South East Rivers Trust (& the Wandle Trust)

We are delivering river restoration in Dartford!

Rain or shine – we restore rivers

If you have wandered through Central Park over the last few weeks you will have noticed quite a lot of activity down by the river.

Machines, mud and very muddy people wearing high viz gear clambering in and out of the riverbed are sure signs that the South East Rivers Trust (SERT) Delivery Team is out on the ground.

It’s what we love to do and we do it really well, even when it’s raining. 

From the drawing board to the river, SERT delivers river restoration measures through partnership work and an evidence-based approach.

Over the past two years, SERT has collaborated with project partners (Dartford Borough Council, the Environment Agency and North Kent Countryside Partnership) and CBEC to draw up the most suitable flood-neutral restoration design for the site. You can read the our Introduction to this work here.

Now the SERT Delivery Team is using that design and nature-based methods to bring back a chalk stream habitat to Central Park. It will reappear from decades of accumulated silt when the weir at Acacia Hall is finally removed and flow is reintroduced to the restored channel.

We have created narrower sections of the river on the Darent at Central Park by building berms from materials like bundles of branches and silt removed from the channel. This results in areas with faster and slower rates of flow, and a variety of habitats, just like a natural river system.

From design to delivery, SERT uses natural materials like tree trunks, root wads, silt and bundles of branches to recreate a more sinuous, natural channel form. This produces a greater variety of flow patterns and substrate types, resulting in more habitats able to support higher levels of local biodiversity.   

Large woody material should naturally occur in most undisturbed river systems. We are reintroducing it to the Darent in Central Park to create local flow and habitat diversity.

Since we started in November, we have removed years’ worth of silt from the channel and used it to backfill the berms built to create natural meanders.  As a result, we have uncovered the original chalk stream gravel bed – the foundation of a babbling chalk stream.

We have felled some of the self-seeded sycamore trees that were casting too much shade on the river and limiting habitat diversity. The site is now more open, visible and accessible. The felled trees are being placed in the channel not only to protect the upstream edges of the berms from erosion but to also create shelter for fish, boost habitat diversity and create localised flow patterns.

We started working on-site in the late autumn and hope to finish within the next few weeks, weather permitting. As a result, the berms will look a little bare for a while but we will leave them to settle, ready for planting next spring.  We will be looking for volunteers to help us plant up, so watch this space for more info!