Tag Archives: Beverley Brook

Riding for Rivers, London to Brighton Cycle Ride

Last Sunday, Nick and I rode 54 miles in the name of rivers, completing the London to Brighton cycle ride. This blog is our way of saying thank you to all of those who supported and sponsored us along the way.

(If you’re worried you missed the opportunity to sponsor us, you still can, so never fear! The links are below)

http://www.doitforcharity.com/NickHale

http://www.doitforcharity.com/THull

So why on earth did we agree to cycle 54 miles?

Well, to be honest it was a mix of thinking “Ride4Rivers” was a catchy slogan, and being asked to do it when we under the influence in the pub. Before we knew it, our cycling jerseys had arrived in the post and we were beginning a countdown to Sunday 17th September.

What was Ride4Rivers?

The Ride4Rivers team was organised by the Rivers Trust, inviting local trusts and volunteers to raise money and awareness for their local river by joining the London to Brighton cycle ride. In the team were myself and Nick, other rivers trust staff and volunteers, and riders from Five Rivers and the Angling Trust among others. All the money raised by the Ride4Rivers team will go back to the Trusts and help further work to protect and enhance our river ecosystem. So how could we say no really?

The BIG Day

The Ride4Rivers team gathered early in the Sunday morning at Clapham Common with over 4000 other riders.

The team respectfully giving space and attention to the fuel for most to get started, coffee

Within a few miles we came to Hackbridge where the route offered a perfect photo opportunity overlooking the site where we removed four weirs and undertook significant restoration work back in 2014 on the Wandle – with Nick working for us as the contractor at the time!

The river was looking splendid, but there wasn’t time to stop for long, and shortly after we were passing the source of the Wandle at Carshalton Ponds.

A quick pit stop to admire the Hackbridge restoration work

The flat ground of London soon turned to numerous steep climbs as we ascended the North Downs. Fortunately however physics was on our side as what goes up must come down. Soon we had gravity helping us as we descended into the Weald. The atmosphere among all was great as we pushed on mile after mile. Our stomachs began to grumble but the organisers had this covered by laying on an absolute feast at Mile 29, the only thing being they made us work for it by locating the lunch at the top of a steep hill.

Feeling energised if somewhat seized up, progress after lunch began well but then… psssss, Nick got a puncture on his rear tyre. Now I mentioned that neither of us are cyclists, it would appear that since being children our memory of how to replace an inner tube was a little hazy. Sometime later (and with a little help it must be said) we were back on the road.

Sad face

A noise continued to be emitted from my bike that had developed since lunch.  Some 12 miles later as we approached the infamous Ditchling Beacon the noise finally got to me and I figured I should have a little investigate. It appeared that I had been riding with my brake partly on since lunch. Well I didn’t want to make it too easy! Again with our bike maintenance knowledge lacking after a little more unsuccessful fumbling the only thing for it was to disconnect the rear brake.

Ditchling Beacon soon loomed over us and the climb was on, one mile of uphill struggle lay ahead but we were not going to be defeated and soon we summited to spectacular panoramic views with the sun coming out on cue.  More unsuccessful fumbling to reinstate my brake, meant a bit of a hairy descent down to Brighton but who cared, from here it was all downhill to the finish line, the end was near and the prospect of a pint alluring.

Ditchling Beacon summited

We both need to say a massive thank you to all of you who so kindly donated to Ride4Rivers – your backing was so valuable to encourage us along, not to mention the benefit it will bring in helping us to enhance, restore and protect our rivers. Thank you so much! Nick and I also need to thank Steve Wright, Luke and Sam for lending us bikes so that we were able to take part – otherwise it would have been a long walk.

A well earned beer

If you wanted to sponsor, but missed out then our fundraising pages are remaining open for another couple of months so please do give what you can in support of our local rivers.

http://www.doitforcharity.com/NickHale

http://www.doitforcharity.com/THull

 

A new, exciting project to improve water quality on the Beverley Brook

So you know that the roads can be pretty dirty. You see the direct effects of it on your car when you think it’s probably time to give it a clean. The dirt on the roads is also really well illustrated when it snows and soon the pure white snow changes to black slush. But where does all of this dirt come from?

You see trucks and lorries leaking oil and busses belching out thick clouds of exhaust fumes when pulling away from traffic lights. You see gulley pots full of litter, cigarette butts and sand that has run off the nearest building site. Or the paint that is dripped out of vans or has been poured into the curb. You walk along the street dodging ‘dog eggs’ which litter the pavement. Then in winter the roads get spread with grit and salt during cold snaps.

You may consider of all of these things as unsightly or unpleasant when on the roads, but within a short period of time and with a bit of rain, all of these substances are washed away and are out of sight and out of mind. But where does it disappear to?

The answer: often the nearest watercourse.

The initial runoff, known as the ‘first flush’, runs black especially in urban areas. In turn with many other outfalls also discharging the entire river turns black.

First flush on the River Wandle, South East Rivers Trust

So what is in this run-off?

Basically it consists of a nasty cocktail containing pieces of the road surface, tyres, brake pads and other material from engine parts from regular wear. Throw into the mix some fuel, gear oil, grease, brake fluid and antifreeze. Then for good measure add some pesticides, fertilisers, plant detritus, some illicit dumping of substances, inputs from misconnected drains and in winter de-icing grit and salt.

Unsurprisingly road runoff can be detrimental to the receiving watercourse, whose impacts on riverine ecology can be acute or chronic. The sediment smothers gravels vital for invertebrates and fish. The turbid water reduces light penetration so plant communities suffer due to limited photosynthesis. Furthermore, the sediment blocks the feeding mechanisms of filter feeders and gills of other aquatic organisms.

The Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) (oils) and heavy metals are both known to be toxic to aquatic fauna. High concentrations of heavy metals associated with the ‘first flush’ can ‘shock’ aquatic environments as the water is polluted with levels several times higher the normal concentration. Multiple studies have shown that heavy metals can also cause long term impacts as they bio-accumulate within the food chain.

So what can we do?

It is well known that these contaminants freely bind to sediment. It therefore follows that if the sediment is removed, so too will many of the contaminants. This is the plan to protect the Beverley Brook in Richmond Park.

The Project

The Rivers Trust and WWF are managing three water management projects in the Thames and South East River Basins, for the benefit of both people and wildlife. The wider initiative is funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation and contributes to Coca-Cola’s promise to safely return the full amount of water used in finished beverages and their production to communities and nature by 2020 – an ongoing commitment as they managed to reach this goal five years ahead of target. Globally Coca-Cola works in over 2000 communities and supports more than 248 community water partnership projects in over 71 countries – this being one of them.

A schematic of how a Downstream Defender works

We are delighted to announce that the South East Rivers Trust is delivering one of these three projects which will see a large (and I mean very large) silt trap, known as a Downstream Defender® supplied by Hydro International, installed onto a surface water drain. The drain currently carries run-off from the incredibly urban surrounding catchment directly into the Beverley Brook. The Downstream Defender will trap a large portion of the sediment and associated contaminants, preventing them from reaching the Beverley Brook. Intermittently the trap will be emptied with a gulley sucker and the toxic sludge removed to landfill. Consequently, the health of the river will improve making it a better place for both wildlife and people.

Last Tuesday we launched this collaborative project with the arrival of the Downstream Defender to Richmond Park. We’d like to thank our funders, the Coca-Cola Foundation, as well as all our partners including WWF, The Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency, The Royal Parks, the Friends of Richmond Park and Thames Water. Also a big thank you to Hydro International for supplying the Downstream Defender and for their much appreciated contributions to the launch event. Thank you to all the guys at Kenward Groundworks; Tony, Matt, Dave, Mark and Woody for all your efforts with installing the chamber. And finally thanks to John Sutton from Clearwater Photography for taking photograph of the launch and project.

Partners with the Downstream Defender Silt Trap

 

Celebrating the launch of the project with partners and volunteers

Photos: John Sutton, Clearwater Photography

 

Knowing your rudd from your roach

Our lucky Pollution Patrol volunteers were treated to a FIN-tastic day with our local Environment Agency team, learning all about fish.

It may come as a surprise to some people, but the Hogsmill, Wandle and Beverley Brook all contain a variety of different fish species. Common species across all three rivers include chub, dace, roach, barbel, stickleback and European eels.

But how do you tell the different between these species? For some, it is easier than others. The European eel is quite distinctive compared to the others for example. But as to the rest, it’s a bit more difficult.

Tom Cousins, a local EA Fisheries Officer, started the day for us with a presentation on the different fish species and the key identifying features.

The diagram below shows the external morphology of an average fish, and the features that help us distinguish one species from another.

For example: Roach and Rudd

These two fish are quite similar in appearance, both large-bodied with reddish fins. So how can we tell them apart? The answer is by looking at the mouth.

The roach is a bottom feeder, and its mouth points downwards, with the upper lip over-hanging the bottom lip – whereas a rudd feeds from the surface, and therefore the bottom lip overhangs the top lip.

The presentation from the Environment Agency is available below for you to download, with many more tricks and tips for ID.

Fish ID Presentation

As part of the training day, we also got to witness the Environment Agency’s electrofishing survey at Morden Hall Park on the River Wandle in South London.

It was amazing to learn about the fish in the classroom, and then come outside and see some in the flesh. Each fish caught was measured, and scale samples from some were taken in order to age the fish.

Once they had been recorded and had recovered, they were returned safely back to the Wandle. 

Many thanks to Morden Hall Park for hosting us and to the Environment Agency for running the event!

Get ready for London Rivers Week 2017

Get your diaries out and calendars open, the dates for London Rivers Week 2017 have been confirmed!

LRW logo finalLondon Rivers Week 2016 brought together many partners across London, delivering a total of 35 public events to get everyone involved with their local river. This year, we want to make it even bigger and better.

London Rivers Week 2017 will start on Monday 26th June and run through to Sunday 2nd July. During this week, organisations across London will put on a variety of river themed events including cleanups, guided walks, information talks, citizen science taster sessions and more.

To find out more about London River Week, check out the Thames 21 website page where all the events will be listed: http://www.thames21.org.uk/londonriversweek/

Until then, keep your eyes peeled for more details on what is to come!

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Water quality improvements are on par at Richmond Park

Shortly I will post another blog updating you on how the river improvement works in Richmond Park are settling in one year after they were completed. Although the river habitat works have been completed (for now!) work has by no means ended. In addition to improving the habitat, our attention is also focused on addressing the poor water quality entering into the Brook.

Upstream of the Richmond Park golf course, rain water pours off the surrounding urban catchment and notably down the incredibly busy and often choked A3 at Roehampton Hill. It then flows down the gulley pots, into a surface water drain before this opens out into a ditch which flows across Richmond Park Golf Course before discharging into the Beverley Brook. Such road runoff is known to cause detrimental effects to the aquatic environment, not only from the significant quantities of sediment carried in it, but additionally from the contaminants bound to it. These include Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), hydrocarbons and heavy metals. Our aim was to therefore capture the sediment and the contaminants before they reach the Brook. This was achieved with a two pronged attack.

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Oil from the A3 covering the surface of the pond in the golf course. Thick black sediment covers the bed

First of all, mid-fairway at the upstream end of the golf course we opened the ditch out to create an on-line pond, known to us as a silt trap but to golfers as a feature water hazard. With help from Rob McInnes, the pond’s size was calculated so that all coarse sediment down to 0.1mm would drop out as a consequence of lowering the velocity of the flow. A shallow marginal ledge was incorporated along the length of the pond, which has been planted with a mix of wetland plant species to promote deposition, whilst providing species and habitat diversity. By emptying the pond regularly, the silt is removed from the system and the effectiveness of the trap is maintained.

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Starting to open the ditch out

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A few months after completion, the pond is trapping plenty of silt (and plenty of golf balls)

The second measure took place a few hundred metres further down the ditch where an existing online pond, in the shape of a ring doughnut, provided an excellent opportunity to be modified to create a wetland. The plan was to re-jig it so that the doughnut became a U-shape. This prevents short-circuiting, therefore increasing retention times, reducing velocities and again promoting a depositional environment.

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The pond before works start

The pond was too deep to plant straight into, so we needed to find spoil to fill it in. What better way to produce the spoil than dig a second wetland immediately upstream of the first, which will increase the treatment capacity further.

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Re configuring and filling in of the pond

Six thousand plants consisting of over 20 species were planted in the wetlands. The dense structure created by the plants results in even finer sediments being captured than in the silt trap upstream.

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The wetlands newly planted with 6000 plugs and fenced off

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August and the plants have established

Furthermore, this has now created a fantastic wetland habitat full of dragonflies, damselflies and frogs to name a few. Both the silt trap and wetlands have been fenced off and have bird twine strung over them to prevent the large population of geese from nobbling the plants before they had the chance to establish. The total area of both is approximately 800 metres square.

A simple water level control structure was created at the outlet of each wetland. As sediment accumulates and reduces the depth of water over time, another drop board can be put in, allowing the water depth to be increased, therefore reducing maintenance requirements and prolonging the life of the wetland.

The effectiveness of the installed measures is currently being monitored, however a coincidental site visit during a pollution event helped to anecdotally demonstrate the effectiveness. Run-off from a presumed building site was bringing significant quantities of sand rich water into the ditch. After the silt trap, the turbidity of water flowing out was visually improved. Walking further down the ditch network, after flowing through both wetlands, we were incredibly impressed to see that the water flowing out and into the river was clear to the eye. Although this was always the theory behind why we created these features, to see it work first hand to such a great effect was brilliant and hugely satisfying. With contaminants generally being bound to sediment, this clearly demonstrates not only a reduction of sediment input to the river but indirectly of contaminants too.

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Thick sandy water flowing into the sediment trap

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Water in the ditch downstream of the sediment trap and both wetlands

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Significantly improved water clarity entering into the Beverley Brook

Job done!! (for now anyway). I am now working up the next phase of water quality improvements. Updates will follow shortly.

As always, the success of this project is down to the valuable contribution of many people and organisations.

Big thanks to the ongoing project partners; the Environment Agency, Defra, The Royal Parks and Friends of Richmond Park. Thanks to Jon Dummett and Gary Stewart at Glendale Golf Course for surprisingly being so willing in allowing us to dig up their course and for their continued support since. Thanks to Rob McInnes at RM Wetlands & Environment Ltd for guiding the designs, Ben and the guys at Aquamaintain for braving the cold February days delivering the work and again for planting it up. Thanks to Thames Water for providing the flow meter which was installed in the ditch network to inform the design and finally, to Layla at Queen Mary University for monitoring the work.

New London Partnership Project to tackle Urban Pollution

We have teamed up with Thames 21 on a new project to tackle urban pollution across London’s rivers.

Many improvements in the quality of urban rivers have been made in recent years, but lots of serious water quality issues remain. One of the biggest issues is ‘urban runoff’, where a toxic mixture of contaminants derived from urban areas drain straight into rivers.

With surface water drains often running straight into rivers, these contaminants are washed directly and unfiltered into urban rivers when it rains. During these ‘first flush’ events, river water often changes from being clear and colourless to being an opaque grey-black colour, and water analysis shows that a complex mixture of hydrocarbons, fine particles, nutrients, microorganisms and heavy metals are the cause.

First Flush samples from the River Wandle

First Flush samples from the River Wandle

In urban areas the contaminants causing rivers to run grey-black in colour may have a greater impact, but the locations at which they enter a river are often unknown, and they are relatively costly to survey, with samples needing to be processed by a lab.

Our project with Thames 21 is testing a low-cost sampling method that can be used by volunteers to identify complex urban contamination. In particular, it aims to investigate Surface Water Outfalls (SWOs) which discharge contaminated urban runoff into London’s tributaries of the River Thames.

The method being developed is based on evidence from data collected on the River Wandle, and urban sites in Wigan in NW England, which show that Total Suspended Solids (TSS) are strongly correlated with several important heavy metals and E. coli (a bacterium which can indicate faecal matter) and can therefore be used as a low-cost proxy to identify problematic concentrations of these contaminants.

The next step in this project is for us and Thames 21 to create Pollutant Profiles for our rivers to see if they match this correlation. You can follow progress on the project on our Twitter feed @SE_Rivers_Trust with #TSS!

Planting on the Beverley Brook

The Beverley Brook in Richmond Park has had a serious makeover recently. Through the Park, the river was severely overwide and slow moving, leaving a silty channel bed with little habitat variation for invertebrates and fish. Earlier this year, we undertook a large scale restoration project on a 600m stretch of the Brook – you can read all about what we did and why in Toby’s blog here.

Before and After Beverley Brook

Following this, we teamed up with the Friends of Richmond Park to plant trees along the banks of the Beverley Brook – providing shelter and shade in just the right amounts.

GetImage2The next step was marginal planting – so we called in some reinforcements…

Thanks to our successful bid to Tesco’s Bags of Help fund, we have been able to organise two planting days on the Beverley Brook – adding 6000 plants to the restored stretches of river. These will grow up to create great marginal habitats as well as replenish the seed bank of the river downstream.

Across the two days (Saturday 9th & 23rd April), we were joined by a total of 65 volunteers.  To start each day off, Toby gave a quick tour of the works so far while I colour coded the plants on where they should be planted. Blue plants were to be added on the water line, red and yellow to be in the marginal zone and green to be higher up the bank.

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We had ordered a variety of species, some of which are currently absent from the Brook due to the last couple of centuries of mans’ influences. We used similar and nearby rivers such as the Hogsmill and Wandle as a guide for what should be there and used historic evidence, such as Milais’s Ophelia, which was painted on the Hogsmill, to direct these choices. By planting in our fenced sections, we give the flora a chance to establish a seed bank ensuring they continue to flourish on the river for many years to come.

Ophelia 1851-2 Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896 Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01506

Ophelia 1851-2 Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896 Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01506)

With 65 volunteers and 6000 plants, everyone had a target of 92!

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Most of our planting was focused on the new berms created when Toby narrowed the river.

We also installed two kingfisher nest boxes along the banks of the brook. These boxes are specially designed for Kingfisher nesting. They are buried into the bank and lined with mud to allow the birds to create their nest more naturally.

Kingfisher Nest

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Big thank you to our volunteers: Abane, Ajith, Alana, Amanda, Anishka, Barbara, Bella, Bindu, Brandon C, Brandon O, Brian, Carolyn, Charles W, Charles C, Chris, Dave J, Dave W, David H, Ed, Edward, Eric, Gearoid, Graham, Guy, Harriet, Heather, Ian, Jane E, Jane P, Janet, Jill, John, Jon, Kish, Loredana, Lucy, Mariam, Mark, Matthew, Mike, Nicola, Path, Phil, Rhianna, Roger, Rosie, Sharika, Shivani, Steve, Vela, Victoria and Wally

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Planting

About Tesco Bags of Help

Tesco teamed up with Groundwork to launch its Bags of Help initiative across Scotland, England and Wales. The scheme has seen three community groups and projects in each region awarded grants of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag charge. Bags of Help offers community groups and projects in each of Tesco’s 390 regions across the UK a share of revenue generated from the five pence charge levied on single-use carrier bags. The public voted in store to decide which local groups should receive the £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 awards.

The Beverley Brook Needs Your Vote!

Bags of HelpThe Beverley Brook Catchment Partnership have been successful in securing a Tesco grant from the Bags of Help fund – but we need your vote!

If you are shopping in the Sutton/Cheam area between now and Sunday 9th March, why not shop in a local Tesco store and give your vote to our project?

With your votes, we could get an extra £4000 to the project! The money will be used to make improvements to the Beverley Brook through Richmond Park following our recent restoration works. There will even be community planting days which you could get involved in.

So what are you waiting for, go vote for Project Two: Richmond Park River Enhancements!

Our Project

 

Tree Planting in Richmond Park

I am sure you have all been following the progress in Richmond Park with our Beverley Brook Restoration Project. Well now that the main channels works have been completed, we were ready to move on to the next stage: tree planting.

Tree Planting

Adding the right number of trees along the channel is crucial to restoring the habitat. Trees provide excellent cover for fish from predation, the shade they create helps to keep the river cool in the summer months, they provide habitat for birds and insects and the seeds as a food source. However too much shade can prevent marginal, emergent and submerged plant growth, so a balance has to be struck.

On a sunny February morning we were joined by seven volunteers from Friends of Richmond Park to plant nearly 200 trees along the two restored sections on the Beverley Brook.

To ensure we got it right, Toby (Senior Projects Officer at SERT) had worked closely with Royal Parks’ Julia (Head of Ecology) to map out where each species should be planted and how many.

More Trees

Tree species planted included several types of willow (white, grey, osier and goat) as well as alder, black poplar, blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, birch and elm. All trees were given a protection from grazing and from high flows to give them the best chance at establishing. Given the flashy nature of the Beverley Brook, those trees planted closer to the channel were given some extra protection from strong flows with a large stake providing cover.

More trees

Next on the agenda for this project is to add plants to the marginal habitats in April. Watch this space and come and get involved!

Big thank you to our volunteers from Friends of Richmond Park: Brian, Ian, Janet, Jed, Mike, Roger and Simon.

Lovely gravels

Restoration to the Beverley Brook in Richmond Park (Phase 1)

The write up of the introduction to the project can be viewed here.

I have now returned from being out at Richmond Park delivering the first phase of restoration to the Beverley Brook in Richmond Park. It has been a while and lots has happened which I am keen to share. I suggest you make a cuppa, take a seat and get comfy.

The Beverley Brook possesses incredibly flashy characteristics due to the urban nature of the river with a significant proportion of the catchment being coated in hard, impermeable paving. With the plan to be on-site for seven weeks through the British autumn undertaking a significant amount of in-channel works to 600 m of river, we were firmly in the hands of the weather once again.

The aim of the project is to enhance the heavily degraded, uniform and generally inhospitable channel so that it would be more inviting to the native fauna and flora that should be present and abundant.

A sorry state at the start of the project

A sorry state at the start of the project

Before the works started we undertook a range of monitoring to capture the baseline condition of the river. These will be vital and incredibly interesting to refer to in the years to come to demonstrate the effectiveness of the project. The monitoring included a two day fish survey undertaken by the Environment Agency, habitat mapping, aquatic invertebrate and plant surveys, sediment analysis and novelly for us, a drone recorded aerial video and photography of the site with some exciting low fly-over manoeuvres.

Drone in Action

Drone action

The work then commenced. With the help from the Aquamaintain guys once again and with Trevor behind the controls of the long reach excavator, we set about spicing up the bland channel. The key to this was variety. A variety of flow types, a variety of channel widths, depths and bank profiles. By adding diversity, a mosaic of habits would be created, providing for  a range of species throughout their life stages.

When discussions about the project first started with the Royal Parks a year or so ago, I could not believe my ears when they announced that there was no shortage of trees and rootwads we could source from the Park to use in the river. With this rare offer, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. With the help of Mick Baker, the Park’s go to forester, dozens and dozens of oak trees were felled (I must add this is as part of the Park’s management regime), the root balls dug up and all carried down to the river by the mighty forwarder (tractor).

Rootwads and LWM ready to be used

Rootwads and LWM ready to be used

Some of the LWM stockpile seen from the air

Some of the LWM stockpile seen from the air

Mick bringing down another load of oak tree tops

Mick bringing down another load of oak tree tops

The wood was introduced to the river in a variety of methods to perform a number of tasks. In places, masses of the tree tops and smaller limbs were stacked up against the bank extending between a third to half way across the channel. These were compacted with the huge force of the excavator and then secured with posts and fencing wire. This technique reduces the channel width to give the river more energy whilst providing complex habitat both above and below the water line. Furthermore, the dense network of branches creates slack water, encouraging silt to drop out whilst also capturing leaves and seeds. Overtime, these structures will consolidate and vegetate to form a new bank. By alternating the bank these are constructed on, a meandering sequence is created in conjunction with the next method, backfilled faggots.

Tree tops and brash in the foreground before being compressed and secured

Tree tops and brash in the foreground before being compressed and secured

Faggots (brash bundles) are fixed to the bed with posts and wire to create the new bank line, again reducing the channel width in places from 7 metres down to 2.5. The steep banks are then regraded and the spoil placed behind the faggots to produce low lying berms which in time will become wetlands when marginal plants establish.

Faggots with incorporated LWM being used to narrow the over-wide channel

Faggots with incorporated LWM being used to narrow the over-wide channel before being backfilled with the regraded banks

Protruding out of the tree tops and faggot berms, larger tree trunks, rootwads and multi-limbs (Large Woody Material, LWM) where fixed into place, extending out across the channel.

Rootwads providing complex cover

Rootwads providing complex cover with a backfilled faggot berm behind

Doing so is a great way to not only provide complex cover but is also a way to reinstate energy back to the river. As water rushes over, under and past the structures, the bed is scoured, creating deeper holes and throwing up the cleaned gravels into shoals and bars. This is a truly rewarding aspect of the work, identifying where and how to place the wood. Even under low flows, the impact can be felt immediately with the gravels being kicked up around your feet. A day later, the bed downstream is glowing with gravels as opposed to the previous uniform blanket covering of sand. And again, after higher flows, features are carved out and created.

LWM immediatley forming holes, shoals and riffles

LWM immediatley forming holes, shoals and riffles

The banks were also naturalised as we progressed downstream. The steep gradient was reduced where possible to provide transitional areas between the terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Intermittently, hugely over-engineered concrete headwalls with tiny two inch blocked land drains poking out scared the bank. Being redundant, these were removed with a total of 20 tonnes of concrete being mucked-away from site.

Another concrete headwall being removed

Another concrete headwall being removed

Significant regrading of the perched banks to form a wide wetland area on an inside meander, soon to be planted

Significant regrading of the perched banks to form a wide wetland area on an inside meander, soon to be planted

A key aspect of the project is to restrict deer access to the channel. To do this the entire 600m length which is divided into two sections was fenced off. However, to prevent them accessing the stretches by simply walking up the channel, we had to construct river gates at the ends of the sections. In a river as deeply incised and flashy as the Beverley Brook is here, this took some doing. We ordered in several chunky telegraph poles. Some were cut and notched to form half jointed A-frames. These were positioned in deep holes high up on the banks. Mounted onto these, the excavator lifted 12 metre telegraph poles to span the channel. From these using stainless steel eye bolts and chains, oak gates from wood sourced and milled in the Park and manufactured by our good friend, Norm Fairey were hung. The principle being that the river gates prevent deer passing but importantly not causing a debris build up.

A section of the 600m of fencing which has been erected

A section of the 600m of fencing which has been erected

The moment of truth, the telegraph pole spans the 12m gap before the braces are removed from the A-frames and the holes are filled with concrete

The moment of truth, the telegraph pole spans the 12m gap before the braces are removed from the A-frames and the holes are filled with concrete

Jack standing back and admiring one of the three telegraph pole river gates completed

Jack standing back and admiring one of the three telegraph pole river gates completed

A conveniently placed bridge provides the structure for the fourth set of gates

A conveniently placed bridge provides the structure for the fourth set of gates

The last task was to create a deer and dog access point. These access points prevent the banks being eroded (poached) with the subsequent input of sediment to the channel. The banks were regraded to a shallower angle and first armoured with 20 tonnes of gabion stone and then covered with compacted scalpings.

Access point in the foreground with the most downstream river gates behind marking the end of the restored section or river

Access point in the foreground with the most downstream river gates behind marking the end of the restored section or river

As I mentioned at the beginning, we were needing the autumn weather to be kind to us. Who could believe it? Throughout the first three and a half weeks we barely had a drop, allowing great progress with the in-channel works and with ground conditions holding up well. After that, we did lose a couple of days due to rain and the spatey flows but I considered we had been lucky and gratefully accepted it.

The New Year has provided the first heavy flows. I managed to get down to the river yesterday and waded the length inspecting how things are bedding in.  I am pleased to say that the restoration has certainly been successful in the aim of providing variety. With more energy, the river at last has active functioning processes.

Before, blandness!

Before, blandness!

And after, variety is the spice of life!

And after, variety is the spice of life!

The Large Woody Material is scouring holes with loose gravel riffles forming downstream. The bed on outside of the meanders is deepening with large deposits of sediment forming shallow berms on the inside. The tree tops are accumulating sediment and consolidating quickly. The water’s surface is rippled and broken making the river audible once again. Even whilst doing the work, each morning a walk up the river demonstrated the immediate effectiveness with dace and chub taking up residence in new lies and pools where before there were none. I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing how the river adjusts and naturalises over the coming weeks, months and years.

So moving on, next month we start addressing diffuse urban pollution entering into the Brook from the A3 by digging a sediment trap and creating two wetlands. We are also having our first of several planting days. This one introducing trees to the river banks to provide shade and Large Woody Material in the future. We will keep you posted.

There are so many people to thank. The funders; The Friends of Richmond Park, The Royal Parks, the Environment Agency and the Beverley Brook Catchment Partnership. And those that helped out;  Simon, Julia and Adam at The Royal Parks, the guys at Aquamaintain; Ben, Dave, Jack, Zac, Lloyd and Roo. Trevor from Land & Water  in the machine, Norm Fairey, Curling Fencing Contractors, Mick Baker, Andy Birnie, Colin Hampton, Luke and his drone, the list goes on. Thank you all.

 

River Restoration in Richmond Park

Richmond ParkWe’ve started our latest restoration project in Richmond Park, working to enhance the Beverley Brook in partnership with The Royal Parks, The Environment Agency, the Friends of Richmond Park and the Beverley Brook Catchment Partnership.

Richmond Park is well known for its deer and its nationally important terrestrial habitats, e.g. acid grassland. Given this high status you would be forgiven for thinking that the river was also in good shape.  However, it’s actually not and its wildlife is relatively impoverished.

About 14% of the length of the Beverley Brook runs through the Richmond Park and so restoring the river through the park, presents an excellent opportunity to make a real difference to the whole river ecosystem.

Why is restoration needed?

The Beverley Brook, like many of London’s rivers, has been heavily modified in the past leaving a highly uniform river channel lacking in habitat diversity. The river channel has been over-widened and in places deepened along most of its length with all natural woody material and instream features being routinely removed from the channel for decades. Due to these reasons there is little variation in flow and depth and subsequently there is little habitat diversity for fish and aquatic invertebrates.

RP Before 2In addition to this the banks are very steep and the river is incised (if you stand on the top of the bank the river is quite a long way down!) and the banks have been subject to increased erosion due to the intense grazing of deer. The deer enjoy eating the succulent river bank plants. This means there is little vegetation left and there are no root structures to hold the soil on the river bank in place and so it washes into the river.  You may have seen a sandy bottom on the river bed: this isn’t actually what it’s meant to look like and is a result of the soil washing in and smothering the natural gravels on the river bed. This is a problem for the river ecosystem as many of the plants and animals that would naturally live in the Beverley Brook need the gravelly river bed habitats to survive.

SiltyBed           SteepBank

A natural river system has the ability to self-regulate but when it becomes modified, the processes can get out of kilter and we may need to intervene to kick start them again.  All of the modifications to the Beverley Brook have left the river with little power, taking away the opportunity for the channel to naturally fix itself with geomorphological processes.

RP Before 1What we are doing

A large river restoration project in the Park has been developed and funded in partnership with the South East Rivers Trust, the Royal Parks, the Friends of Richmond Park, the Environment Agency and the Beverley Brook Catchment Partnership. The aim of this project is to naturalise 600 m of the Beverley Brook through the park using a number of simple restoration techniques. These include:

  • Adding Large Woody Material to increase flow variation and provide a greater complexity of habitats for aquatic wildlife.
  • Re-profiling the incised and steep banks to enhance marginal habitats.
  • Narrowing and remeandering the channel to create a diversity of different flow patterns and produce marginal wetland berms.
  • Erecting fencing and river gates to temporarily exclude the deer to allow the banks to stabilise and for vegetation to recover.
  • Creating slower flowing areas as refuge for animals during the high flows which are typical of urban rivers such as the Beverley Brook. This is particularly important to help fish establish and not be washed downstream (and possibly right out of the river) in heavy rains.
  • Address the contaminated road run-off input into the river from the A3 by creating a siltation pond and wetland to trap and clean the silt from the road.

So it is going to be a busy couple of months on site and we are all excited about the results this project will bring!

You can read more about the project and how Richmond Park access will be affected during works on the Royal Parks website here.

RichmondGrid

Wombles of Wimbledon: Beverley Brook

Last week, Luke and I were lucky enough to spend three days on the Beverley Brook in Wimbledon Common.

Like many rivers, the Beverley Brook has been modified over time to fit into our more developed urban landscape. Within Wimbledon Common, the river has been over straightened and reinforced with wooden toe boarding. As a result the flow of the river has become very uniform and lack the diversity needed for water biodiversity.

To address this we started a project to install Large Woody Material (LWM) into the river channel. LWM replicates a natural occurrence of trees and branches falling into rivers which then provides habitat for fish and invertebrates. The use of LWM in the right places can transform a still, slow-moving river into a highly diverse river channel with a variety of habitats for all life stages of fish and invertebrates.

Part of the Womble Team

Over the three days we had a number of volunteer helpers to help us move the timber logs, position them within the channel and fix them in place with hazel stakes and wire.

Luke and Lawrence led the event, explaining how the positioning of the logs effected the flow of the river and could influence bank erosion. For example, if we placed a log facing downstream, this forced the flow of water into the bank creating a natural meander bend. Natural gravel deposits held in the bank will scour out and become available in-stream for fish and invertebrates.

The timber logs were heavy!

So working as a team, over three days we worked out where the logs would be of most benefit and got to work securing them in place.

It was hard work. Moving the large logs took four people and was still a struggle. However once they were in the river, they became a lot lighter. Once positioned, each log had to be secured with four hazel posts which were forced into the ground using a post knocker – another exhausting piece of equipment.

Securing

Once surrounded by hazel stakes, the logs were secured further with wire to be sure they were going nowhere in a flood.

In total we installed 17 LWM structures along a stretch of 200 m, approximately. Here are some photos to show you how the still slow-moving channel has now been transformed!

One finished deflector

Many thanks to all the volunteers for coming: Charles, Dave, Denisa, John, Keith, Kristina, Lawrence, Mark, Mike, Paul, Phil, Rob, Sue and Wally.

More deflectors

More!