The past 15 months or so may have been pretty challenging but here at Lincolnshire Rivers Trust we have not let it get us down. We have still managed to deliver habitat improvement projects on several of our precious limestone becks.
The limestone ridge running close to the surface along the western edge of Lincolnshire contains natural aquifers, which feed into springs that filter up through the limestone, providing beautiful clear water at an optimum pH and temperature for freshwater wildlife.
Over the years, over-abstraction for domestic drinking water and agriculture, as well as straightening, widening and deepening of the becks to ensure speedy land drainage, have impacted negatively on this very special habitat, which has in turn, had a detrimental effect on the freshwater flora and fauna.
In the past few years, we have improved sections of the beck on Waterwheel lane https://lincsrivers.org.uk/brilliant-turnout-for-branston-beck/ and last autumn we carried out a successful gravel introduction to a 400m stretch of Branston Beck to create a pool-riffle sequence, just upstream of Heighington https://lincsrivers.org.uk/pools-and-riffles-restored/
We are currently planning further restoration works on the lower Branston (Sandhill) Beck, aiming to restore a 1.5km stretch alongside the Spires and Steeples footpath. Habitat improvements will include gravel introductions to create further pool-riffle sequences, ideal for invertebrates and spawning fish, the creation of three inset flood plains, including a pond feature and the insertion of berms and woody deflectors in the watercourse to create more sinuosity and diversity in the flow. All of which will enhance the habitat for wildlife and people alike and should be completed in early 2022.
Following our beck improvement project along the Sudbrooke playing field in 2019 https://lincsrivers.org.uk/diggers-and-dolphins/ and the tree planting later that year, we were very happy to return to the site in April this year with our volunteers to carry out some much-needed weeding around the saplings. We were delighted to see how much better the beck looked and were especially pleased to be out as it was our first Work Party Wednesday in almost a year!
A quick kick sample after our weeding work was completed, showed a variety of freshwater invertebrates, including lots of mayfly larvae – a great indicator of healthy water.
Further beck improvements in the centre of Nettleham are currently under discussion with the Parish Council.
A few years ago, we supported a Wild Trout Trust and Environment agency project to reprofile a stretch of the beck alongside the playing fields in Welton. Steep banks which had been re-enforced with concrete slabs, edged an over-wide and very straight channel of shallow, silty water.
Historically Welton Beck has run dry due to over abstraction, and this was worsened by the poor state of the beck. The concrete was removed, the steep banks re-profiled and brushwood berms were installed to add some sinuosity and speed up the flow.
We recently went back to carry out some maintenance work on the berm structures and last month our Work Party Wednesday spent a beautiful, sunny morning planting hundreds of native, aquatic plants along the berms and bare areas of bank. Once established, these will help to stabilise the banks and will provide food and shelter for wildlife, as well as being attractive for the local community and, of course, the pollinators.
In recent years, trout have been spotted as far upstream as Dunholme, so it is hoped that with these improvement works they may eventually make their way further upstream to Welton to spawn.
In 2018 our hardworking volunteer team spent two weekends helping us to install brushwood berms along a stretch of Scopwick beck to re-instate the natural ‘wiggle’ and provide habitat for wildlife. Within a few hours the flow had noticeably sped up and a visit earlier this year showed the berms are working well, trapping silt and beginning to green up. We are now in talks with a landowner a little further upstream to re-create these improvements on his stretch of the beck so watch this space…
Last and by no means least is Dunston Beck, previous improvement works have included a very impressive recent project carried out By Dyson Farms with Wild Trout Trust and the Environment Agency to excavate a 3-hectare flood plain.
As part of the works the channel was re-meandered and sand and gravels were introduced. Seasonally the majority of the flood plain will be covered in water which will then drain away to leave standing pools and a diverse variety of habitats for wetland flora and fauna.
The area will be seeded and planted with a native grassland mix and then managed by light grazing to encourage a diverse sward of wildflowers and grasses to grow – ideal for insects and pollinators which will, in turn, help to pollinate local crops. The insects will also provide food for birds and the numerous bat species found in the nearby woodlands.
Further collaborative beck improvement projects are being discussed with Dyson Farms and the Dunston Parish Council and it is hoped that the local community can become more involved in both planning, delivering and the upkeep of future projects.