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19 November 20

Affinity Water to restore the River Beane another rare chalk river in its catchment area

  • Affinity Water’s scientists say both fish and plant life will return
  • The public will be able to enjoy an enhanced river environment
  • Local residents being consulted on the plans

Affinity Water has announced it will be undertaking another chalk river restoration project on the River Beane at the Walkern Road bridge at Watton-At-Stone, Hertfordshire and has begun consulting with local residents about the potential options for improving the river and its habitats for wildlife.

The concrete lip at the base of the bridge has created a barrier for the fish to navigate and the riverbank itself is suffering from erosion. Affinity Water scientists are optimistic that when the works are complete, certain fish and plant species will in time thrive again in addition to enhancing the area for residents.

The project is part of Affinity Water’s Revitalising Chalk Rivers programme which is creating resilient river systems by restoring the rivers and enhancing habitats.

David Watts Programme Delivery Manager for Environmental Enhancement said:

“The Walkern Road bridge base structure has created a barrier which is inhibiting the passage of underwater wildlife that normally thrive in healthy chalk stream environments, such as brown trout, grayling and freshwater shrimp.

“Chalk streams should be rich in plants and animals. The plants found in a healthy chalk stream include marsh marigolds, water mint and flag iris. When these works are complete, we hope that the fish and plants will be able to return.

“The majority of the world’s globally rare chalk streams are located in the South East of England and because of their heritage should be viewed as an English Great Barrier Reef or rainforest. Unfortunately, however, these chalk streams, and the plants and animals that live in and around them, are under threat from climate change, a growing population, historical river alterations and the demand for water.

“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 structures introduced in them causing barriers to fish passage. These changes have impacted the status of our lowland chalk rivers with many of the unique characteristics being lost such as the gentle meanders, clear gravel beds, pools, and riffles of the past. Our restoration programme hopes to nurture these back to good health.”

Jake Rigg, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communities for Affinity Water said:

“Over the past three years Affinity Water has reduced groundwater abstraction in the Beane catchment by over 16 million litres per day and delivered river restoration works at Frogmore Hall and the Woodhall Park Estate to transform over seven kilometres of the river. These restoration works have improved the habitat for local wildlife and importantly for local residents to enjoy. Embarking on the Walkern Road bridge works will further enhance the River Beane.

“Along with providing high quality drinking water, restoring the environment is at the heart of what we do. We are holding ongoing public stakeholder meetings with the local community and our partners so that people understand the importance of this work and the significant potential to improve and restore our chalk rivers together. We will be involving residents and landowners with land backing on to the river throughout the design process.

“The river bank will be more secure for people to walk and jog along and the route will be more scenic for them to enjoy. We know how much just being out in the countryside in this way has led to health benefits during the two Covid19 lockdowns. In the longer-term, families can even spot new fish species and plants that will return to the river itself.

“Affinity Water is working closely with the Environment Agency and other partners to restore these globally rare chalk rivers in its supply area to their more natural state, so that they are rich in wildlife.”

To find out more information on these projects visit: www.affinitywater.co.uk/corporate/environment/restoration/river-beane

The two photographs show the Walkern Road bridge at Watton-At-Stone, and the river looking upstream.

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