Taming the Tame!

tameside_island

A major project to restore an island along the River Tame in Fazeley got underway this week as part of a Heritage Lottery-funded scheme to make the area more attractive to wildlife such as fish, eels, water voles, otters and birds.

‘Taming the Tame’ is one of a series of projects being carried out by the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme– a £2.5m lottery-funded project which aims to ‘create a wetland landscape rich in wildlife and accessible to all’.

The overall scheme focuses on a 104km area, following the Tame Valley from East Birmingham through North Warwickshire to Tamworth.

This £83,500 project – funded by the Heritage Lottery, the Environment Agency and supported by Tamworth Borough Council – will reinstate an island feature that was lost in the 1950s by digging out a new 140-metre channel which will join the River Tame at two points within Tameside Local Nature Reserve.

The work will:

  • Create a 140m gravel-lined back channel off the main river as a refuge for small fish and eel
  • Reinstate any gravel found during the earthworks back into the River Tame
  • Profile and plant up the banks to be attractive for water voles, insects and wetland birds
  • Create an island which will be an important refuge for ground nesting birds and offer shelter for otters that frequently use the river
  • Create additional capacity for flood water in high flow events
  • Prepare and seed a wildflower meadow where the spoil is deposited, outside the floodplain
  • Build an artificial sand martin bank

As a partnership scheme, the Taming the Tame project is being delivered by Tame Valley Wetlands with support from Tamworth Borough Council, the Environment AgencyStaffordshire Wildlife Trust and Tameside Wildlife Conservation Group.

Tracey Doherty, Wetlands Landscape Officer, Tame Valley Wetlands, said:

Restoring a feature in the river is an important factor in the creation of a rich and diverse wetland landscape. This project will make the river habitat more complex and favourable for wildlife. The back channel will be a great refuge for small fish and eels and should promote new populations of naturally-spawned fish, which have better chances of survival. We will also make the channel as favourable as possible for water voles. We know they are on the canal at Atherstone and the River Anker, and we are preparing the area for their return. Trees will be planted on the main river side to provide shade for fish, such as barbel, and help keep the river cool.

The restoration of the island and the creation of an artificial sand martin bank set further back from the river itself were both suggested by members of the Tameside Wildlife Conservation Group who formed in 2006 through the Wild About Tamworth partnership to help manage and nurture the area.

Cllr Joy Goodall, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Environment, said:

There is so much work taking place to improve and enhance our natural habitats in Tamworth. Tameside is one of our seven designated Local Nature Reserves where volunteers work hand in hand with partner organisations and authorities to make sure we get the best out of our open spaces and wildlife. This project to restore the lost river island should create some fantastic new refuges for fish and other animals to make the area rich and diverse in wildlife once more.

Tim Pickering from the Environment Agency added:

We’re proud to be part of this project that will enable eels; a critically endangered species, to again thrive in local waters. The Environment Agency is responsible for creating a better place for people and wildlife and this project means we can do that. By improving the environment for wildlife and creating more capacity to store water when the area floods, it will also further protect the area from the effects of flooding.

Weather permitting, the earthwork is expected to take three to four weeks to complete.

Press Release taken from Tamworth Informed.

Written by Linda Ram, Tamworth Borough Council, and edited by Tame Valley Wetlands, Environment Agency, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and Tameside Wildlife Conservation Group.