Tag Archives: Catchment Partnership Action Fund

Restoring the Hogsmill with Volunteers

A lot of our projects recently have been large scale – removing weirs, installing fish easement solutions and reprofiling large sections of river. But now it was time for the real professionals to step in…

Volunteers

For one week in March, Toby and I were in chest waders in the Hogsmill in Ewell. Over 5 days, we were joined by volunteers from the Lower Mole Project and other local volunteers from the Hogsmill Pollution Patrol and the Wandle – all trying river restoration first hand.

The River Hogsmill is a chalk stream in south London where we’ve been working to increase habitat connectivity over the last few years. Toby has been busy removing weirs where possible, or installing rock ramps to make them passable to fish.

In Ewell, Toby removed 3 small weirs to open up fish passage throughout this 1.6 km stretch. What was missing was fish habitat.

So what did we do?

The Hogsmill through the Open Space is artificially straightened and canalised with wooden toeboarding. There is little habitat variation in channel with slow moving water and a silty bed.

Straight Channel

On the first day, a team of volunteers got stuck in pulling out the large railway sleepers serving as toe boarding. Over the next four days, a total of 48 sleepers were removed – the first step in naturalising the bank for 1km through the park.

Sleepers

Meanwhile, carefully-selected trees were felled to increase light reaching the river. With this material, we started to create brash berms to narrow the channel and increase flow.

A holding log was placed at the downstream end of the berm and secured in place with posts and wires. Then brash from the surrounding areas was added to build up a berm.

Holding Log

This was all secured in place with chestnut posts and wire across the brash after some technical “squishing”…

Squishing

Over the next four days, the volunteers created a further 8 berms. You can see from the photos that the river began to respond instantly. Flows were increased where the channel was narrowed and scoured pools started to form.

On the last day we moved our attention further downstream to the site of a weir removal in 2014. Here a small weir and concrete abutment walls were reduced, but due to the close proximity of the path had to leave a semi-engineered bank.

To enhance this, pre-planted coir rolls were fixed along the bank to soften this edge and create a more natural marginal habitat.

Coir Rolls

To install these though was no simple task. They were secured in place with chestnut stakes and wire thread round the posts and through the mesh of the bank line. Believe me, that was a skill in itself…

Wiring Coir Rolls

Here are some photos of what we all achieved..

Finished!

Big thanks to everyone who came along!! We’d also like to thank Epsom & Ewell Borough Council and the Lower Mole Project.

Rustling up some Riffles

Our Project Officer Rosie has been out on the River Teise undertaking her first weir removal.

Why was this weir an issue?

Harpers Weir formed an impassable barrier to fish passage on the Teise, a tributary of the River Medway in Kent.

Harpers Weir

Weirs such as this impede the movement of fish upstream and downstream, preventing access to other habitats required for a healthy lifecycle.

They also impound the river upstream, slowing the flow of water and resulting in the deposition of silt on the channel bed. In the case of Harpers Weir, this impoundment was observed for several hundred metres upstream.

Impoundment

For all these reasons, we’ve been very keen to remove the weir and restore fish passage to this section.

In 2015, Rosie started the process by removing the wooden boards on top of the weir, reducing the height to see how the river would respond. You can read this blog here, but in summary it was looking good!

Then, in February this year, Rosie and our contractors Amenity Water Management arrived on site to start the full weir removal.

The concrete weir and flanks were broken up using a hydraulic breaker attachment, before being removed with an excavator. The concrete underneath the footbridge immediately upstream was also removed to let the river bed naturally re-grade back upstream (the footings would otherwise create a new barrier after weir removal).

Diggers on Site

Once the weir and bridge footings were removed, the banks where the weir once stood were regraded, using the excavator with a bucket attachment.  The toe of the banks was stabilised using coir geotextile to line the banks secured with wooden pegs, which in turn were held in place with faggots and pinned with untreated chestnut posts secured with high tensile fencing wire.

After Weir Removal

Once this weir was removed, the upstream impoundment disappeared, and a total of 16 new riffles emerged, with pools between them – all great habitat for many species of bugs, fish and water birds!

You can watch the whole project in our time-lapse footage below!

This project was funded through Defra’s Catchment Partnership Action Fund awarded to the Medway Catchment Partnership, focusing on the River Teise within the Medway Management Catchment.

Action on the River Teise!

We’ve started our project on the River Teise to make a weir passable for fish migration.

Weirs were introduced years ago to help control the flow of water, allowing our ancestors to operate mills. Nowadays many remain in rivers despite no longer being required.

Weirs are a barrier to fish passage and leave the habitat fragmented with fish populations isolated. In the event of pollution or other presures like climate change, these isolated populations are at greater risk with nowhere to escape to.

Although being a barrier to fish migration is a significant problem, weirs also interrupt the natural flow of rivers, resulting in a degradation of habitat. Upstream of weirs, water is slowed down which causes silt to drop out and accumulate in the channel.

This image from the Wild Trout Trust explains the effects of weirs on fish habitat:

WTT Weir

Funded through Defra’s Catchment Partnership Action Fund, we’ve started works on a weir on the River Teise – where Olly and Rosie carefully removed a number of boards from the top of the weir.

Weir Board Removal

After removing the boards, the impounded water levels upstream dropped noticeably, revealing many natural features of the river which had been drowned out when the weir was put in place.

Before

Before

AfterAfter

New Habitats

Some of the diverse new habitat revealed by lower water levels above the weir

The next phase of the project is to remove the impoundment and enable full fish passage and habitat restoration, so watch this space!