Enhancement works on the river Gipping at Muntons in Stowmarket have now been successfully completed following delays due to the unusually hot summer. The project designed to improve conditions for wildlife was organised by the Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust and was funded by Defra’s Water Environment Improvement Fund (WEIF) with support from the Environment Agency, Muntons and PPG.
Six woody debris mattresses and four flow deflectors were installed over two days by Environment Agency staff and volunteers. Information boards have been placed along the public footpaths running alongside the river bank explaining what has been done and why, allowing the information to be shared with the public.
The six mattresses were made from bundles of brash tied together and kept in place by large wooden stakes driven into the riverbed. Four flow deflectors were also made from large branches and trunks placed at an angle into the river bank, which are designed to push the flow towards the centre of the river to help reduce the build-up of sediment, creating gravel beds ideal for spawning fish.
Melissa Abbott, one of the project volunteers from Muntons, explained: “Muntons is situated on a 46-acre site with trees and hedges needed to be kept tidy, so over the years there has been a build-up of tree trunks, branches and brash which proved very useful for this project. By the end of the two days the pile was considerably smaller although there is still plenty remaining to maintain the features over the coming years.”
Ben Norrington and Andy Ward from the Environment Agency worked tirelessly on both days installing these features along the river Gipping, which will provide an excellent habitat for fish and invertebrates. As Naomi Boyle, Biodiversity Officer for the Environment Agency and designer of this project explains: “Historically woody material has been removed from our watercourses as part of routine river management. Now it is understood that timber, together with smaller twigs and branches, is an essential component of healthy river systems. Projects like this are designed to improve habitat density within the river and, during high flows. These structures create areas of slack water that provide refuge for fish and invertebrates.”
Melissa Abbott concluded: “Organisations such as the Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust play a vital role in keeping waterways as they should be and projects like this are in line with Muntons’ passion to protect the environment. We were very happy to get involved.”