Building upon the success of the People and Wildlife Project in Market Harborough, Welland Rivers Trust’s latest project aims to address diffuse pollution, improve habitat and provide community access to an ailing section of the River Welland in the Leicestershire village of Lubenham.
To make way for the construction of the Rugby to Stamford Railway, the River Welland was diverted and straightened in the late 1840s, removing the gentle meanders that had long formed the county boundary between Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. Subsequent decades of dredging removed all but a few of the natural features of the channel, leaving it deep, slow flowing and lifeless
The favours of this stretch took a positive turn with the acquisition of the adjacent field by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust (LRWT) in 2017.
WRT hosted a tree planting day alongside LRWT and The Woodland Trust in February 2018 that saw more than 100 people turn out to create “Fox Wood”, a new community woodland for all in the village to enjoy.
With the situation on land improving for wildlife, attention has now turned to the forgotten river that flows along the southern edge of the new woodland, hidden behind barbed wire and a steep, overgrown bank.
With funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, WRT has designed a restoration scheme to bring life back to this stretch of the Welland and make it an accessible part of the newly developing woodland.
As can be seen from the picture opposite, the historical modifications to the river and poor agricultural practice upstream have created a very silty situation! This chokes the life in the channel, reducing its capacity to support the wider riparian ecosystem.
To address this problem, the channel will be narrowed and gravels introduced to speed up the flow of water, clean the bed and provide new habitat for fish and invertebrates. Sections of the bank will be also be re-profiled to give a gentle gradient from Fox Wood down to the water, allowing the local community to reconnect with their river whilst making new spaces for marginal wetland plants.
Upstream of the village, the River Welland flows through the estate of Thorpe Lubenham Hall. To compliment the work being done in the village a number of measures will be undertaken here as well.
Sections of the river that are currently accessible by livestock will be fenced, reducing the input of sediment and pollution and allowing wetland vegetation to recolonise.
Woody debris dams will also be installed on the Marston Trussell Brook that flows through the estate and receives the outfall from a small water recycling centre (WRC). The new structures will serve to slow down floodwater, trap pollutants and encourage the deposition of coarse material, increasing the capacity of the Marston Trussell brook to heal itself and reduce the risk of flooding downstream in Lubenham!
Work to deliver this project, in collaboration with Five Rivers Environmental Contracting, is set to take place over Autumn and Winter 2019/20. A new River Wardens group will also be set up to help monitor the impacts of the restoration work on the wildlife and water quality through Lubenham.
There are also future plans to construct new wetland areas that will further treat pollution, store floodwater and provide new habitat for a variety of species. We are currently seeking funding for this extended phase of the project.
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For a aerial tour of the improvements to be made as part of this project, check out this video!