River Restoration Volunteers 2021

Maddie Crabb

Delivery season is the busiest time of year for the projects team at WessexRT and last year we had a record number of projects. Not only was this an extraordinary year for river restoration delivery we also had a small army of volunteers help make it happen.
Nine volunteers from all walks of life across our catchment came together to help us make two of our FReSH Programme projects possible. Both projects were based around Stockbridge, Hampshire in the Middle Test region. Across three days one brushwood berm and three angler accessible causeways were tackled.

Brushwood berms are structures made of brash (tree limbs) secured within the margins of the river. They provide cover for fish from avian and terrestrial predators as well as creating areas of slack water promoting the establishment aquatic plants which provide complex habitat for macroinvertebrates and multiple life stages of fish. Brushwood berms are often positioned on alternating banks to reinstate meander sequences and kick start natural process that have often been degraded through historic channel modification and river management.

Angler accessible causeways are a hybrid between a gravel and brushwood berm. They consist of a gravel made causeway that are semi-circle shaped connected to the riverbank so fishermen can walk out onto them. They are constructed with a brushwood toe (fronted) to provide complex habitat and cover like a brushwood berm. They can also be left ‘backless’ leaving a lagoon area to minimise water vole disturbance, a protected UK species in decline, and promote lentic aquatic life.

These structures required large quantities of brash to be dragged, cut, floated, and carefully positioned into the river. Once positioned brash has to be secured in place using ‘cross braces’ (tree limbs or trunks) and wired to chestnut stakes that are hand driven into the riverbed. This is a labour intensive, and let’s not forget, cold and soggy process! Despite this, volunteers dedicated 98 hours of their time to help complete two successful river restoration projects that will having long lasting legacies.