UU own approximately 70 hectares of land along 3 km of the River Ehen. The land comprises Low Moorend, The Mill, and fields by Bleach Green and the Water Treatment Works. Historically, this land has been farmed with both sheep and cattle.
Food production and agriculture is essential in the valley but this can be balanced with areas that wholly support natural processes which are equally as essential. As such, agricultural activity has ceased on the land with the aim to transition from using the land for food production to a more natural system. Initial interventions will be required to reduce risks to the health of the river, particularly from excess silt and nutrients as a result of past land management and moving towards minimal management of the land in the future by supporting natural processes and allowing ecological succession to prevail.
Protecting the freshwater mussel and Atlantic salmon population is dependent on the well-being of the whole river and catchment and the inherent value of nature and natural systems.Natural habitats play a key structural and functional role in the ability of ecosystems to provide the services on which we all depend; including the protection of clean, fresh water in our rivers and streams, the mitigation of flood risk and the prevention of erosion. Restoring these natural habitats and processes (see Natural Processes pages) is central to the purpose Compensatory Measures.
The research and monitoring undertaken to date has provided the framework for which physical measures can be delivered to reduce the risks of silt and nutrients. This work will be facilitated through partnership working and form part of the Wild Ennerdale Partnership which allows for wider catchment planning and management.
Works include the installation of natural willow leaky dams to capture silt and nutrient run-off; encouraging natural regeneration of scrub and woodland to help restore healthy complex soils; planting of appropriate native trees to help the water cycle recover by allowing more water to infiltrate the soil rather than run-off the land, trees also provide added habitat and food for lots of species; and the removal of redundant infrastructure such as broken down riverside fencing to prevent it falling into the river damaging the habitat and causing blockages. This low-intensity management also means that the land will not be used for food or timber production and as such, no additional nutrient application or grazing will be required.
Potential run-off and silt issues from drainage ditches, field drains and land have been identified. Live willow leaky dams have been installed which captures silt and allows cleaner water through to the river. Planting areas by the river with reeds also provides a filter for run-off of silt and nutrients. Opening up the tree canopy along ditches allows for more ground flora to flourish, reducing bare ground and silt run-off.
There are small areas of riverbank erosion resulting in silt entering the river. A combination of measures is proposed as mitigation including: planting of willow stakes which will act to stabilise the bank; willow bundles secured with willow stakes to protect bank and provide shelter for juvenile fish and other species; use of live woody debris, in carefully selected areas, again to protect the bank and provide shelter for juvenile fish
Redundant fence removal
Approximately six kilometres of redundant and broken fencing has been removed. This reduces the risk of old fencing entering the watercourse and damaging habitat. It also in keeping with re-naturalisation by removing unnecessary infrastructure.
There are approximately 25 hectares of woodland comprising a riparian (riverside) zone of mostly mature trees with an up and coming understorey. Also present are some planted blocks of mixed woodland and some new planting designed to connect the woodland blocks together. A woodland management plan is currently being drafted to manage these trees.
There has been new planting (2,500 trees) across this land over the past five years, partly through previous agricultural stewardship schemes and more recently as part of the Compensatory Measures project.
Those planted as part of schemes have all been monitored recently and tubes removed where appropriate, this will be an ongoing requirement.
More recent planting at Low Moorend was aimed at reducing the prevalence of rushes. Rushes are an indication of what’s happening below ground – the soil condition and water cycle are not acting effectively. Rushes colonise areas of bare, compacted ground and waterlogged ground. The trees will help break up the compacted soil, improve filtration of rainwater, improve soil biology to help other species to colonise this land which will eventually outcompete the rush. The trees have been planted as small copses with plenty of open space in between. A range of species have been planted to bring in a seed source for a diverse woodland as diversity = resilience and health. Species includes: Willow, Alder, Hazel, Aspen, Downy Birch, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Silver Birch, Rowan, Crab apple, Cherry, Holly, Dog Roseand Oak.
Trees bring other benefits:
Invasive species control
There are a couple of patches of Japanese Knotweed that have reduced enormously after several years of treatment. This will be monitored annually.
A basic soil anaylsis was undertaken of the fields at Low Moorend in 2015. A more detailed soil health study is proposed to gain a more in depth understanding of the quality of the soil across all of UU land.
Phase 1 ecological survey
A Phase 1 ecological survey was undertaken to provide baseline information on the habitat types and species on the land. See summary of this report attached.
This survey will be repeated in the future to demonstrate changes.
Fixed Point Photography
20 points have been established to take periodic fixed point photos to demonstrate how the land has changed over time.
Docks are an injurious weed that needs to be controlled so that they do not migrate to neighbouring land. Docks will be a long-term legacy issue on parts of UU land that will need to be managed appropriately, primarily by strimming.
Docks are due to:
However, docks also have some benefits. The taproot can grow through compacted, waterlogged, oxygen-poor soil down to depths of 2.6 m therefore can help to improve soil structure in the long term. They are also important for the red data book species flea beetle and other invertebrates.
Dock seeds are dependent on light to germinate, so a dense sward will help prevent them getting established in grassland. As the land transitions from agricultural use to a more natural system the complexity and diversity of the sward will reduce the number of docks.
|Phase 1 Ecology Appraisal||1.44 MB|