WTT Blog

Scoping out Habitat Opportunities in Sheffield's Porter Brook

Posted on January 13, 2016

Jerome and I scoping out bits of the Porter Brook - finding a big weirContinuing with the recent theme of the radical deculverting and habitat improvement work on Sheffield's Porter Brook - here is a quick update on a day spent walking and talking about potential further opportunities. The morning and some of the afternoon was spent in the company of Jerome Masters (EA Fisheries) in a combination of searching out potential sites to assess and then discussing options along with Sam Thorn and Jack Foxall of Sheffield City Council.

The series of short sections might be possible to combine with some more planned deculverting work on another City Centre Tributary (The Sheaf) for further improvements to the connectivity of the Don Catchment - and also the quality and variety of available river corridor habitat.

It will be my job in the coming weeks to come up with a variety of optional scenarios for each of the sites. Depending on the various constraints of either funding, available surrounding land and existing infrastructure - there could be several options for each site. Some of these could be long term aspirations (requiring significant funding...

Sediment sources and salmonid successes

Posted on January 11, 2016

Sediment sources and salmonid successes

On my WTT-inspired ramblings recently, I came across a shocking sight, above. Shocking because firstly, I was expecting to see a village pond complete with a raft of local ducks bobbing around, not a barren mudscape stuck behind a defunct dam; and secondly, because I immediately started to wonder where all that accrued sediment was being washed away to….. and where it was being deposited… and might it not be being dumped upon some salmonid redds at a rather inopportune time?

Porter Brook - Part of the Deculverting Process

Posted on December 18, 2015

Picking up from my previous post of the in-channel habitat creation - here are just a few photos to give an impression of the site's previous states.

This gives a bit more of an idea of how little of the river was allowed to see the open air until pretty recently. Sheffield City Council have been steadily working to expose this buried watercourse...

View downstream from the road bridge note the balcony/gantry on the right in the foreground


Same view immediately after the in-channel habitat-works (note balcony/gantry on right of frame in foreground


Starting to remove the brick-arch culverting


At the downstream end of the removed brick culvert - a series of steel RSJs can now be seen spanning the river. These previously supported the concrete floor of a factory that was built on top of the river


Here is a picture of...

Porter Brook - Channel Habitat Improvement in De-Culverted City Centre Stream

Posted on December 15, 2015

There will be more pictures and video to come to document this bold project by Sheffield City Council to uncover a section of stream that used to live beneath a factory floor. They are in the process of creating a "pocket park" that will provide new flood-water storage (when the rivers are in spate) and an improved public park amenity (when the rivers are calm).

The pocket park itself will be excavated out from the current high ground level (and a major construction project is underway at the moment to achieve this).

The Wild Trout Trust were brought in to design in-channel features and riverbed morphology that would maxmise the improvements for the ecology of the stream - including for the prospects of a small and fragmented native population of wild brown trout.
 

The site after uncovering the stream - but before the in-channel works Click here for lots more photos!   

Reflecting on all this rain

Posted on December 14, 2015

Reflecting on all this rain

This is the view from my office window. Of late, I have been lucky to see across the valley. When it has been sufficiently clear there has been a stark message staring me in the face. So, what’s wrong in this image? OK, it’s not a great image but then it was taken in blowing rain. The field (centre shot) has a similar slope / exposure as those surrounding it yet it is the only one veined with rivulets of water. It is also the only one under permanent livestock grazing as compared to the fields on either side through which stock is rotated regularly. The result is a reduced crop plant height, root structure (and probably diversity), and more compacted soils leading to serious (visible) overland flow during times of heavy rain. At the bottom of that field is a tributary of the River Aire; little wonder that the Aire is often occupying the full width of its floodplain (below).

Friends of The Dearne - Open Village Day Report

Posted on November 23, 2015



It was a great pleasure to be involved at the end of this summer with a vibrant "Open Village" event in Clayton West in the Kirklees region of West Yorkshire. As well as the many musical, local business and art exhibitions - a local angler and wildlife enthusiast Phil Slater had arranged an event to help reconnect people with their river. Alongside Chris Firth MBE of the Don Catchment Rivers Trust we hoped to increase the awareness of the river and the challenges it faces.

So many of the local families that came to the riverside activities (including bug dipping and fly casting lessons)came away with a real enthusiasm for the river and its future care and enhancement. It was a great testament to Phil's own passion for the river and the commitment he has made to see things continue to improve on this tributary of the Don (in 2015, right down at the confluence with the River Don, the first salmon parr was recorded on the Dearne in an Environment Agency survey).

The river faces many problems - from discharges of poor quality water, to invasive plants like giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam and habitat degradation through industrialisation and...

Never Mind the Environment - What About Our Jobs and Economy?

Posted on November 20, 2015

Westcountry Rivers Trust worked on 5 river catchments. For every £1 they spent on restoration - between £1.91 and £4.50 of economic value to society was gained (Click Picture to view full size)
It seems to be quite a common view that "nature" is a "nice to have" once we have taken care of jobs, business and the economy in general. A bit of a luxury when we've got some loose change left over from taking care of progress...

The problem with that is it misses the point that nobody will be doing business/earning money without functioning, healthy ecosystems. You'd struggle to breathe, for example, if there isn't enough photosynthesis happening.

The epic (and fantastic) project to restore rivers in five catchments in the south west of the UK (by Westcountry Rivers Trust) included work by independent financial analysts "NEF". The costs of doing habitat improvement and restoration were smaller than the economic value that they added to the Westcountry region.

In cases where angling passport schemes benefited from habitat improvement - that showed the highest Return On Investment. A staggering £4.50 return on each £1 spent on environmental restoration...

Small land use changes reap big freshwater benefits

Posted on November 18, 2015

Small land use changes reap big freshwater benefits

The UK landscape is a mosaic primarily of agriculture interspersed with woodland, grassland, urban enclaves and veined with river networks and wetlands. We should all realise by now that this pattern in the landscape has a marked effect on 'ecosystem goods and services', the natural benefits that the environment provides to us, and particularly those associated with freshwater. How we use (or abuse) the land, i.e. influence the landscape pattern, and the downstream consequences to water quality are a focus of the current consultation on diffuse pollution to which WTT has already responded (and I encourage you to do so too).    

A new study of an urbanising but predominantly agricultural landscape in the US draws upon data from 100 Wisconsin sub-watersheds and has important implications for managing and restoring landscapes to enhance surface water quality, groundwater quality, and groundwater supply. The study considered the landscape pattern in terms of composition (the type and amount of particular patches) and its configuration (the layout of those patches); and while both appear to have some bearing upon freshwater services, the composition had a stronger influence on water quality and supply. 

Making Connections

Posted on October 28, 2015

Making Connections

Man-made barriers, obstacles, call them what you will, are commonplace along our waterways as we have (typically) in the past tried to harness or control the flow of water for our own use. Some of these installations were incredibly insensitive to the local and more widely spread ecology and physical processes in rivers and streams, not just the fish that might want free passage both up and downstream at all life stages, and in all seasons.

I recently spent an afternoon with Mike Forty, a PhD student registered at Durham University, and based with the Ribble Rivers Trust. His work, using telemetry to assess the efficiency with which fish can pass obstacles, has been enlightening, and some of the statistics he can rattle off are mind-boggling. His work was featured in the presentation that Jack Spees (Director of RRT) gave at our recent WTT Gathering and captured on video here. For example, the low cost baffle system that was installed on a previously almost impassable weir on Swanside Beck (picture to right) can now be ascended in 23 seconds (according to one sea trout), and several resident brown trout have been up and down it numerous times!

Pre works assessment for Eastburn Beck

Posted on October 20, 2015

Pre works assessment for Eastburn Beck

Eastburn Beck is a tributary of the River Aire in Yorkshire. It is typical of a northern freestone stream / river that has had a chequered history with industrialisation, and as a consequence, it has lost some of its vitality to the constraints of walled banks and a host of weirs. The walls keep long sections straightened and have allowed housing to develop on what would have been a far more sinuous, meandering floodplain. The weirs interrupt the natural progression of pool-riffle sequences and have choked the supply of gravels downstream.

The result is a series of impounded shallow sections with uniform depth, flow, and substrate on the bed, and little in the way of cover within stream. While some of the overly wide, shallow sections with plenty of jutting stones creating small pockets of turbulence provide excellent habitat for juvenile trout (and is also favoured by the local pair of dippers), there is a distinct lack of spawning, fry and adult holding habitat.

Lyme Brook Habitat Work Explained in Interpretation Board

Posted on October 07, 2015

A brand-new panel explaining how and why the habitat works have been done on the Lyme Brook in Newcastle-under-Lyme has now been installed. This is an invaluable addition to the existing works because it allows walkers and other park-users to really appreciate the transformation.
The panel has been installed next to the first feature (a new gravel spawning riffle) that was installed at the beginning of this project. Passers-by can now learn about all the activities at that point and also as they follow the path along the stream up through the park.


It’s not the length that matters….

Posted on October 05, 2015

Does river habitat restoration have to be a certain scale before it can be considered beneficial to the wider ecology of a river? It’s a question in one form or other that our WTT Conservation Officers often get asked. Is it really worth putting that one log deflector or hinged willow etc into that reach? Without the time or resource to conduct a robust scientific study, we’re often simply basing our opinions upon experience of what has seemed to work before. Despite the increasing number of river restoration projects being initiated across the world, scientific evidence on the long-term impacts of such projects and what makes them a success or a failure is still quite thin on the ground.

Well, apparently it is worth doing at the small scale according to some new research, provided that quality and diversity of habitat are accounted for.