As we get the ball rolling on our exciting new scheme to help restore and reconnect people with the hidden landscape of the Tame Valley Wetlands, the BBC’s Midlands Today Science and Environment Correspondent, David Gregory-Kumar, takes a closer look at what’s in store for the area over the next four years. Read David’s blog here.
BBC Midlands Today Springwatch broadcasts live from the Tame Valley on Tuesday 27th May (6:30 – 7pm), and as well as exploring wildlife from other areas in the region, we give a quick introduction to the scheme and to some of the first projects we’ll be getting stuck in to, thanks to generous funding and support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Environment Agency, Warwickshire County Council, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and our other partners.
Two of the first projects we plan to deliver (as seen on TV!) are focused on restoring the River Tame and an area of its floodplain at Kingsbury Water Park – right in the centre of the 104km² scheme area.
Project A3 – Wilding the Tame
Over the last century, the river has been heavily engineered – canalisation has taken place, where both the river’s course and its banks have been artificially straightened. This has resulted in highly modified river, cut off from its floodplain. As you can imagine, the fast flow, steep banks and inaccessible nature of the river doesn’t provide the best environment for wildlife or people.
Our first project will do something about this – at one of the most visited locations in the Tame Valley. Our plan is to pull back the riverbank predominantly on the left side (looking downstream) of the river to a more gentle gradient (we’re also planning to improve bank-side habitat on the right side, particularly for Sand Martins).
The spoil removed from this work will then be carefully moved into the edge of Hemlingford Water (the lake to the left of the river in the above photo, kindly taken by TheocAir) to create a new reedbed. These reeds will be great for wildlife and also help to reduce the current erosion of the lake edge.
Gravel removed from the riverbank will be used to improve a nearby footpath and bridleway – some may also be placed back into the river (where it originally came from). This work will provide much improved bank-side habitat, as well as encouraging the river to naturally regenerate. Riffles and pools should start to develop within the river channel, providing improved habitat for invertebrates and fish populations.
By pulling the banks back and providing a more varied channel bed, we’ll be helping to reduce flood risk (by slowing the flow down and increasing the capacity of the floodplain). We’ll also be improving the health of the river – something the UK needs to achieve with all our rivers by 2027 under the EU’s Water Framework Directive.
The project will also improve access for visitors – providing better paths and safer access along the river and down to the water’s edge.
Project A6 – Kingsbury’s Community Wetland
Wetlands provide a vital role in reducing flooding and improving water quality, whilst their biodiversity-rich habitats also provide an important home for wildlife and a place for sensitive recreation and relaxation. The Tame Valley Wetlands are a ‘blue-green lung’ in an area of the country otherwise dominated by transport routes and development.
During 2015/2016, as well as restoring the River Tame at Tamworth Borough Council / Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s Tameside Local Nature Reserve and creating a large new reedbed for breeding bitterns at RSPB’s Middleton Lakes, we’re also planning to create a new community wetland at Kingsbury Water Park, just downstream from the site of Project A3.
The project will look to restore an area of improved grassland on the floodplain next to the River Tame – creating an exciting new wetland for the benefit of both people and wildlife. We’re currently asking for your views on this project before we seek the additional funding needed to match the funding already secured by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Please click here to find out more about this project, view the plans and have your say!
But that’s just one side of the scheme…
Our work will not only focus on the River Tame and conserving natural heritage such as wetlands and hedgerows – the scheme will also focus on local built and cultural heritage. Two Grade II listed structures will be restored by the Canal & River Trust on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and access and learning will be improved, helping to reconnect local people and visitors to the landscape. We’ll develop a long distance ‘Tame Way’ – linking, enhancing and promoting a network of footpaths, bridleways and cycle routes between Birmingham and Tamworth.
Plans are also in place for a new interpretation centre at Kingsbury Water Park and an interactive website and phone app, providing easily accessible information and resources to help people explore and discover the Tame Valley Wetlands.
The initiative will also provide volunteering and training opportunities for local people and support groups working to look after their local area. We’ll be delivering a host of events and activities across the area aimed at school children, young people and members of the public. Informal training will also be provided through taster days, with the chance for people to learn new skills and improve their CVs through more formal, accredited training programmes.
Our work will help local people discover, and be inspired by, the wealth of wildlife and heritage on their doorsteps, whilst protecting the area for the future. We can only do this by working at a landscape scale and as a partnership of organisations working closely with the local community.
In the next few weeks, we will also be advertising six scheme officer positions (four full-time, 3.5 years) to help deliver the scheme (see the below post for the first job to be advertised).