This week the Wildlife Trust started an exciting project to re-naturalise the River Cherwell where it flows though Spiceball County Park in Banbury. I grabbed an opportunity to join RSPB colleague Charlotte Kinnear and take a look at the work in progress with Jude Hartley, Catchment Partnerships Officer, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust.
The river channel had been over-widened in the past, and this means during low river levels there is a only a very thin layer of water flowing over the riverbed, not great for the fish populations. One of the main aims is to create a more natural, somewhat narrower channel. This will be particularly beneficial during dry periods in the summer, but will also make the river that bit more dynamic. The river banks are also being re-profiled to create shallower gradients, opening up views of the river for people walking through the park.
During my visit, works to fell some of the riverside trees had been completed. The trunks and branches had been laid into the river as far as a set of stakes that defined the edge of the "new" channel. An excavator was then reshaping the riverbank and pushing soil over the felled trees. This jumble of branches and soil will create a very interesting habitat once regrowth happens next spring and summer. I'm hoping this new habitat will be particularly attractive to sedge warblers, maybe reed buntings too. Certainly a great place for otters to explore and kingfishers to perch. This year has seen a real upsurge in otter sightings along the rive - hopefully this trend will continue.
The Wildlife Trust have written about the project on their blogs, definitely worth a look.