Major reconstruction project in Somerset to restore ancient floodplains and enhance biodiversity

A major river restoration in Somerset is set to become the first time a British river has been reconnected to the original floodplain – a move aimed at reducing flood risk and boosting biodiversity.

After a successful pilot on a tributary of the Aller River at the Trust’s Holnicote Estate, the National Trust project is now being expanded to include 15 hectares of the main river and surrounding landscape that used to be part of the natural floodplain.

Under the plans, 25,000 trees will be planted, and the water path, which currently runs along one channel, will be “reset” so that it can flow through larger areas of the floodplain, creating a new wetland environment closer to how it would have come about. They moved across the landscape at last.

This will mean the water will move more slowly across the landscape, with more water collecting which helps keep the environment moist in droughts, and also make the area less prone to flash floods during the wetter times of the year.

It is also hoped that it will restore lost habitat to a wide range of species, including aquatic insects such as dragonflies, fish such as brown trout, grass snakes, birds, bats, water mice and otters.

Ben Erdley, Project Manager at the National Trust, said: “We now have a tried and tested method to start reversing the damage to our rivers.

He said that “like ‘ctrl, alt, delete’ is the equivalent of resetting the computer – and it lets the river decide what it wants to be”.

Phase one of the project is already underway with excavation work to create low-fat areas to “reset the valley floor and natural river flow.”

Larger timbers are partially buried in the floodplain so that habitat restoration can be “tracked” quickly using woody debris that helps slow the flow of water and help develop more hydrological and ecological diversity.

“This creates the kind of conditions that may have existed before – before the river system was intensively managed, with the river itself modified into a single channel,” the National Trust said.

Wildflower seeds will also be sown in floodplains, such as shredded robin, little devil’s scab, and sweet meadows over the coming weeks.

Core work is underway on the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Somerset

(national fund)

“Next spring, more work will enrich the habitat, including planting about 25,000 native trees such as willow, cherry and black poplar,” the secretariat said.

Mr. Iardley said: “The river will no longer run along a single channel, but will form part of a complex water landscape with canals, ponds, wetlands and swamps. This helps slow the flow of the river to help combat flood and drought events as well as increase wildlife and address the impact of climate change. By retaining water in the landscape.

“By creating these new wetlands, they will not only retain more water during floods or droughts but also effectively store carbon. Therefore, river watersheds will be better able to handle extreme weather events or climate changes.”

The project was partially funded by the Environment Agency as well as other organizations.

Harry Powell, Director of Land and Nature at the National Trust said: “This innovative work to explore technologies on how to make our landscapes more resilient to climate change is critical as we address the nature and climate crisis over the coming years.

“Working in partnership, and quickly, with bodies like the Environment Agency is exactly what we need to do the most as we face these challenges.”

“We hope that this project as a whole will make a significant contribution to achieving landscape-scale nature restoration and climate change goals, and provide vital evidence for restoring natural processes in our river systems,” said Matt Bang, Watershed Coordinator for the Environment Agency.

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