Work is under way on a major restoration partnership project on the River Leith that will restore natural processes which slow the flow of water during floods, store more during drought, provide habitat for wildlife and protect vital transport infrastructure.
@8pt Body:Running beside the West Coast Main Line at Thrimby is a stretch of the River Leith that does not function as a natural river should. Having been straightened in the past, it does not provide good conditions for wildlife or help help protect surrounding land and buildings from flooding.
Flowing at the foot of the embankment of a major railway line, it is also a little too close for comfort to the 46 passenger trains and seven freight trains that go past every 24 hours.
However, conservation charity Eden Rivers Trust is working in partnership with the Environment Agency, Natural England, the landowner, farmer and Network Rail on a £200,000 restoration scheme to safeguard this vital transport route, address flooding concerns and create valuable wildlife habitat.
Designed by environmental consultancy AquaUoS, with work carried out by a local contractor, Metcalfe Plant Hire, the scheme involves cutting a new 1km meandering river channel that flows away from the railway line.
The new river will be 33 per cent longer than the previously straightened one.
Other features found in natural rivers and on flood plains are also being introduced to slow the flow and/or store more water during times of flood and drought.
These features will help to reduce flood peaks at the farm itself, as well as downstream flood risk.
Meanders and in-stream features such as riffles will provide habitat for fish and insects, while moving the river away from the railway embankment will protect it from erosion and the effects of flooding.
Lev Dahl, river restoration manager with Eden Rivers Trust, said: “This is a really exciting project that is going to provide a huge range of benefits — increasing habitat, protecting the railway and reducing flood risk.
“As the project matures, it will also provide homes for a range of birds and mammal species.
“All of these benefits are set within a working sheep and beef farm. This provides a great example of how food production, nature conservation and the transport sector can work hand in hand.”
Olly Southgate, from the Environment Agency, said: “The Thrimby river restoration project is great example of how we can make a real difference on a large scale for both people and the environment by working in partnership with other organisations.
“Delivering river restoration work can provide a vast array of benefits not only for ecology, fish and biodiversity but also for contributing to natural flood management. This makes a real difference to people’s lives and to communities as a whole.”
Rory Kingdon, of Network Rail, added: “Pooling resources with Eden Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency to make the railway more resilient to climate change is a win-win for wildlife, passengers and freight users.”
This project is being delivered as part of the award-winning Cumbria River Restoration Programme, which is one of the biggest and most successful restoration programmes in the UK.