Following months of delays due to poor weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, two weeks of heavy digging have finally transformed a field corner on a country estate into a new watery paradise for native wildlife!
Five Rivers Environmental Contracting were engaged to do the earthmoving work on the Trust’s behalf and arrived on the 20th of July to begin excavation work at Thorpe Lubenham Hall on the Northamptonshire / Leicestershire border. Half an acre of new wetland has now been created within a meander of the River Welland.
The works were completed over the course of two weeks and resulted in up to a metre of overlying soil being excavated from across the site – this brought the maximum ground level of the wetland to only 500mm above the summer level of the river. Within the wetland, a new backchannel was cut from the river to create a slack area that will provide refuge for fish and amphibians and keep the wetland supplied with water all year. Across the rest of the excavated area, a series of dips, hollows and ponds were created at different depths to maximise the habitat variety on the site. Some of these will be wet all year, whereas others will only be wet when river levels are higher in the winter months or after heavy rain. With time, a range of native plants and animals will colonise the area, but to give it a boost, the bare earth was seeded with a mixture of wet meadow plant species.
In addition to the excavation work to create the wetland, new fencing has been installed to prevent livestock from entering the river. Pressure from grazing had resulted in a low level of native wetland vegetation on this part of the river and the destruction of banks which causes damaging silt to enter the river and choke sensitive habitats of fish and insects.
To further compliment the works, our Project Manager Chris and good friend Rob Mungovan from the Wild Trout Trust worked hard on a variety of in-channel features up and downstream of the wetland. This including building berms and flow deflectors to create diversity in flow and the insertion of twenty tons of gravel to create new riffles where flows will increase locally and allow oxygen to enter the water. This will further increase the amount of habitat suitable for aquatic wildlife. We are excited to see how the river responds to its new improved and protected conditions.
The location of the wetland was chosen strategically as it is lies downstream of the Marston Trussell water recycling centre that discharges treated effluent into the river. The new wetland and its vegetation should buffer some of the negative effects this has and lead to a healthier river downstream through the village of Lubenham. The wetland also has the capacity to store an estimated 330,000 gallons of water when full. Although this will not solve the problem of flooding in extreme weather in the village, we hope that it will demonstrate that small nature-based solutions can be part of the answer.
The land for the project was kindly donated by Sir Bruce MacPhail and we wish to extend our warmest thanks to him for his support over the course of the project. Richard the Farm Manager also deserves a special commendation for being so accommodating and helping to minimise the impacts on the field following the works.
The wetland project was jointly funded by a Partnership Grant from the Environment Agency and Anglian Water’s Flourishing Environment Fund.