Along with our partners, we are delighted to have been awarded over £400,000 from the government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund for the Sparkling Streams project. The project aims to improve the condition of the River Kennet and its tributaries, increase wildlife and connect people with nature.
The Sparkling Streams Partnership
The project partners are:
We helped to coordinate a number of ideas from our partners in the Middle Kennet Catchment. ARK, the Southern Streams Farmer Group and Town and Manor of Hungerford, all had proposals and projects at various stages of preparation and development focusing on improving the water quality and chalk river habitats of the Shalbourne, Dun and the River Kennet Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Chalk streams are globally rare and the River Kennet, running through the North Wessex downs AONB, is one of England's premier chalk streams but is in far from good condition. For centuries the Kennet has been affected by human activities which have degraded the river, the water quality and the wildlife. This project will help to reverse some of these negative effects.
The project is using nature-based solutions – that is, giving nature a helping hand using techniques to speed up natural processes. For example, creating leaky dams, sediment ponds and planting hedges will slow down water and trap silt, cleaning the water as it goes to the rivers. Cleaner water and slower flows create ideal conditions for lots of wildlife, from fish and water invertebrates to dragonflies and birds. Hedge planting has the additional benefit of helping mitigate for climate change as trees absorb carbon
Examples of how wildlife will benefit include:
• Cleaner gravels on the riverbed will improve spawning grounds for chalk stream fish such as brown trout, grayling and lamprey.
• By creating corridors of healthy rivers and lush wetland plants, water voles will be able to find food, shelter and mates.
• By allowing water back onto Undy’s Meadow, a wide range of tiny species like the the Desmoulin’s whorl snail will have the ideal conditions to thrive.
Local people can be a part of this conservation effort at events like big pond clearances (once current restrictions are lifted.)
Watch this short film about the project we produced with the help of our partners.
What has happened so far?
The Partnership is delighted to have recruited two new members of staff who will be helping to deliver the project plans over the next year.
Rupert Kelton started working on Sparkling Streams in February as the Project Manager. He has been working with the Southern Streams Farmer Group to establish what practical interventions can be carried out on their stretches of river. This includes identifying where hedges and trees can be planted, and new wetlands can be created, to help slow down water flowing over the fields that would otherwise carry silt into the river that is damaging to chalk stream wildlife. He’s also been supporting Town and Manor of Hungerford as they plan substantial works with the Environment Agency to reconnect the main river to its historic channel at Eddington Mill.
The newest recruit is James Laurence-King who is the Sparkling Streams Project Officer. James will be helping Rupert as well as managing and coordinating the volunteer tasks and carrying out physical improvements to the water-courses.
We hope that, as lockdown restrictions ease, we will be able to welcome more volunteers to get involved. Keep an eye out on either our website or ARK’s for the latest opportunities to sign up and get back out into the great outdoors with socially distanced and Covid-safe activities. Unfortunately, for the time-being, numbers have to be restricted due to Government guidance and limited tools/equipment which can’t be shared between volunteers at present.
We - the team at North Wessex Downs AONB - are providing coordination and administrative support and ensuring that we provide the correct paperwork and fulfil the processes required by our funders.
We are looking forward to the practical work taking place and the project activities starting to make a difference to the river and will update this page as the project progresses.
We will be running a series of events where you can get involved in the project. Most of these will be organised by ARK - but you will also find details of the events here on our website as they are organised.
This project is funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.
If you would like further information about the project, please contact Corinna Woodall at North Wessex Downs AONB at: Corinnawoodall@northwessexdowns.org.uk