Ennerdale Mill Weir, located on the River Ehen in Egremont (Grid Ref NY 012099) dates back over 250 years and was constructed to power the Ennerdale Paper Mill. Weirs power mills by creating a barrier across a river, this barrier creates an area of stored water above the weir called a mill pond. The water can then be directed down man-made channels called “mill races” to turn a water wheel. The energy comes from the difference in height of the river, a bit like using the power of a waterfall. The waterwheel would have been used operate machinery inside the mill building to make different products. The mill had two waterwheels and was used in manufacturing for over 150 years. In later years the mill was used to make cloth and its last use was as a shoe factory, which is where its local name as ‘the shoe weir’ comes from.

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The Weir that has not been used as it was intended for many years and has been proven to be a barrier to migratory species of fish in the Ehen catchment, as well as a crucial site for Freshwater Mussels. WCRT, in partnership with the Environment Agency, Natural England, James Fisher Nuclear (the owner of the weir) and AECOM (independent consultant commissioned to undertake an options appraisal of the barrier) have been monitoring the weir since 2015, and found firm evidence that the weir is failing in places. If nothing is done, there is a significant risk of the weir failing completely, causing major damage to existing infrastructure including a road used by local businesses, and farmland adjacent to the site. Furthermore, fish migration is vital for the survival of the Freshwater Mussel (they depend on salmon in this catchment to complete their lifecycle see diagram below)- if this barrier is not removed there is every chance the existing population of Mussels will face extinction over time.

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A consortium of funders- WCRT, the EA, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and James Fisher Nuclear- have combined resources to enable this weir removal project to take place over the summer of 2018. At the moment WCRT are in consultation with various environmental contractors to carry out the work, and expect to be “spade ready” in June when the in-river working season starts. The work will involve removing the weir and re-profiling the river banks along a section of the river (approximately 350m) as well as re-profiling the river bed, so there is a steady gradient over the area of the former weir. Before, during and after this process WCRT will be monitoring the Freshwater Mussel colony, translocating where necessary, to ensure they suffer no adverse effects from the work site.

Throughout the spring and early summer we will be updating you on progress, so watch this space…

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Image showing large sections of the weir that have failed, as well as its general proximity to a road and buildings
Ennerdale Mill Weir flyer - click on image to download full document