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 Water Environment Grant (WEG), WRT has designed and delivered an improvement scheme to bring life back to this stretch of the Welland and make it an accessible part of the newly developing woodland.
Historical modifications to the river and poor agricultural practice upstream have created a very silty situation in this part of the Welland catchment. This chokes the life in the channel, reducing its capacity to support the wider riparian ecosystem.
To address this problem, the channel has been narrowed and 40 tons of gravel introduced to speed up the flow of water, clean the bed and provide new habitat for fish and invertebrates. The bank has also been re-profiled to open views down into the improved channel and create safe, new access points, 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 series of leaky dam structures have been 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. This will allow the Marston Trussell Brook to take on a more natural channel form and reduce the risk of flooding downstream in Lubenham.
Elsewhere on the estate, WRT have also delivered a separate wetland project that has created new habitat and will store flood water away from the village. You can read more about it here.
Work to deliver this project, in collaboration with Five Rivers Environmental Contracting, was completed in two stages in January and August 2020. A new River Wardens group has also been set up to help monitor the impacts of the restoration work on the wildlife and water quality through Lubenham.
The Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust will open the site to the public in Spring 2021, allowing local residents and visitors to enjoy
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For a video tour of the improvements made at Fox Wood, check out this video!
The Welland Headwaters Improvement Project was fully funded by the Water Environment Grant (WEG), an Environment Agency supported scheme using funds derived from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).