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Category Archives: Habitat improvement

Collaboration makes Mease better for fish, otters and people

Our new water quality project on the River Mease which will slash levels of dangerous pollutants has already created valuable wetland habitats for loach, bullhead, crayfish and even otters.

Four acres of formerly scrub-covered farmland have been transformed by the wetland sediment trapping scheme, a kilometre from Measham, Leicestershire, to help address the high levels of phosphates in the Mease.

The river, which encompasses a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation, has suffered because of the build-up of pollutants from many sources and from urban development. High levels of phosphates cause algae to bloom and reduce the levels of oxygen in the water, creating an environment where fish and other species can no longer survive.

But new ponds, wetland channels and riffles which make up a wetland sediment trap are already making a noticeable difference to the water quality and reducing phosphates.

Woodland and vegetation, including nine glorious old oaks, willow trees and hawthorns have also been protected and can thrive once more because of the works on the site.

Aerial view of the site

Aerial view of the site

The £200,000 project, funded through a planning levy paid by developers, was only feasible because of “unprecedented” collaboration and co-operation.

We worked with farmers whose land borders the River Mease and the Gilwiskaw Brook, and building products manufacturer Forterra.

The sediment trapping scheme, where the Gilwiskaw Brook joins the River Mease, has created valuable new wetland habitat for nesting birds and invertebrates. Beyond phosphate entrapment it will reduce the severity of any future flooding downstream.

Major groundworks on the site started in the middle of July and were completed at the start of September. Emma Smail, our River Mease Project Manager, has been finalising the details for the work over the past 18 months.

“It was an unusual one for the contractors because they normally work with trapezoid channels and straight lines,” said Emma. “We showed them that wonky is good, and they got the measure of doing curves rather than sharp angles really well. We can already see how much algae has developed in some of the channels in just a few days.”

The algae shows just how high the levels of phosphate coming from upstream are, according to TRT’s Ruth Needham:

“It’s bad, because it confirms the poor water quality coming onto site. But it’s good in that what we’re doing is helping to trap the phosphate as we planned. And when the levels come up and the whole site is inundated with water, which it’s designed to be, and then the phosphate drops out in the sediment, it will catch a lot of phosphate, which is what it’s all about.”

Phosphate levels will be monitored independently by TH Environmental, a specialist in on- site river pollution sampling. A baseline report, based on samples before the project began, showed how the excessive phosphorus levels “are affecting the River Mease ecology and contributing to the failure of the river’s WFD (Water Framework Directive) target.”

TH Environmental has developed a bespoke sampling plan to enable Trent Rivers Trust to assess the performance of the scheme, which is designed to reduce phosphorus levels in the River Mease and the Gilwiskaw Brook. “The bespoke sampling plan is designed to gather evidence to quantify the phosphorous load prevented from entering the river catchment,” said TH Environmental director, Tim Harris.

Funding via Developer Contribution Scheme

Funding for the project is through a “Developer Contribution Scheme” (DCS) administered by North West Leicestershire District Council and delivered for the council by The Trent Rivers Trust. The DCS seeks to mitigate the negative impacts of any developments which contribute wastewater to sewage treatment works which discharge into the catchment of the River Mease Special Area of Conservation. The DCS has been operational since 2012 and supports the River Mease Water Quality Management Plan.

Councillor Keith Merrie, Portfolio Holder for Planning at North West Leicestershire District Council, said: “As the planning authority, we have a balancing act to play. People need homes and jobs, so it’s important that development goes ahead, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of our natural environment; particularly special sites like the River Mease. It’s important that developers contribute to schemes like this to mitigate for the impact of housing and other developments. It’s good to get to this stage and see the sediment trapping already working – we look forward to seeing it make a real difference downstream.”

Strategic location to boost river water quality

The site, where two significant watercourses meet, is particularly well-located, according to Ruth Needham: “it’s downstream of significant pollution sources towards Ashby de-la-Zouch but high enough within the catchment to improve the quality of fifteen kilometres of the Mease.”

“It’s been an intense window of work,” adds Needham, “and it’s involved extensive collaboration and co-operation.

“We are working with all the partners in the Mease to restore the river back to favourable condition to get the species of interest returning, functioning and thriving. Poor water quality has been a key barrier to that. We’ve got a lot of nutrients getting into the watercourse from a whole range of different sources. Plus the habitat has been damaged in the past for decades.

“So, we are working with several different organisations to reverse some of that damage. We became aware of this site because of our other works in the catchment and we saw an opportunity to create a major silt trap, to trap water in the flood plain, trap the pollution, which will reduce the phosphate downstream. It’s great for the species of interest: fish, invertebrates and plants. But it’s great for the landowner too, as it was difficult to farm and too easily flooded.”

The farmer who owns the land reported that it was always an awkward area to manage, access was difficult and it often gets flooded. The farmer suggested there could be a better use for it, other than trying to continually farm it. A wetland is a good option.

Can we fill three swimming pools? No – but we can thank Forterra

It was crucial, according to Needham, to find somewhere nearby which could take all the surplus materials created by carving out the wetland sediment trap and reducing the level of the site – all while minimising any disturbance to the SSSI and SAC. Fortunately for TRT, brick-maker Forterra offered to receive all 7,500 cubic metres of material from the site – enough to fill three Olympic swimming pools – and the material will be used in the future as part of their clay quarry’s progressive wetland restoration.

“One of the issues in delivering the project was to drop the level so the site floods better, meaning we had a load of material that needed to move to a receptor site,” added Needham. “Because we’ve been walking the river for years, looking for invasive species, we talk with many farmers and other businesses. So we got to know Forterra, whose Measham plant is one of the most efficient and sustainable brick manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom and has an adjacent quarrying excavation perfect for this project.

left to right: Ian Loftus, Forterra, Robert Burbidge, Forterra, Ruth Needham, Trent Rivers Trust

Left to right: Ian Loftus, Forterra, Robert Burbidge, Forterra, Ruth Needham, Trent Rivers Trust

“So it was instrumental to the success of this project that Forterra could take the significant amount of material. Despite the funding from the DCS, we quite simply would not have been able to afford to complete the project without Forterra’s agreement to receive the material in their quarry.”

It’s been a positive working relationship according to Ian Loftus, Forterra’s Measham Plant Manager. “We’ve always worked together to iron out any problems and figure out solutions. I’ve enjoyed that.”

Colleague Robert Burbidge agrees. “Compared to the scale of our quarry excavations, these materials are very minor. We were happy to be able to offer our quarry to the rivers project and use the materials in our own site restoration in years to come.”

Forterra often works with conservation and environmental charities, according to Loftus: “Yes, we dig big holes, but we always have an end plan that once we’ve finished quarrying they tend to be returned at least in part to nature. This project has been a great example, working with the Trent Rivers Trust to come up with what they think is best for a particular area.”

GPS technology ensured accuracy

The next stage of the project is to plant wet wildflower meadow seeds and plug plants, Smail commented. “Our contractor EDR used excavators and earthmovers equipped with GPS technology in their cabs. Without this the job would have been more complicated, longer, more difficult and needed more people.”

Aaron Turner, EDR’s commercial director

Aaron Turner, EDR’s commercial director (second from left)

Aaron Turner, EDR’s commercial director, says the GPS technology “talks to satellites in the sky, and gives us levels and contour details. So when we are cutting in riffles and new river channels, we can do it with great accuracy and do it first time rather than having an engineer come out and tell the driver where more needs to be cut off or put on.”

This sort of accuracy makes it easier to cut channels which work for wildlife, says TRT’s Ruth Needham: “There are lots of shallows, gently sloping banks and softer-shaped channels – a real improvement for biodiversity. There are wet, dry and semi-dry areas for the invertebrates. There are spaces for the fish to spawn and for wildlife to take refuge when the site floods.

“It’s already transformed the site and will make a positive impact on the river for years to come. And with fish spawning season starting in October, we’re delighted to have completed these major works on time and without disruptions or inconveniences to the landowners or Forterra, who have been absolutely instrumental in making it work.”

Photos: Unsworth Sugden, EDR, Jamie Veitch. Used with permission. More photos:

River Mease and Gilwiskaw Brook Wetland Project

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A drier path for people and water for wildlife on Ripley Greenway – our work continues

What an exciting day 22nd April was. We planted the mini-wetland, which we started back in 2019, and added to this wildlife habitat by creating a hibernaculum.  This little wetland provides habitat for aquatic plants and animals passing along the brook and the newly created hibernaculum provides homes for insects and amphibians, such as newts and frogs.

7 young people from Derbyshire Adult Community Education Services (DACES) had a fun day helping us create this new home for wildlife.

On 7th May, we hope to hold a Covid-compliant volunteer day to seed and plant the swales, with volunteers from the general public, Rethink Derbyshire and The Friends of Ripley Greenway.

And finally, in the near future, we will be installing permanent interpretation signs on the Greenway to explain about the benefit of this work and where this fits with our wider The River Starts Here! project.

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Trees on the Trent – new milestone reached

This season we have planted 5000 trees as part of our Trees on the Trent Project.

The trees have been planted along the River Trent and one of its tributaries to increase bankside habitat whilst shading the river.

With the threat that future climate changes poses to the temperatures of our rivers, trees offer an important temperature regulation service amongst other benefits.

Want to find out more about how trees are helping in the fight against climate change?

Click here -> https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/how-trees-fight-climate-change/

But…we’re not done yet! So watch this space for news on next year’s planting.

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River Mease Restoration works to be delivered this summer

Major capital works taking place to enhance important river habitats

Trent Rivers Trust (TRT), in collaboration with partners of the River Mease Catchment Restoration Project, has been spending the lockdown preparing for a summer season of scheme delivery on the River Mease Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Eight schemes are due to be delivered across the catchment, from river restoration schemes on the River Mease itself to sediment trapping schemes at the headwaters of tributaries. The delivery is the culmination of a year’s worth of preparation, marking the end of the first year of this three-year project. Works will take place around Measham and Chilcote in North West Leicestershire, Netherseal and Overseal in South Derbyshire and Edingale and Croxall in the Lichfield district.

The project is co-funded by the Environment Agency and the local authority Developer Contribution Scheme to improve the water quality, habitat and biodiversity of the River Mease, which is one of the most highly designated rivers in the country, as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The works will result in 9km of watercourse being restored to more natural conditions, creating better habitat for the designated species; 8km of which is on the main River Mease itself. In addition, the works will also create 7.4ha of terrestrial habitat improvements, including enhancement of the riparian zone, tree planting and wetland creation.

More details about 6 of the schemes can be found in the site notices which are required as part of the consultation to work under the Environment Agency’s permitted development rights. If you have any comments on the proposals you may submit these to the address on the notices before 19th September 2020.

Here is a map of where each of the site notices are located River Restoration Autumn 2020 NEAS

You can read the site notices here… MEA023 Croxall; MEA021 Edingale; MEA009 Chilcote Brook; MEA007-8 Money Hill to Yew Tree; MEA007 Money Hill Farm; MEA002 Birds Hill Measham

Please follow the progress of the project on our twitter page @MeaseRiver

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If you go down to the Brook today…

You’ll be in for a furry surprise, especially at Hilcote setback outfall on Normanton Brook in South Bolsover District, Derbyshire.  A local wildlife photographer Ian Wilson has told us that he has spotted 5, yes 5 Water Voles around the outfall.

Hilcote setback outfall is a project we successfully delivered in Spring 2019. The outfall brings rainwater off the nearby industrial estate directly to Normanton Brook.  Meaning any pollutants in the rainwater, say from a road spillage would find their way directly into the Brook.

Our project removed 25 metres of concrete outfall to create space to build a backwater and a swale. These intercept possible pollution, allowing it to breakdown before reaching the brook, improving the habitat for wildlife, particularly the water voles that live in the Brook.

Water voles (commonly known as the Water Rat – remember Ratty from Wind in the Willows?  He was a Water Vole) are the largest species of vole in Britain.  Water voles have undergone one of the most serious declines of any wild mammal in Britain during the 20th century. Loss and degradation of habitat, are major causes of decline as is the introduction of the American Mink .  It is thought that between 1989 and 1998, the population fell by almost 90 per cent!

So back to the Hilcote Five – how fantastic that our project has delivered an improved habitat, now where did I put that copy of Wind in the Willows?

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