet.
Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows is a floodplain that can store up to 2,300,000 cubic meters of water, the equivalent of 920 Olympic sized swimming pools. During a flood the Environment Agency controls the amount of water that enters the ings and by doing so can lower the peak river level in the centre of York by up to 150mm, or almost 6 inches. After the flood has passed the stored water is released back into the river. Before filling the Ings numerous structures along the barrier bank are closed to prevent water from the local drainage systems backing up. Mobile pumps are also needed to maintain a safe water level in the Blue Beck basin next to the allotments. Without these measures large inhabited areas of Clifton and Rawcliffe could be at risk from flooding.
Some history of York flooding and flood prevention is available courtesy of the York Civic Trust.
Rabbits from the former Clifton hospital love to graze too, on summer evenings when its quiet!
The Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows restored traditional management to the site when they took over! The site is now cut for hay in early July and then cattle are brought on to graze (subject to flooding) prior to the site getting marshy again in autumn. The photo shows the hay bails waiting to be collected after the cut in July 2005.
The meadow from the floodbank looking south
The view of the meadow looking south from the floodbank.