Molly with Charlotte Hitchmough, Director of Action for the River Kennet and Anna Forbes, Project Officer, standing on the raised boardwalk above the recently created wetland

Molly with Charlotte Hitchmough, Director of Action for the River Kennet and Anna Forbes, Project Officer, standing on the raised boardwalk above the recently created wetland

In the run up to the EU referendum, Molly visited Marlborough to see for herself a site that is being managed to protect the local river, guided by European Water Framework Directive targets.

The Stonebridge Wild River Reserve in the heart of Marlborough is a wonderful example of a chalk stream and runs through the heart of the town. Chalk streams are unique and rare habitats – there are about 200 in the world, and 85% of these are found in the UK.

When in good condition they can be abundant sources of food and habitat for a range of different wildlife species – some of which are only found in these habitats. However their unique geology, which results in very clean water, means they are also often used for abstraction of water for drinking purposes which can have damaging consequences and can be susceptible to pollution arising from poor land management practices.

Molly was keen to understand how EU regulations – such as the Habitats Directive and the Water Framework Directive – can play a part in supporting communities to protect their local habitats and support restoration work.

On a tour around the reserve, Molly talked to staff from Action for the River Kennet (ARK) to find out about the work they do in running the reserve and restoration projects further along the river.

Molly saw the work that has been taking place over the last year to create a wetland system that filters run-off from a nearby road before it enters the river, so preventing the river becoming polluted. Molly said

“It was hard to believe this was just a muddy field last year, and yet creating this new wetland system will be of massive benefit in improving the water quality of the river. By using nature to provide this ‘cleaning’ service, ARK has also managed to create a beautiful wetland meadow that local people can visit and relax in. Regulations that protect the environment, when enacted with thought and care, can have far greater benefits than just the original intention”

It was noticeable that across the site there was a continual flow of local people out with their dogs, walking to and from work and for one lucky group of children, just enjoying the fun a beautiful local river has to offer. Community involvement is vital in the work that ARK does and they have an impressive suite of training opportunities and events organised for people to attend and learn more about their river. In fact, it was one of these courses, on Riverfly monitoring, that provided the expertise for people to identify a local organophosphate pollution incident and be able to track and learn about the recovery of the river afterwards.

Molly said

“I was delighted to visit this site and see the incredible results a group of dedicated and focused people are achieving in making the environment around them better for everyone, as well as all the life that calls the river and surrounding meadows home.  This is an inspirational project and surely improves the quality of life for all those living in the area.”

 Link to website: http://www.riverkennet.org/

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