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10 November 2016

River Restoration in Action

Wintery skies and snow covered mountain tops were a dramatic backdrop to the final field trip in a series organised by the River Restoration Centre to see the overall winner of the 2016 UK River Prize (see our news item on PAA’s UK River Prize finalist National Trust Holnicote Project)

Swindale Beck

Under the expert guidance of the RSPB Haweswater Estate we were given a guided tour of the fantastic Swindale Beck restoration project completed earlier this year. In partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and United Utilities the RSPB has carried out a series of land management interventions across the Estate including grip blocking in the upland part of the catchment, reducing grazing density and tree planting. The final piece of the picture was completed during the summer of 2016 with the re-meandering of Swindale Beck and construction of a fish pass to allow Atlantic salmon to return upstream for spawning.

Canalised Swindale Beck

We learnt how the new river channel was carefully located to avoid botanically rich hay meadow habitat, part of the Swindale Meadows SSSI and North Pennine Dales Meadows SAC. Soon after breaking through into the new channel a large storm event in the summer of 2016 deposited substantial amounts of gravel into the bed of the channel creating a series of riffles and gravel shoals. Former bridge crossings have been replaced with fords and work is now underway to fence of sections of the channel, coupled with tree planting, to encourage development of floodplain woodland outside of the designated sections of the river corridor.

Swindale Beck River Restoration

The RSPB will be working with Leeds University to monitor the effects on hydrology of the various catchment scale interventions.

After a well earned visit to a local cafe for tea and cakes, we piled into the minibus kindly organised by Natural England to see a project managed by the South Cumbria Rivers Trust on the River Gowan at Staveley near Kendal. The River Gowan is part of the River Kent SSSI and SAC and in unfavourable condition at this location due to historic engineering affecting its natural morphology. In partnership with the Environment Agency and Natural England the South Cumbria Rivers Trust worked with the adjacent landowner to remove 270m of former flood embankment allowing the river to spill onto the floodplain during high flows. The work has not only reconnected the river to its floodplain but also provided flood alleviation for Staveley. The South Cumbria Rivers Trust did a great job of demonstrating the benefits of the project whilst trying to ignore the local TV crew who arrived to film the visit.

River Gowan restoration

Both of the projects we visited are funded under the Cumbria River Restoration Strategy covering the Rivers Eden, Derwent and Kent. A very worthy winner of the 2016 UK River Prize.