A project to enhance and protect some of Northumberland’s most forgotten waterways is on stream with the help of a North East utilities giant.
Northumbrian Water is working with the Northumberland Rivers Trust and other environmental experts and communities to back the Northumberland Living Waterways Urban Streams project. This important work is improving waterways, creating wildlife habitats and reducing downstream flood risks in a number of locations across the county.
The project – awarded a grant of £10,000 via Northumbrian Water’s “Branch Out” environmental fund that backs projects linking local communities to the environment – will create areas of water-dependent biodiversity, establish reed-beds, wet woodland and ponds in or around the streams. Once areas are landscaped, volunteers and community groups will plant a range of aquatic vegetation and water-loving trees.
It is hoped the Northumbrian Water funding will help secure further support from the Environment Agency; something expected to be decided in the coming few weeks.
Volunteers and community groups will soon be preparing woven willow barriers, brushwood berms and wooden enhancements to be placed around the streams and new planting areas, in the four waterways that make up the project:
- Belford Burn
- Hepscott Burn/Sleek Burn
- Seaton Burn
- Morpeth Streams
The project is being led by Peter Kerr, Director of the Northumberland Rivers Trust, who said: “This is a fantastic project that will have major environmental, community and ecological benefits. By creating large ponds, reed beds and areas of willow and alder, we will reduce flood risks downstream as well as encourage a wealth of wildlife to make homes around the water.
“Otters, water voles, kingfishers, great crested newts and herons could all make use of this new habitat, which we hope will be looked after by community groups, schools and wildlife lovers.”
All four streams have had issues with reduced water quality resulting from diffuse pollution and mis-connections. This project improves water quality by creating a number of reed-bed habitats at locations previously identified along each stream. Reed bed habitats improve quality, acting as a natural ‘water-treatment’ site, settling out excess nutrients and pollutants. This will provide benefits to water in the natural environment.
Linzie Pentleton, Northumbrian Water representative on the Northumberland Rivers Trust, said: “We were impressed with the proposal and the strong emphasis on working with residents and community groups, which is integral to the project, raising awareness and understanding of water issues.
“Not only will this fantastic project enhance already naturally beautiful areas, it will reduce diffuse pollution and surface runoff water entering the streams. By creating a picturesque, water-dependent habitat the flow downstream will also be slowed and flood risk reduced.”
Northumberland Living Waterways Urban Streams will provide a range of benefits to local wildlife. A Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) details priority habitats along the streams and new reed beds, wet woodland and ponds will be quickly colonised by a range of species.
Peter added: “Encouraging community involvement is key to Living Waterways. In the four areas, in partnership with Northumbrian Water Limited, we will organise litter-picking events and work on raising awareness among people who live nearby.
“The benefits of this project will last for years. Having worked closely with all the partners, groups and residents involved, I feel certain that these areas will become not only valued and loved community assets, but also havens for native animals, insects, flora and fauna.”
Peter, who is also working closely with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust on the project hopes significant Environment Agency funding will be confirmed in the next few weeks.
Northumbrian Water’s Branch Out programme creates partnerships to reconnect habitats for the benefit of people and wildlife. It encompasses projects aiming to help the region, build resilience and adapt to climate change while bringing benefits to water, wildlife and communities.
In 2015, through Branch Out supported a variety of partners with 21 projects providing close to £80,000 in funding. This funding has unlocked a further £891,482 in match funding for NWG’s partners.