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Leicester’s & Oadby’s wildlife gets a nature boost

Leicester’s and Oadby’s urban wildlife, including otters, egrets and kingfishers, is set to benefit from improved habitat, as restoration works on the Saffron Brook are drawing to a close.

Together with Leicester City and Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, Trent Rivers Trust has been working to restore this very urban watercourse. The brook, an important lifeline for wellbeing and urban wildlife has been heavily modified in the past; straightened, culverted, re-routed and channelled through a concrete bed. Works investing over £250k focused on bringing back important wetland habitat and better conditions for aquatic life. Thanks to funding from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and Environment Agency-managed Water Environment Improvement Fund, this Soar Catchment Partnership-initiated project now restores and improves the watercourse and nearby aquatic environments.

Restoration took place in multiple locations, including the wildlife-rich Knighton Park, Overdale Junior School, Knighton Green, Hughenden Drive, Wash Brook Nature Park and Leicester Golf Centre. As part of the work, sections of the brook have been freed from concrete and re-profiled. Gravels have been re-introduced, some trees have been planted – others have been hinged into the brook to create a varied flow. Outside of the brook, seven new and enlarged ponds, including wetlands have created more space for wildlife to spread.

The Leicester City Council conservation team have been thrilled with the river restoration works and amazed at how quickly wildlife has been drawn to the new wetlands. The river runs through Overdale school where moorhens and coots have been spotted for the first time ever, our new ponds are teeming with frogspawn and our Otter Spotter team have been picking up signs of otters all along the catchment. With a little investment, we can really start to bring the urban wildscape alive.Samantha Woods, Saving the Saffron Brook Project Manager

Watercourses in Leicester and Oadby have been heavily modified, severely reducing the availability of high-quality habitat needed support a rich and diverse range of freshwater species. Much of our work on the Saffron project has focused on re-naturalising the brook where possible, and creating or enhancing habitat in, and around the brook to give wildlife a much-needed boost in the area. To help this urban river system thrive, we have added ponds, removed culverts and concrete from the bed and banks, added gravel, and wood to the river and enhanced wetlands throughout the catchment, collectively improving, and diversifying the available habitat.Jon Lewis, Senior Catchment Manager at Trent Rivers Trust

We’re proud to have been involved in this project, making a positive impact on the local environment and the wildlife that relies on the habitat around Saffron Brook. It’s also been a great opportunity to get communities involved in the restoration project and educate people on how important the brook is to the ecosystem. Thank you to all the partners and volunteers that have been involved in making the project a success.Philippa Fisher, Strategic Director at Oadby & Wigston Borough Council

Our mission as the Environment Agency is to create a better place for people and wildlife and the ‘Saving the Saffron brook’ project is an example of how this can be done in partnership. From the project idea from the Soar Catchment Partnership that led to securing a large funding pot, to delivering benefits for people and the environment in a short time, the project is a template for transformational urban projects everywhere.Amanda Patterson, Environment Agency Catchment Coordinator

Working across iconic locations such as Leicester Racecourse meant that some unlikely recycling wins were had. With the permission of the Racecourse, brushwood from horse racing hurdles were sourced to improve the habitat in the nearby brook. In straight sections, brushwood has been attached to riparian banks to create a more varied flow, as would be the case in more natural brooks. The brushwood now improves habitat conditions for invertebrates and fish in the channel.

Works on the project began in October 2021 and will conclude in June 2023.

Project support

This project has been delivered in partnership between Trent Rivers Trust, Leicester City Council and Oadby and Wigston Council and been funded through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, as well as, additional funding from the Environment Agency. It has been initiated by the Soar catchment partnership.

Leicester’s & Oadby’s wildlife gets a nature boost

About the Soar catchment partnership

The Soar Catchment Partnership is an active collaboration that aims to improve the natural environment of the Soar by working with a wide range of partners to develop and deliver projects and initiatives of maximum benefit by working at the catchment scale. The Soar Catchment Partnership continues to bring together many organisations together to discuss their work and future aspirations at the catchment scale. The work reinforces the strength of some of the existing projects being undertaken by these organisations, and allows the partners to look more widely at opportunities to work together, to bring about the benefits that may not be achievable independently.

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