Restoring the Great Ouse at Rectory Farm, upstream of Buckingham

Delivery of a cracking little project at Rectory Farm is a result of a partnership between the landowners, George and Ann Eaton, the Wild Trout Trust and the Environment Agency. Following two devastating pollution events in 2017 and 2018, the local community were keen to see the river brought back to health. Simply re-stocking the river is rarely the right approach, so a programme of habitat improvement work was agreed to restore the river from the bottom-up’. It is anticipated that existing wild trout populations above the source of the pollutions will recolonise the area, taking advantage of the habitat improvements.

Six gravel riffles were created in autumn 2019 to provide new spawning habitat from brown trout, chub, dace and minnow. Bank re-grading work was set to follow but the floods of winter 2019 – 20 prevented river access. Spring came and the ground dried out, but then COVID19 restrictions prevented any work. The relaxing of movement restrictions allowed a small but effective delivery team coordinated by Rob Mungovan to complete the work in June 2020. The photos below tell some of the story…

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Prior to the work, the banks offered little shelter for any fish moving through the reach
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Hazel faggot bundles were secured to define a new bank edge that grades down to the water, offering a variety of soil moisture opportunities for plants and invertebrates
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The low-level channel narrowing will enhance the river without impeding flood flow
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As the channel is narrowed, water velocity on the outside bend is increased; over time, the increased scour should remove the branched burr reed growth, currently visible in the middle of the river
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Another bank has been enhanced through the creation of a log revetment established on brash and spoil, topped with hawthorn stems. The voids in the brash and logs give great cover for juvenile fish and invertebrates during floods, preventing them from being washed downstream

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The delivery team, socially distancing to ensure COVID19 guidelines were met
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Many hands made light work on the laborious wiring-down
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A newly installed riffle in Sept 2019
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The same view in June 2020. Note how natural the riffle now looks with the faggot margins enabling vegetation to root and grow-out into the channel, providing cover for fish and invertebrates
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It is important to work with the river! Get the placement of a riffle right and it won’t move. We were careful with the design of this riffle, formed of larger material (50mm stone), top-dressed with pea shingle; we expected a degree of movement, so the finer material was placed more heavily at the top of the riffle (the view above is looking upstream)
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The same riffle, looking downstream. It is actually quite surprising that even with the Gt Ouse in flood from October to February, very little of the pea shingle has moved downstream. The location of the riffle and its general form is good, and it has remained stable
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The same riffle as above looking perfect in the summer light. We hope to see brown trout spawn here next winter, with their young finding cover in the margins and adult fish hanging in the deeper water