2021 Round Up 

Alex McKay

As for so many, 2021 was a challenging year – but an incredibly rewarding one also. Before we have wade into 2022, I wanted to look back at a few of the river restoration projects we conquered in 2021.

We delivered 20 projects across 10 waterbodies; installing 23 sediment pathway interventions, restoring 7.5km of river and improving 24 hectares of floodplain as well as removing two barriers to fish passage. When combined with those projects delivered by our friends it’s likely that our region saw more river restoration than anywhere else in the UK during 2021.

Here's a closer look at a few of our projects:

Over just six weeks in the autumn of 2021, Wessex RT’s Flow Resilient Sustainable Habitat (FReSH) Water Programme delivered 8 simultaneous projects, amounting to approximately 3.5km of river restoration and an estimated 6.5 hectares of chalk stream habitat improvement in the Test catchment. The biggest intervention in the programme this year was on the River Test at Longstock. Wessex Rivers Trust Framework contractors Stonbury Ltd. supported by Framework contractors Aquascience Ltd, significantly re-shaped both banks to create a more natural channel planform. We hope that this project will serve as a flagship case study for restoring “big water” chalk stream reaches, where problems might be too big to fix with woody debris alone.

The Trust’s TICTAC (Test & Itchen Catchment Technical Assessment of Channelsscheme is also nearing completion, over three years on from our original funding application back in 2018. The final habitat restoration works completed in October 2021 were delivered in a partnership between the Trust, the Piscatorial Society and the landowner. Whilst the Trust developed, designed, and secured relevant permits for the project, the new water tenants were perfectly positioned to install the works. The Society’s team of experienced keepers didn’t shy away from the brief, delivering a big, bold river restoration and creating a haven for wildlife over almost 1km of river.

It wasn’t all earth moving though – our team were busy surveying and collecting the all-important information required to inform our projects; creating 79 maps, recording 396 features regarded as habitat issues and 643 channel modifications. This kind of data will inform projects such as those on the Hampshire Avon at Amesbury, where we hope to improve migration routes for some of our most endangered fish and restore a degraded channel back to a diverse and resilient chalk stream habitat.

Our schedule of works is already filling up for 2022 with a multitude of projects to keep us busy as we map out key areas in which our restoration works can have the most positive impacts. Follow us on social media to stay up to date with everything we are getting up to.