River restoration & litter pick 19th March – report

On March 19th teams from Bury Water Meadows Group (BWMG) and the River Lark Catchment Partnership (RLCP) undertook a range of restoration and litter picking activities.

Five different work parties went in different directions on the Sunday morning, from their Base Camp in the Crankles. The Bury Water Meadows Group was on a mission to get three litter picking operations, one turf laying project on the river bank by Abbot’s bridge and one river restoration project underneath the foot bridge in the Abbey gardens carried out by the end of March, or vital funding from the Environment Agency via the RLCP would be lost.

River restoration project at Abbey Gardens March 17 (27)First out at 9am was the river restoration group. Not content with his very successful restoration of the River Lark at West Stow, Glenn Smithson, a River Lark angler and RLCP member, was the obvious choice of man to get the job done. Armed with a £2500 grant from the Environment Agency, Glenn was able to buy all the materials needed for softening up the concrete side. This includes coir matting impregnated with marginal plants held in position by posts rammed into the river bed. Faggots made of willow have also been put in place to create habitat for waders and water creatures to live.

River restoration project at Abbey Gardens March 17 (28)Narrowing of the channel needs to take place so that the water flow increases and moves the sediment down river. The Lark is a chalk stream and should be good for spawning trout and salmon but the water is sluggish so sediment builds up and there are too many man-made structures on the bank to benefit wildlife in that stretch. Volunteers from the Bury Water Meadows Group who had been specially trained to work safely in the river were guided with Glenn’s expertise to get the first part of the job done

A further work session will be needed to carry out a similar action on the opposite bank.

turf laying in Abbey Gardens March 17 (7)

Turf laying

Bank erosion on the Abbey Garden side was also a problem since dredging and bank modification had been carried out last year, so Glenn suggested this side be stabilised with planting and for this operation he teamed up with Jillian Macready, founder member of Bury Water Meadows Group and BWMG representative on the RLCP. She suggested wildflower turf would knit the soil together as well as providing valuable nectar plants for our beleaguered bees.

turf laying in Abbey Gardens March 17 (13)Thanks to Simon Collin and Council colleagues, who prepared the site for the turf to be laid and another team of Bury Water Meadows group volunteers, 60 sq metres of turf was laid at the same time on Sunday morning. The turf mats are made up of a mixture of 50% native wildflowers and 50% native grasses all beneficial to insects, these are sown into a substrate which is knitted onto biodegradable netting. This makes for easy handling of the turf. Will Cranstoun of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust volunteered his expertise and Simon Collin of St Edmundsbury Council was on hand to help with perfect turf laying. Welcome rain followed on Tuesday!

As if this wasn’t enough, three different litter picking teams were dispatched from the Crankles.

litter picking team March 17 (1)

For the first time BWMG organised a group for the Butts and one for Holywater Meadows.

Ditches full of cans and litter were attacked with energy – hopefully now many people will choose to not drop their litter –that has been our experience on No Mans Meadows!

Afterwards, BWMG chairman Andrew Hinchley thanked everyone involved and said:

It’s been a great day and moving up to five groups working has taken us up a huge level in capability for BWMG and the River Lark Catchment Partnership.

Special thanks to our professional volunteers: Will Cranstoun (Suffolk Wildlife Trust), Sam Hurst (Environment Agency) and volunteers Jillian Macready and Glenn Smithson who worked on all the advance preparation, as well as today. Thanks to Rob Clapham (Environment Agency) who worked on delivering the grant and advance planning including the permits needed. BWMG members paid £400 for insurance,new waders and angling “catch” nets.

See also the Bury Free Press article about the day.

River restoration project at Abbey Gardens March 17 (12)