River restoration background
- There are lost and forgotten rivers hidden from view behind fences, walls and hedges or buried underground in subterranean tunnels under the streets of many of the UK’s cities including London and Manchester
- London has around 20 lost rivers that have been buried underground to allow the city to build up around and over them. Eg: Tyburn, Effra and Fleet
- The EA together with range of local and expert organisations has rescued sections of some of these lost rivers – one of the most notable examples being the River Quaggy. Bringing the Quaggy back to the surface has transformed Sutcliffe Park in south London from a wasteland to a haven for the local community, fish and wildlife – and reduced local flood risk
- Our rivers are under pressure from development, population growth, changing climate and invasive species
- European legislation called the Water Framework Directive is a major driver for restoring the rivers across Europe, including the UK. The directive became part of UK law in 2003
- The directive measures not only water quality in a river, but its chemical and biological make up, the invertebrates that live in the water, the extent of water abstraction and man-made changes that have been – eg: locks and weirs
- The Medlock Restoration Project will turn a sterile 1.8km stretch of river from a sterile, degraded river into a haven for both people and nature. It is the most ambitious river restoration project attempted to date by the Environment Agency (working with Manchester City Council, Groundwork and the Irwell Rivers Trust)
- Ollie Southgate said: “We want to bring people back to their forgotten river. After all the rivers in Manchester were the lifeblood and key to the prosperity and wealth during the industrial revolution. Without them Manchester would be a very different place today.”
- The Medlock flows through Manchester’s industrial heartland – now a focus for major regeneration including the National Cycling Centre, Manchester City Football Club and new Youth Academy
- The River Irwell restoration programme is one of the UK’s leading restoration catchments with 17 weirs removed in the past 2.5yrs at cost of £270k
- The brick channel was built after a big flood which washed away bodies into the river from the nearby graveyard. Official reports recorded at the time that over 60 bodies were found downstream but the true number is thought to be much more. The knee-jerk reaction to reducing flood risk was to put the river into a concrete and brick ‘jacket’. In fact, the culvert increased flood risk in the area by accelerating the flow of the water.
- Freeing the river up from its brick tomb will also help reduce the risk of local flooding.
· Like many of London’s rivers the River Quaggy was lost underground, as it was put into a channel under Sutcliffe Park, in Greenwich in the 1960s
· The Environment Agency worked has worked with a range of organisations to bring the river back above ground, allowing it to flow through Sutcliffe Park and reduce the risk of flooding in Lewisham and Greenwich
· As part of the scheme the featureless playing fields in the park were lowered and shaped to create a floodplain where water could collect during a flood instead of rushing downstream to flood Lewisham town centre. The park's flood storage capacity measures 85,000 cubic meters of water ‑ equivalent to 35 Olympic swimming pools
· By reconnecting the river to its natural course, and creating the flood storage areas the scheme has created an amazing wetland environment. Both Sutcliffe Park and Chinbrook Meadows have become a valued recreational area for local residents who now enjoy the paths and boardwalks, which pass through the reedbeds, wildflower meadows and trees.
Examples of other new river restoration projects
Salmons Brook Diffuse Pollution Urban Project, London
Thames21 has secured funding from Defra for the Salmon’s Brook Healthy River Challenge – a project to reduce diffuse urban pollution in the Salmon’s Brook, a main tributary of the River Lea in Enfield
Telford Urban Catchment Restoration, Midlands
Over 250 years of industrial activity and regeneration have heavily modified Telford’s urban catchments. Under the Water Framework Directive assessments the Lydebrook and Madebrook catchments are failing. The watercourses are overloaded with urban diffuse pollution via misconnections, road run off and the legacy of the townships industrial past. Partners working together on the project include Severn Trent Water, Severn Gorge Country-side Trust, Environment Agency, Telford and Wrekin Council and Severn Trent Water.
Wensum River Restoration & Floodplain Enhancement
The Wensum is a nationally and internationally important chalk river. This project will help restore the river and return the River Wensum Site of Special Scientific Interest to a good ecological condition. The River Wensum Restoration Strategy has been developed by Natural England, in partnership with the Environment Agency and the Water Management Alliance. Currently, parts of the river are too wide, too deep and too straightened, as well as being heavily impounded by mill structures. The Wensum is also disconnected from its floodplain by spoil banks resulting from historical dredging for land drainage and industrial milling activities.
River Calder, Burnley
The river channels in Burnley were recently modified during the industrial revolution and have changed little over time. They consist of straight, cobbled, narrow, shallow, channels. Now the Ribble Rivers Trust with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Environment Agency has been widening the channels to slow flow and encourage brown trout back http://www.ribbletrust.org.uk/2013/10/08/renaturalisation-of-the-river-calder-in-burnley/