In the autumn of 2019, the Wessex Rivers Trust undertook an exciting restoration project on the River Test near Andover. This was a partnership endeavour between ourselves, the Wild Trout Trust, and the Environment Agency’s Romsey Office. In several weeks we transformed 1km of degraded, silty, and uniform river into a naturally flowing, healthy and diverse chalk stream.
Historic management practices had led to significant over-widening of the main carrier. The flow was sluggish resulting in the deposition of fine sediments and limited weed growth. Water crowfoot (Ranunculus sp.) was sparse, marginal plants, such as reeds, were mostly absent due to historic bank reinforcement works and decades of intensive management. The rivers poor condition was further exacerbated by the presence of several weirs. These impoundments had worsened the situation by slowing the flow further and increasing the rate of sedimentation, resulting in a shallower river channel and a smothered bed. Spawning opportunities for salmonid fish were limited to a few sites, with the main carrier only holding a few stocked trout which were vulnerable to predation due to the lack of cover.
We proposed a restoration plan that included the removal of all 12 weirs, the creation of eight large berms, two dozen woody features, three new gravel riffles, as well as reprofiling and lowering the bank at several locations. Electrofishing surveys and fixed-point photography also provided the baseline for post-project monitoring and evaluation. Collectively, this proposal will improve the conditions for the growth of aquatic plants and freshwater invertebrates, whilst also improving fish passage and habitat for all life-stages of wild trout and grayling. Not only will this improve habitat diversity for fish, invertebrates, and aquatic plants but it will also accomplish improved angling opportunities through clever and innovative designs.
This project was undertaken using a pre-agreed methodology with Natural England to prevent any damage to the protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) found at the site. We delivered the project under the Test and Itchen River Restoration Strategy, with financial support from the Environment Agency and the landowner. Our approach ensured we could deliver a project utilising the limited funding available, whilst producing the best value results.