The Wylye Chalk Stream Project has achieved success in securing funding from the second round of the Government's Landscape Recovery scheme. This scheme provides financial support to farmers and land managers undertaking initiatives that contribute to net zero goals, protect designated sites, and promote habitat creation.
The project was one of 34 successful second-round Landscape Recovery projects, which all demonstrated pioneering ideas that will reverse the decline in nature and support the sustainable production of food. This project marks the first landscape-scale collaboration of its kind aimed at enhancing a significant stretch of chalk stream in Wiltshire to benefit local wildlife. The initiative will be led by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with Wylye Valley Farmers Group and Wessex Rivers Trust.
Wiltshire's chalk streams, globally renowned for their rarity and biodiversity, represent an integral component of England's natural landscape. Unfortunately, the River Wylye, like many others, has undergone detrimental changes over the centuries, including dredging, straightening, and pollution, placing its unique flora and fauna in jeopardy.
Due to diminished water quality, low flows, and degraded river habitat, species such as river flies, Atlantic salmon, grayling, and wild brown trout have suffered. Additionally, invasive plant species like Himalayan balsam have displaced native flora along riverbanks. Water meadows along the river have dwindled, becoming fragmented and scarce, hampering the flourishing of wading birds such as snipe, green sandpipers, and lapwings.
The collaborative effort aims to rejuvenate the vitality, diversity, and ecological abundance of the Wylye Valley. The focus is on restoring the river's natural connection with its floodplain across a 20km stretch of currently under-utilised farmland. This endeavour will enhance the river's resilience to extreme temperatures and flows resulting from climate change, as well as its capacity to capture and mitigate harmful excess nutrients and pollutants from the broader landscape.
The comprehensive project plan includes activities such as chalk stream restoration, floodplain reconnection, regenerative farming practices, and the creation of natural river valley habitats, including water meadows, ponds, and streams. The goal is to create a harmonious balance that benefits both the environment and the local community.
“The scheme has been built from the ground up, with farmers and experts shaping a pioneering and exciting vision. The dream team of Wylye Valley Farmers, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Wessex Rivers Trust will give the legendary River Wylye Valley the boost it truly deserves.”
Dave Rumble Chief Executive of Wessex Rivers Trust
“We are really excited to work with the Wylye Valley Farmers and Wessex Rivers Trust on this project along the River Wylye and its floodplain. The scale of this project and the enthusiasm and involvement from the farmer group will enable us to work together to restore and enhance the Wylye at a landscape scale, creating opportunity for wide-ranging benefits for this precious chalk stream and the biodiversity it supports.”
Alice Eley Water Team Manager at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust
“The Wylye Valley Farmers are custodians of this chalk stream. Working with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Wessex Rivers Trust, we believe that we can achieve some really pioneering work to fully enhance the biodiversity that lives here. Through this collaboration, we can secure the future of the landscape by leaving it in a better shape than we found it.”
Robin Leech Wylye Valley Farmers
Photo credit Robin Leech