River Beane project

We are working to carry out river improvement work along the River Beane.

 

The River Beane is a chalk stream that branches off of the River Lea in Hertfordshire. Chalk streams are globally rare habitats and there are around 240 of them in England, with 10% located within our supply area.

Over the centuries, chalk streams like the River Beane have been changed for many reasons including moving them to work with field boundaries, straightened for mill races or relocated for housing. These changes mean that the rivers are less resilient to changes in climate and drought conditions.

We are working with the support of the Environment Agency and others to Revitalise Chalk Rivers. The aim is to make chalk rivers in our supply area more natural again so that they are less likely to suffer from low flows, and have a good variety of habitats for wildlife.

 

  Sketch of new River Beane site

 

Frogmore Hall

In the first part of this project, we removed a small weir at Frogmore Hall near Watton-At-Stone. The concrete weir which was installed in the 1920s was holding back flows, interrupting natural river processes and causing silt to be deposited on the riverbed.

This made it harder for fish to move up and down the river and accessing other areas for spawning, feeding or seeking cover. This also stopped them from having access to areas of better habitat.

Now the weir has been removed, the improved flows will help keep the gravel on the river bed free of silt. Gravel provides a habitat for a wider range of invertebrates than silt, and is vital for trout and many other species of fish to spawn upon, so numbers should now increase.

 

Digging at Frogmore hall site

 

Trees near the river have also been thinned out, which will allow more light into the channel, encouraging more riparian and aquatic plants to grow. This will create more diverse habitats, further improve the flows and provide cover and refuge for fish and aquatic invertebrates.

 

Fish in the river BeaneWater vole in the river Beane

 

Woodhall Park - Phase 1

We then moved onto the first phase at Woodhall Park where we bypassed a ‘horseshoe weir’ and created 400m of new river channel to help fish move up and down the river.

This work is beneficial as it allows the fishes to gain access to areas of better habitat, for spawning, feeding or seeking cover.

Steep banks were also included in the design along part of the new channel, to provide a suitable habitat for water voles should the proposed plans to re-introduce them into the River Beane catchment come together.

This work was completed in December 2017.

 

The original river line

 

Aerial view of the weir art Woodhall park

The original river line is behind the row of trees on the left and the field was used for grazing. There is a weir at the downstream end which was preventing fish from swimming up the river.

 

Close up of the old weir at Woodhall Park

The weir - no fish can get up there!

 

New Design

Design drawing of the new river channel

This design drawing above shows the new channel and in-channel features which all provide habitats for different flora and fauna (the design is upside-down compared to pictures).

 

New river channel at Woodhall Park

This shot was taken at the beginning of December and shows the beginning of the new channel excavation. The gravel was added to the riverbed as this is a characteristic of a chalk stream and fish spawn in the gravel.

 

New river channel excavation at Woodhall Park

In late December, the bund which separated the new channel from the current river was popped so that the river channel was live. Due to the heavy rainfall in the second half of winter, the ground was very wet and not suitable to be re-seeded. The grass has now come back and the site is looking much nicer.

 

Update

 

Vegetation growing along the river bank

June 2018 - The berm and banks are vegetating nicely. Three Herons were also spotted on the banks suggesting fish have found their way up the new channel.

Woodhall Park - Phase 2

Phase II started in the summer of 2018. This part of the project will create 900m of new chalk stream and by removing and bypassing obstacles like weirs, it will also have reconnected a massive 6.6km of globally rare chalk stream.

Alongside the river restoration project, Woodhall Estate is managing the reinstatement of the iconic Broadwater to restore its former glory.

This Grade II listed landscape dates back to 1783. Woodhall Estate is having the silt from the lake removed and treated so the nutrient rich silt can be used elsewhere in the park to improve pasture land vegetation. The Estate will also be carrying out repair works to the weir and sluice structure which are also listed.

 

The Rookery - Frogmore site

Another large weir is located on the River Beane in The Rookery, part of the Frogmore Estate. Next year, the plan is to bypass this structure to allow fish to move up and down the river freely.

The over-wide, dredged channel will also be narrowed down and a gravel bed will be created to provide spawning areas for fish and a more natural river bed for aquatic plants and insects.

 

 

 

Please check this page for future updates as our work continues.