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21 September 21

Affinity Water rejuvenates wildlife on the River Misbourne in Amersham for the community to enjoy

  • More varied flow regimes will enhance habitats for local wildlife
  • Recently 78 species of birds spotted
  • The local community can enjoy walking by their local rivers and streams

Affinity Water working with its partners has constructed a new river channel on the River Misbourne in Amersham as part of its successful Revitalising Chalk Rivers programme to allow wildlife to thrive.

Newly constructed channel on the river misbourne

The new meandering channel and wetland area, looking downstream from Amersham. The location of the old channel is shown in blue. 

 

The aim of the project was to reconnect a stretch of the River Misbourne downstream from Amersham with its floodplain and realign a 500 m stretch of the stream with its original course.

The new longer, meandering channel will provide more varied flow regimes to replace an over-straightened channel and have already enhanced habitats for local wildlife.

Recently 78 species of birds, including 5 species of wader, 3 species of wagtail, swallows, 2 species of martin, and wheatears have been spotted there since the works were carried out.

Affinity Water has worked closely with Buckinghamshire County Council and contractor Five Rivers Environmental Consulting and cbec eco-engineering Ltd on these works.

New aligned channel outside of the bend

Section of the new re-aligned channel with outside bend

Project manager Grace Harland explained: “In carrying out these works on the River Misbourne at Amersham we’ve created faster flows which will wash sediment downstream, making the gravel beds cleaner, and more inviting to invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are food for fish and birds and ultimately create a more stable, resilient ecosystem. The meanders themselves can contain larger volumes of water during wet weather than a short straight channel and can slow the passage of water, potentially reducing downstream flood risk.

“It may take time for aquatic insects and plants to move into the site, but birds are able to migrate more quickly, and we are pleased to report they are already appreciating the newly created habitat.

“Bucks Bird Group have been excitedly monitoring the wetland and told us they have seen 78 species of birds, including 5 species of wader, 3 species of wagtail, swallows, 2 species of martin, and wheatears.”

Steve Plumb Director of Asset Strategy & Capital Delivery said: “We couldn’t be more pleased, and this shows how successful Affinity Water’s Revitalising Chalk Rivers Programme has been at a time when we know people are enjoying walking by their local rivers and streams more during the Covid19 lockdowns.

“We want to thank all our partners for working with us including Buckinghamshire County Council. The project is now complete and stock fencing has been installed along both banks of the river, to stop livestock trampling the banks and to avoid disturbing species using the wetland area. We intend to display an interpretation board so that the local community can understand key features of the reach.”

Kevin Barton, Head of External Communications for Affinity Water said: “As the UK’s leading water only company it is important that we find sustainable solutions to safeguard our resource, both for our customers’ use and their local environment. By restoring our river ecosystems, we can reduce surface run off, meaning less sediment and pollutants enters surface water, as well as increasing water infiltration, and storage, in the aquifer. 85% of all Chalk streams occur in England, with many in our Affinity Water’s three Regions. We need to conserve them as they are important environmentally and for our quality of life, as well as for the enjoyment and water security of future generations. “That’s why we have launched our own SOS www.saveourstreams.co.uk campaign. We know we need to reduce our per person water use and we have shown our commitment as a Company to conserving the environment by turning off abstraction from one of our Chalk Rivers the River Chess. We hope our communities will now play their part too by saving water.”

River bend upstream

Gravels exposed on the riverbed at the upstream end of the new channel

 

More details on the works:

The existing channel was displaced from the natural valley bottom and was disconnected from groundwater. The works reconnected a 500m stretch of the streams with its original course. Berms were constructed and gravels installed to create the variation in flow and habitat more typically seen in a Chalk Stream. A wetland area was also established to provide extra water storage capacity during wet weather, in addition to providing a more diverse habitat.

When the new channel was opened, fish from the existing channel were translocated, before the old channel was filled in.

You can find out more about Affinity Water’s chalk rivers programme here.

 

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