The meadows have been put up for sale by the Marshall family, who have owned them for 80 years.
Apparently unused for much of that time, especially in recent years, we heard how they may be the site of a Civil War defence ditch and rampart.
And in living memory the meadows have been used to host fairs, circuses and ice skating.
Now they are criss-crossed with footpaths and used for walking dogs. MP Jeremy Hunt and (if I heard correctly) solicitor Jo Aylwin who is organising the campaign, both have houses overlooking the meadows.
The estate agents (Savills) are marketing the property as a potential ‘SANG’ — a green area that can be set aside for amenity use by people, to somehow ‘compensate’ for new building in the local area. Apparently there are number of criteria (including car parking) that are not currently met by the meadows. However, we heard how the rules appear to have been ‘twisted’ if not actually broken or bent in order to allow SANG designation to be given to other sites.
There was enthusiasm in the meeting for organising a charitable trust to buy the land through public subscription. (The council was unwilling to buy the land, although it later turned out that they have funds of around £1m in the bank.)
However, there seemed little thought of what to do with the land once it had been purchased.
One suggestion was to leave the land untended. This seems untenable in the long run — ditches, fences, gates will need to be maintained.
The solution that makes most sense to me is to buy and run the land as a community farm: use traditional breeds to manage the landscape in a way that encourages wildlife, creates local food, and provides the money to maintain the land as an amenity for local residents.
Facebook group “Protect Our Greenspace – Save Farnham’s Water Meadows”: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=175554758536&ref=search&sid=703735559.4121533062..1