Spring Meadow - Sheffield ParkRestoring the historical course of the river
The project in Spring Meadow, near Sheffield Park, aimed to re-meander the main river channel back to its historical course prior to being canalised over 200 years ago. Numerous benefits to re-opening the old meander were highlighted prior to the works being commissioned;
- Creating a longer course for the water to flow through which slows the amount of water heading downstream, reducing flood risk.
- A river which meanders allows a more diverse range of habitats to form in and around the channel, allowing greater wildlife diversity to the area.
- The formation of a low flow channel meaning that water depths is maintained at a level allowing fish species to move up and down the river in all flow conditions
The flow of water was diverted from the existing channel into the new channel by the placement of a bund (a blockage to the river) which enables flow down the new meander. The old canal channel remains with water in it and is essentially a refuge area for fish. During peak flows the water will overtop the bund and two channels will be used, increasing capacity for flood flows.
The first phase saw the contractors, C E Blackwell, dig a 20m trial panel for inspection by the MORPH team and for us to talk through ‘roughing it up’ in order that the final channel was not over-engineered. Once this had been agreed the contractors moved on to establish the rest of the channel through the field. During this excavation works the Archaeological Society were present to undertake a watching brief in case any items of interest were uncovered. Luckily for the MORPH project nothing was found although some very old timber was uncovered.
Despite starting in glorious sunshine the project was plagued by bad weather and despite the best efforts of everyone involved the construction work was finally finished in December 2012, a couple of months behind schedule.
Following the completion of the project the newly created island area between the new and old channel was planted with 1800 trees under a Forestry Commission Woodland Creation Grant. The trees were planted by volunteers from OART and the Environment Agency Fisheries and Biodiversity Team. This floodplain woodland will establish over time and act to provide additional riparian habitat, slow the movement of water over the floodplain and provide natural re-charge of woody debris to the channel.
Since the completion of the project OART have been monitoring the re-establishment of the surrounding land and taking fixed point photography of the channel as it develops. The gallery below shows a series of pictures as the river channel has developed over the past two and a half years. The channel has, over the past few years, started to naturalise itself, capturing seeds and establishing riparian vegetation as well as undergoing some bank slumping which has created a diverse range of flows through shallow runs and deeper pools. We shall continue to monitor this into the future and update the website with new pictures.