17. The Meads

Themes: Ecology and management; Public engagement

Objectives:

  • Increase the amount and quality of in-channel, bankside and floodplain habitat
  • Increase public access to the river (visual and physical)

Project description

This project aimed to reduce man-made erosion of the south/right bank of the river, better manage public access to the river, improve diversity of flow, and reduce siltation of the river bed.

From 23 January to 13 March 2018 (ie before the start of the close season), 24 volunteers from Wheathampstead Open Spaces Volunteers, the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, the Verulam Angling Club and the Environment Agency put in 268 hours' work to get the job done.

Chestnut stakes were driven into the river bed along about 80 metres of river bank, willow poles were woven between the stakes, and local material was used to backfill. Most of the willow poles used for spiling were harvested from a plantation 50 metres from the river which is pollarded on a two-year cycle. More poles were harvested from Lemsford Springs and from the Verulam Angling Club's fishery at Leasey Bridge (thanks to them for this).

Wheathampstead Parish Council's contractors, Maydencroft, built five entry points into the river where the existing informal entry points were causing the most serious erosion.

The entire project was paid for with a grant from the Wild Trout Trust.

A water vole survey and a riverfly survey were conducted just before the work started and will be repeated at intervals in the coming months.

The existing buffer strips of unmown grass will be extended to discourage public access at unsuitable locations.

Flow and siltation of the river will be monitored over the next 12 months at which point the Trust and the EA will be consulted to advise on the installation of in-river flow deflectors and/or brash build-outs to create greater diversity of flow and scouring to reduce the silt and expose more of the sandy/gravel bed.

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Project lead: Patrick McNeill
Project partners: Wheathampstead Parish Council
Funding source: TBC
Project start: 2016
Project end: 2019
Contact for more information: Patrick McNeill

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting.