Tag Archives: River restoration

Ravensbury Back Channel: The final touches

Two weeks ago, we spent three days back at our Ravensbury Park Back Channel project to finish off the works.

Day 1

Day 1 was spent preparing a site for 2000 plants which were due to arrive the following day.  Our loyal volunteers arrived expecting an easy day of planting and instead we surprised them with spades, shovels and a huge pile of soil! We needed to create a gentler slope on the bank and to do that involved some serious work. But with visions of tea and cake we soon got stuck in and the bank started to take shape.

Luke working hard

Meanwhile, we also had a team putting up bird boxes in the area. These bird boxes have been designed with grey wagtails in mind, a bird which you can often see skipping along the back channel.

The Bird Boxes

The day ended with a pilot test of our bat boxes. We have brought five bat boxes to put up in the area. They are odd looking things with flat wood and small crevices between for the bats to roost in – almost like a bat multistory car park! With wire and a ladder, Luke and the volunteers tried to install the first one to perfect the technique ready for the next day.

A Bat Multi-Storey Car Park

Day 2

Day 2 soon came round with slightly improved weather and all 2000 plants had arrived! We ordered a variety of species – some were to be planted in the water, and others would be added to the banks such as lesser pond sedge and reed canary grass. All together these would make a great marginal community of native plants.

2000 Plants

We had 2 sites to plant up so we divided the trays into piles of different species – one pile for each site. Our 9 volunteers then headed off to site number 1 armed with dibbers, waders and gloves.

First site all planted up

By lunchtime, the site was finished and everyone was ready for tea, coffee and cake.

A planted plant

After lunch we moved onto site 2 and decided to focus on the plants that needed water so they were in before we had to leave for the day. So it was wader time again…

Day 3

On our third and final day we were joined by 5 volunteers to do the last bits of the project. First we all focused on the final 1000 plants – and even I had the chance to get involved!

Planters at work

Louise from the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership team couldn’t resist coming for a visit and doing some planting as well.

Louise planting away

The pile slowly got smaller and after a quick lunch break we had all 2000 plants happily installed in their new homes.

Yet more planting

The next job was raking and seeding the bare ground with wildflower and grass mix. It was a great 3 days out in the field and a big thank you to all the volunteers who came to help!

The finished work

A big thanks to Lawrence who helped run the event with Luke and myself.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Barbara, Charles, Dave, Jason, John, Lawrence, Maureen, Mike, Neil, Nick, Rob, Tim and Wally.

Next week – Wimbledon Common and the Beverley Brook!

 

River Rehab: Introductory Workshop!

What is River Rehab?

River Rehab is your chance to make a real difference to the River Wandle. Have you ever attended our Restoration Events and wondered why we have chosen that site? Or why we need that lump of wood to be in this exact position?

Well River Rehab is your chance to learn why!

We need a team of local volunteers to design and deliver their own river restoration project.

What does it involve?
You will receive training from Wandle Trust staff and other expert organisations, giving you the skills and knowledge to transform a section of the Wandle. You will work with the rest of the River Rehab team to choose a site, design a project and coordinate its delivery on the ground.

There will be workshops, training events, meetings and field work.

How do I sign up?
To get involved and sign up to the River Rehab Team, confirm your attendance to our Introductory Workshop on Friday 20th February at Strawberry Lodge (Carshalton). The workshop will run throughout the day starting at 11am – once you confirm your place we will send you an agenda of the day’s activities.

Please note there are a limited number of spaces available for this workshop. 

If you can’t make this event but wish to be part of the team, let us know by email and we will make sure you get the information you need!

Email: volunteers@wandletrust.org
Phone: 0845 092 0110

 

This project is funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a Heritage Lottery Fund Project.

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Going Round the Bend: Next Stop a Re-naturalised River

By Lawrence Hemmings, our River Restoration Volunteer

After a great deal of planning by Luke the habitat improvement works on the Ravensbury Park Back Channel have begun with the help of our contractors – Ru and Jack of AquaMaintain. The digger and dumper have arrived as have the hazel faggot bundles posts, not forgetting the loathsome pile driver (a 20 kg hammering tool essential for river habitat work). And without further ado splash!  Work could commence.

In order to create a more biodiverse, naturally functioning river, complete with runs, glides, pools and riffles, the Ravensbury Channel needs a little encouragement.  By securing the faggot bundles in an irregular zig-zag on both sides of the river, the variation in flow will scour out deeper pools, form riffles, and, with any luck, some gravels will appear – perfect spawning grounds for amorous fish!

The Back Channel

So Luke, Jack and I splashed into the river with our trusty pile driver at the ready. We pinioned hazel faggot bundles in place by hammering in stakes on both sides, and a new bank line quickly started to appear.

Meanwhile our adept digger driver Ru set about clearing the brush from the park-side bank of the river where we have removed the toeboarding, sheet piling and other bank reinforcements. In no time at all Ru had begun re-grading the steep-sided river banks, which will allow us to connect the river to its natural soil bank. The bank can then be planted with typical marginal plants, such as sedges and reeds, creating a continuum from aquatic to terrestrial habitat. We will also be digging a small back water, where the slack flows will allow fish fry to seek refuge away from the perils of the fast lane – the new turbulent Back Channel.

The Back Channel

Stay tuned for more updates!

The Siltex is in!

Have you walked past Carshalton Ponds today? If you have, you may think it is looking a little different…

The White Carshalton Ponds

The ponds have turned a milky-white colour. But do not fear, this was intentional! Working with the Environment Agency, we have just added two tonnes of Siltex to the ponds.

Siltex is a natural chalk-like substance which helps to increase the speed of silt breakdown by stimulating natural processes. (Click here to read more about why we are doing this).

We had eight dedicated and brave volunteers join us at 8am on chilly Tuesday morning. Everyone was kitted out with waders, goggles and masks – Siltex isn’t dangerous but we wanted to be extra careful.

Siltex Volunteers

Steve stepped up as Captain Siltex to join Olly in the boat, throwing Siltex overboard in the deeper waters. For the morning, our vessel was kindly lent to us by Sutton Council. In the afternoon, Olly and Steve commandeered a smaller boat from the Sutton Ecology Centre. Without these boats, we wouldn’t have been able to apply the Siltex at all so we are extremely grateful to Dave Warburton, Ian Hudson, Warren Chapman, Collin Franklin and Mark Featherstone for loaning and delivering these boats on the day.

Captain Siltex

While Steve and Olly sailed the open seas, the rest of us were adding Siltex from the shore, showing off our throwing skills. This allowed us to get a good coverage over the shallower parts the boats could not access.

Adding Siltex by hand

Throughout the day, the Environment Agency were taking readings further downstream to ensure everything was working as it should.

Olly will be monitoring this regularly for the next few months to determine if it is a cost effective solution to the management of silt at Carshalton Ponds. Last week, Olly and I took some pre-Siltex water samples on a chilly and damp morning.

The Water Samples

Why are there four different bottles I hear you ask?

The reason for this is that there are several different substances which are of interest in the ponds. We are interested in what effect the Siltex might have in speeding up the breakdown of several contaminants (e.g. car exhaust particles) as well as reducing the overall volume of mud. Different tests are required for different substances – for instance hydrocarbons (oils and fuels) stick to plastic, so must be stored in a glass bottle if they are to be extracted and analysed. So different bottles are needed for each different test!

While we were out we rescued Woody from the Wandle – he is now our unofficial Mascot for the project! He even joined us for the Siltex event, although came out a little worse for wear….

Woody Before and After

Keep your eyes peeled for more updates!

Kingfishers on the Wandle

Many thanks to local photographer, Barry Howard , who has given us permission to share these amazing photographs of kingfishers on the River Wandle at Beddington Park.

Kingfishers are becoming an increasingly frequent sight on the River Wandle.

Kingfisher

If  you see a flash of bright blue travelling down the Wandle at high speed, then it is likely you’ve just spotted a kingfisher yourself.

Kingfishers

If you are lucky, you may see one or more perched on a low hanging branch above the river.

Pair of Kingfishers

A big thank you to Barry Howard for these brilliant photographs!

Kingfisher

Pollution Monitoring on the Wandle: Two Years Later

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost two years since the Wandle Trust teamed up with the Environment Agency to clean up pollution on the River Wandle.

Our Pollution Monitoring Scheme has trained 50 local volunteers to attend and assess Category Three pollution incidents and report back valuable information to us and the Environment Agency.

Another great element to this scheme was regularly monitoring specific outfalls along the Wandle that have been a problem in the past. Volunteers adopted an outfall close to them and checked the site once a week for signs of pollution. This information was fed back to the Environment Agency allowing them to prioritise and investigate key issues.

The pilot scheme has been a huge success demonstrating the value of volunteers in monitoring pollution in an urban environment. Its innovative and collaborative approach earned the scheme the Rivers Trust Award for Science and Innovation in 2013 – a huge achievement for all those involved!

To celebrate this award and the success of the scheme, we invited our dedicated volunteers to Strawberry Lodge in Carshalton for some evening tea, coffee and cake.

Our Volunteers and their Award

The Environment Agency are very grateful to all the volunteers involved and have put together a short piece to summarise what was achieved thanks to their hard work. Click this link to download: Environment-Agency.pdf (138kb).

The scheme is also being rolled out on the Hogsmill and Beverley Brook. If you’re interested in becoming involved, please email us at volunteering@southeastriverstrust.org.

 

A little light goes a long way…

Our restoration projects along the Wandle are all progressing well, and it is time to introduce the next site on our list: the Ravensbury Park Back Channel.

The Ravensbury Park Back Channel is a remnant of the industrial milling era along the Wandle. Back channels, or “by-pass channels” were used as a mechanism to control the water passing through a mill allowing us to increase or decrease the flow depending on how much power was required. Although no longer used for this purpose, the back channel at Ravensbury Park has become part of the park’s landscape and could offer a valuable refuge for wildlife in the Wandle; in particular fish which could use the channel to by-pass the weir.

So what’s the problem?

  1. Channelisation

Like so many urban and rural rivers, the Ravensbury Park back channel has been engineered and modified to contain the river within a predetermined channel. This removes habitat and creates a stream with little variation.

Wooden banks and channelised nature of the stream

Wooden banks and channelised nature of the stream

  1. Un-natural banks

To protect the surrounding landscape from flooding, the natural sloping banks of this stream have been replaced with concrete and wood. This creates a ‘hard-edged’ bank and prevents important natural communities of marginal and aquatic plants from establishing here. A more gradually sloping vegetated bank provides habitat for many different species of riverine wildlife. Without this habitat there is a significant loss of biodiversity.

Concrete banks

A high concrete bank removes all interaction with the stream ecosystem.

  1. Little light

The Ravensbury Park back channel suffers from low light levels due to a dense tree canopy. This canopy limits the growth of aquatic plants both around the stream as well as within the stream.

A dense vegetative canopy prevents aquatic plant growth

A dense vegetative canopy prevents aquatic plant growth

Each of these issues on their own have negative consequences, but combined they significantly impact on the ecological structure and function of this little stream.

What can we do?

Over the next few months, the Wandle Trust will be taking steps to restore the Ravensbury Park back channel. This work is being funded by Defra’s Catchment Restoration Fund, and is also part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.

The main aim of the restoration works will be to create new habitats both in the stream and along the margins that will support fish, invertebrates and birds. More importantly, our works will provide a favourable environment for both aquatic and marginal plants which are a fundamental source of food and shelter for some organisms; vital for a thriving ecosystem.

We will be working further on our plans for this stream so keep your eyes peeled for new updates.

 

Carshalton Update: The water has dropped and the contractors are here!

Tim and our contractors have now started our restoration work at the Butterhill weir. Dropping the water levels has returned flow and energy to the river. This will allow us to narrow the river, recreate meanders and clean gravels to the river which reflects its natural state, had it not been historically modified for industry.

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Why are meanders important?

Many urban rivers, and even some rural, have been artificially straightened to make room for development, agriculture and infrastructure. By straightening the channel, the flow of the river becomes uniform and you lose  any  variation in the river bed.

For example, trout fry prefer calmer, shallower waters compared to grown fish who prefer deeper pools.  These different habitats are created naturally by energy of a river which results in meanders. Water passing through a river flows faster on the outside of a bend than it does on the inside. The faster flowing water scours out deeper pools, ideal for big fish, and the slower water deposits sediment creating shallower areas for fry.  The scouring flow then deposits gravel downstream in riffles, an ideal place for spawning fish to lay their eggs.

Wandle Trust Makeover
To reinstate the natural meander, Tim and our contractors from Aquamaintain marked out a new path for the river using stakes (see picture below). The new river edge has been taking shape, with silt from the river and faggot bundles forming the new narrowed bank line. Once finished, this bank will be covered in aquatic plants much like our Hackbridge site – a chance for you to get involved!

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Hackbridge Restoration Update

This month has seen some drastic changes to the Hackbridge site. Over the last few weeks, contractors and the Wandle Trust team have been working hard to create new banks, backwaters and even an island – all in the name of river restoration!

But with all the building works taking place, the site has begun to look a bit bare. To solve this we got planting…

Hackbridge Planting Event

Last weekend (6th, 7th and 8th September) 60 volunteers from the local community joined the Wandle Trust team and added 6000 plants to the banks of the Wandle. The plants were a variety of species designed to create a natural vegetation structure along the bank. Close to the to water’s edge, volunteers planted aquatic species such as flag iris, purple loosestrife, various sedge species, hemp agrimony, ragged robin and a number of other species to give 18 in all.  In the drier more meadowlike conditions tall herb like wildflower plugs and seeds were planted contatining a mix of 23 native species.

Once these plants have grown, the Hackbridge site will look brilliant – a true wildlife haven in Greater London.

We’d like to thank all the volunteers who came over the weekend to help us – we couldn’t have done it without you!

Working Hard?

Next steps for the site include the installation of woody debris to further diversify the habitats. So keep your eyes peeled for our next update!

Welcome to Polly, Luke and Olly! (and sorry to Norfolk’s rivers!)

In the past few weeks we have had three new members of staff join the Wandle Trust & SERT team.

Polly Bryant joins us from Norfolk County Council and will be running our volunteer events; Luke Mitchell, who has been undertaking research on the River Stiffkey in Norfolk, will be working on river restoration projects – you may well bump into him in Ravensbury Park; and Olly van Biervliet, previously at Norfolk Rivers Trust, will be picking up our water quality projects from Claire.

(Whilst we’re very sorry to see Erica move on – at least she’s moving to Norfolk!)

Within half an hour of arriving at the Trust, Polly, Luke and Olly were already getting stuck into our river restoration work at Hackbridge!

Luke, Polly and Olly get stuck in!

Luke, Polly and Olly get stuck in!