Reseeding the river banks

Natural England and the Environment Agency were recently down at Eastham Bridge to discuss with the project team about planting for when the works are completed. As has been shared on here last month the site is a very important habitat for wildlife, and the River Teme is a SSSI due to its significance.

It is usual to leave a SSSI river bank to re-vegetate naturally but at Eastham Bridge the banks will be reseeded shortly as they are naturally steep. This will help reduce the risk of soil erosion as well as the establishment of the non-native Himlayan Balsam, whose seeds have been washed down the river onto the site , whilst improving bio-diversity. The seed-mix will be of a damp, permanent grass nature, which is appropriate for the site. Trees will also be planted and an existing willow pinned back against the river bank  which will stabilise the bank against further erosion.

Hedgerows will be replanted too along the road south of the bridge, which are important for the ecology of the site. The species will be appropriate to the local area, such as Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Crab Apple, Dog Rose, Field Maple and Hazel.

This will help return the Eastham Bridge area to as it was just over a year ago.

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Eastham Bridge – Why is Natural England Involved?

The River Teme is a valuable home to many river and river bank species of plant and animal. It was chosen as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in order to protect it and the species that live in and around it for now and years to come. However, the modern way of life and our demands for quick and efficient travel, water, housing, cheap food and employment puts special rivers such as the Teme under pressure.
Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect and enhance England’s nature and landscapes, maintain and improve air and water quality and provide recreational opportunities for people to enjoy. To do this we work closely with partners and stakeholders.

When Eastham Bridge collapsed in 2016 Worcester County Council asked Natural England and the Environment Agency for advice on the replacement bridge. We consulted on the design, the most appropriate construction methods to minimise damage to the SSSI and the best way to restore the site once the construction work is complete.

Key advice covered:

• Maintaining river flow and ‘naturalness’
• Appropriate use of machinery, type of fuel and oil and site management methods
• Protection of species such as otter and salmon to ensure that they can move freely and breed without disturbance
• Silt control; silt fills the air spaces in gravel beds when salmon lay their eggs in river gravels – if the air spaces are blocked, their eggs die
• Preventing the spread of invasive non-native species such as Himalayan Balsam, which can compete with native plant species, create bare soils and reduce biodiversity
• Keeping equipment – from wellies to earth movers – clean to stop the spread of plant and animal diseases and invasive species.
Once the bridge is open, work to restore the river banks will begin and Natural England will provide advice on seed mixes and tree planting on the river banks.

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Sue Buckingham, Natural England

The River Teme – Natural England

The project to rebuild the bridge has involved many different organisations. With the river being a SSSI Natural England were one of these organisations. Here Sue Buckingham of Natural England’s team explains about the significance of the river.

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The River Teme at the bridge site June 2016

The River Teme, loved by local people, visitors, landowners, farmers and anglers is one of the best sandstone and mudstone Rivers in Britain. Rising in the Welsh hills it flows through Knighton, Ludlow and Tenbury Wells joining the river Severn in Worcester.

Variations in geology and flow create an environment that supports a diverse range of plants, fish, insects and mammals and the Teme is so special that the whole river and its banks are legally protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). SSSI’s are jewels in the crown of nature conservation and are chosen as they represent the best of their type.

In Britain there are only around 275 km of SSSI river like the Teme with the Teme making up100km, almost 33%, of the total!

Many species including salmon, the increasingly rare twaite shad, otter, native crayfish, lampreys, bullhead and pearl mussel as well as a large variety of aquatic plants, specialist beetles and breeding birds are found on the Teme.  Indeed early surveys showed the Teme had the highest number of aquatic species and a higher overall average over its length than any other similar rivers in the Welsh Marches.

Keeping the river as natural as possible is key to keeping the Teme special.  Over time road and house building, increased runoff from cars, industry and agriculture have led to changes in the river form and water quality. This is affecting the ability of species to thrive. In order to overcome these problems Natural England commissioned a River Restoration Plan for the Teme Link . This provides a well -researched strategic approach to restoring the physical habitat of the Teme. Now individuals and groups are working together to maintain the flow, whilst providing resting pools, storm refuge and river habitat for spawning fish. In addition old river channels may be reconnected and growth of characteristic vegetation will be encouraged to provide habitat and food for breeding birds and insects and help avoid sediment and nutrients entering the water course.

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Sue Buckingham – Natural England

Look out for future blogs on the role and responsibilities of  Natural England

Eastham Bridge: glimpses of the Teme

In our last Blog we mentioned that the River Teme is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), protected by law to conserve the wildlife or geology and we talked of bats, kingfishers, dormice and otters. Two local people who hail from families resident in the Teme Valley for several generations have shared their memories, including a possible explanation for the former plight of the otter and of another ecological marvel.

In the following audio clips David Spilsbury of Eastham Park Farm celebrates the return of the otters to the Teme and Roger Morris relates that, in 1819, Edward Whitehead, a botanist and son of the Reverend Christopher Whitehead (who commissioned the first construction of Eastham Bridge in the early 1790s) discovered three rather rare species of orchid in woodland waterside banks of the Spout Brook at Death’s Dingle: the Ophrys Insectifera (fly), the Ophrys Apifera (bee) and the Orchis Morio (green-winged).

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Fly Orchid
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Bee Orchid
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Green winged orchid

 

 

In the third clip David (whose family have farmed in Eastham Parish since the 1680s) describes, in relation to Eastham Bridge, how, for over 200 years, the resident smallholders would cross it to transport fruit to the former Newnham railway station in order for their produce to be sold at markets in the Midlands and beyond.