This summer and autumn on Blythe Alive Again, a project to restore and protect the River Blythe and its surrounding environment, we have been working in the river itself, to restore and enhance the river’s natural processes and create more habitats for wildlife.
The River Blythe, like so many rivers in the UK, has historically been artificially straightened, deepened and widened. In years past, this was done to help industry, creating more space for development and make the river more convenient for transport.
However we now know that these changes have had really detrimental effects on wildlife. Over-wide, straight and too-deep rivers lack variation. They don’t have many features like meanders, riffles or pools, which are great for wildlife because of the different environments they create. The straight banks and uniformly deep beds don’t create enough variety for a range of habitats, and therefore can’t support a wide diversity of species.
So, to help restore this much-needed variety, we’ve been helping to put back some of the natural features into the river Blythe.
Our fantastic volunteers, along with machinery operators from Lynch Plant Hire, have helped us install a series of features along the banks, which will help modify the flow of the river. We created new semi-circle shapes along the river bank using chestnut fence posts, and filled these in with bundles of wood and sticks, secured with wire.
These features create new wiggles in the river, bringing it back towards a more natural meandering shape. They will help filter the water and change up the flow rate, creating a cleaner river bed for fish spawning and lots more habitats and variety for birds, small mammals and invertebrates.
Our next step will be to allow these features to populate with vegetation, by both planting and letting them seed naturally over time. The river will restore its natural processes and become a bit more wild.
Blythe Alive Again is a wildlife-focussed project to restore and re-naturalise critical areas of the River Blythe. Generously funded by the Environment Agency and Severn Trent, and working alongside Natural England, we will be working from 2022 onwards on over 140 hectares of land within the River Blythe SSSI (Site of special Scientific Interest) area, to create a wide range of habitats.