Connecting the dots: Understanding what landscape recovery schemes could look like

Connecting the dots: Understanding what landscape recovery schemes could look like

Bringing landowners together through a series of workshops and site visits has opened inspiring conversations about what the future of nature-based solutions at catchment scale could look like.

Kathi Bauer, our Natural Capital Co-ordinator, writes an update on the South East Rivers Trust’s work on a national trial, funded by DEFRA, for the new agricultural subsidies programme – Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS).

Making a difference during Loddon Rivers Week

Almost a year to the day that the South East Rivers Trust constructed a backwater on the River Loddon in Charvil Meadows, we were back to do further enhancements as part of Loddon Rivers Week 2021.

This was just one of a series of river work that took place during this celebration of the River Loddon and its tributaries, between 18th-26th September. The work to co-ordinate the week was funded by the Environment Agency.

During the week, volunteers planted native plants to stabilise the banks of the previously constructed backwater, put in gravel to a chalk stream, tackled invasive species and enjoyed learning about bats.

Several partners were involved in the week, including Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, the Loddon Fisheries and Conservation Consultative, Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership, Hampshire County Council and Dinton Pastures County Park.

Nature based solutions to man-made problems

There is no doubt that we are going through a massive and positive paradigm shift. It is finally hitting home that human activities thoroughly depend on the health of the natural environment and the sustainability of the many services it provides. The natural environment has rapidly moved from the periphery to the very centre of conversations, with action on fundamental issues from our own well-being to agriculture and the economy.

Humans are an increasingly urban species, although a major consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is how we have come to realise the importance on being in contact with Nature, and how Nature can provide us with many solutions to the problems we create.

One of those problems is road runoff.  Most of us are highly dependent upon cars or other vehicles and the massive road network carved into our catchments, to get us or the goods we buy from one place to another.

 

Grand opening of Acacia

The Central Park/ Acacia Hall River Restoration Project took a massive step forward at the end of March, writes Sam Hughes.

On Thursday 25th March 2021, after months of delay because of the pandemic, the (rather ugly but essential) cofferdams were removed from the upstream and downstream ends of the project area, and flow was returned to the restored western channel of the Darent that runs through Central Park then past the redeveloped Acacia Hall.

I can’t tell you how excited the SERT team is about this, after more than three years of hard and very muddy work!

SERT on tour – delivering a fish passage project on the River Ock

In September 2020, we successfully installed two fish passes on a weir on the River Ock in Abingdon. The River Ock is a small tributary of the Thames and owes its name to the pre-Saxon word “Ock” meaning young salmon. Salmon were a common sight on the Ock and a staple part of local diets in the middle ages. So why are these migratory majesties no longer present on the river?

Aside from other more global issues, barriers to migration such as the weir at Abingdon would present challenges to upstream migration of all fish species, not just salmon. The weir results in fragmented habitat which in turn can create bottlenecks at varying life stages. As a result, the survival and success of fish is compromised. It was therefore in the river’s best interest to implement fish passage on this weir.

The weir is a standard crump gauging weir, used by the Environment Agency’s Hydrometry and Telemetry’s team to monitor flows in order to help predict downstream flooding and manage abstraction licenses. It is 5.7m long and split into two channels. The left hand channel (as you look downstream) feeds the River Ock and the right hand channel feeds the Sandford Brook. The design of the weir, coupled with the fact that it was a gauging station, added several complexities.

Eat, Sleep, Restore, Repeat

Our volunteers were incredibly busy back in February 2020, carrying out River Restoration on the Beverley Brook and Wandle.

At the start of 2020, a new group of volunteer River Restorers came together to learn about natural river processes and how heavily modified waterbodies (such as the Beverley Brook) have been altered over time. These changes stop the natural processes which would usually shape a healthy river ecosystem, leaving us with a degraded river that has few, good habitats for wildlife.

Early in 2019, we carried out a large-scale restoration project along 1.3 km of the Beverley Brook through Wimbledon Common. Our River Restorer volunteers came on board to help us extend the work upstream – this time using people power alone!

We worked together to plan and design the work, ready to deliver as a team in mid-February.

Acacia Hall – River Darent Restoration

Having completed most of the river works on the River Darent in Central Park, Dartford in January 2020, we now have a bit of time to tell you what we got up to!

The River Darent splits immediately upstream of Dartford Central Park.

The western channel meanders through the park and past Acacia Hall weir before disappearing under an old ballroom building and the A226 before continuing through Dartford Town Centre. The eastern channel acts as flood relief channel and, prior to the restoration project, took the majority of low to medium flows.