Gnosall Parish Council
Our Mission is to improve the quality of life for those who live and work in the Parish of Gnosall and those who visit it.
The Acres sits in the floodplain of the Doley Brook. Passing just below the historic centre of the village, the brook has long been a key feature of the local landscape.
When the village doubled in size in the 1970s, the river valley was too wet for houses. So the land was given to the parish council as a Public Open Space. Yet, despite extensive drainage, in most places the valley bottom proved too soggy for sports pitches and allotments. The solution was to move the pitches to higher ground and celebrate the floodplain as a natural river valley, with meadows, reedbeds and ponds alive with native plants and animals.
Today, the ‘Acres’ is a popular 25-acre communal recreational and wildlife area owned and managed by the local parish council — for everyone to enjoy.
The earliest reference of the Acres is from May 1593 (during the reign of Elizabeth I) and is from a set of manor court documents that refers to watercourse misdemeanors by Francis Chewnall “in a meadow called le Acres”. It is mentioned again in the 1646 Gnosall Manor survey of to the town, but this time called The Ackers. In documents it also appears to have been referred to as the ‘town meadows’.
From Norman times onwards, the marshy meadows along the Doley and Hollies brooks have separated Gnosall from Gnosall Heath.
During the 18th-19th century, the fields along the Doley Brook were managed as water meadows. Such wetlands were greatly prized for their lush spring pasture and valuable hay or grazing provided during the summer. Light winter flooding was controlled by sluices to bring water and deposit of rich silt (natural fertilizer!) onto the fields. In cold years this was maintained long enough to protect the sward from late frosts and allow the grass to grow several weeks earlier than elsewhere. (map)
Although abandoned by the Twentieth Century, the flood meadows along the Doley Brook remained grazed until the 1970’s.
The 1834 Tithe Map shows the main field west of the brook as Willow Moor – probably after old withy beds which may have been used to supply villagers with materials for making baskets, eel-traps, fencing and thatching spars.
Although grazed for much of the last Century, this boggy area was abandoned until restoration work carried out in 2012 and is quickly reverting back to a wetland dominated by sedges and reeds. The fen also contains a wonderful array of wetland plants such as meadow sweet & gypsywort, which in turn supports a diverse community of insects, birds and animals. Most wetlands in Britain have been drained for modern agriculture, so fens such as ours are a nationally rare habitat.
This fen-type habitat is also re-colonising parts of the main Acres field (to the east of the brook) and the abandoned allotments (Further Moor on the 1934 map). The deep peaty soils beneath much of the site indicates how permanently saturated the floodplain has been.
As a headwater on the upper reaches of a catchment, the brook is solely dependent on water from its own small basin and other small tributaries. This means the flow can be very low in dry periods and quickly reach flood levels after heavy local rainfall
Although heavily degraded from over dredging, the Doley Brook is still the key feature of the Acres. Gnosall Parish Council plans to restore the brook over time to being a healthy and attractive watercourse again, rich in wildlife. This will take many years to achieve, but we hope to re-create an attractive and dynamic watercourse again for the whole village to enjoy.
Pressure on the floodplain has grown over the past 30 years as much of the immediate catchment has been developed and drainage of agricultural land upstream has intensified. This means that rainwater that was once soaked-up by farmland now runs-off more rapidly into the brook.
The role of the floodplain is likely to become ever more important in the future as Climate Change produces increasingly extreme patterns of weather.
As part of a drainage scheme in the 1980’s, a boggy area was excavated to create the main pond, now such a familiar feature of the Acres. A series of additional ponds were created in 2012 to provide further wetland habitats west of the brook. These are linked by a channel taking overflow water from the brook through the fen.
The main Acres field is being restored as a wildflower meadow. Hay from Mottey Meadows was spread on the southern half of the field in July 2010 and a second application is planned. Traditional meadows provide unique habitats for wildlife and look wonderful when in flower. The hay is cut in late summer after the seed has ripened, turned to allow the hay to dry and seeds to fall, before being removed.
Photographs from St Lawrence Church Tower show how few trees there were on the Acres floodplain just 30 years ago. Hundreds of trees have since been planted, completely transforming the local landscape.
Gnosall Parish Council has developed a number of facilities for the local community. On the higher ground next to Brookhouse Road there is children’s play-area, Multi-use Games Area (the MUGA), football pitch and basketball net. A new picnic area was installed in 2013.
Paths across the site are maintained and a new boardwalk (constructed with UK recycled plastic) was installed across the wetland and brook in 2012, with surfaced footpaths linking both car parks on either side of the floodplain.
Allotments were created to the west of the Doley Brook in 1980 and there are now 70 (??) managed plots. The Gnosall Allotments and Gardens Association (GAGA) assist with management and support.
The 1970’s and 80’s were relatively dry decades and in 1987 plots were extended into the low-lying marshy area to the south, but soon abandoned as wetter weather returned in the following decade.
The piece of land next to the medical centre, on Brookhouse Road, now belongs to the Parish Council after it was gifted to us from Taylor Wimpey. The land was granted village green status in 2010
Located to the north of Gnosall (SJ 816 217), this low-lying wet pasture forms part of the Meres and Mosses of the region. It is situated in the flood plain of the Doley Brook and was probably created by a major outflow from the retreating glacial ice-sheet. It contains a nationally rare acidic marshy grassland community and includes rare invertebrates such as the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly.