River Cherwell - Habitat Restoration
In conjunction with landowners and the local angling club the Thames West region of the Environment Agency has undertaken the first phase of a habitat restoration on the Upper Cherwell near Cropredy, north of Banbury.
The works saw the installation of over 2.5km of fencing, restoration of gravel riffles, the creation of new cattle drinks (which also acted as backwaters) and the narrowing down of a section of river to create new spawning habitat.
One of the main problems affecting this stretch of river was severe cattle poaching which had resulted in large swathes of bank collapsing into the river. Over time this had been causing large amounts of sediment to enter the watercourse, smothering of gravel riffles and the destruction of important marginal habitats. By fencing the river and providing designated cattle drinks the banks should be able to recover and stabilise as terrestrial and aquatic plants recolonise. This in turn will limit the amount of sediment entering the river and allow the marginal habitat to improve all of which will benefit local fish, invertebrate and plant communities.
Five cattle drinks have been created which have also been designed to act as backwaters for juvenile fish. These shallow water environments are ideal habitats for young fish as they act as important nursery areas. In addition four gravel riffles have been restored and section of river has been narrowed down with new gravel added all of which will provide improved spawning habitats for fish such as chub, dace, gudgeon and bullheads.
Tom Sherwood, Environment Agency Fisheries Officer for the Cherwell catchment said:
“The poaching of the banks on this stretch of the river was some of the worst we had seen and it was definitely having a deleterious effect on the aquatic habitat. This section of the Cherwell is one of our top priority waterbodies under the Framework Directive and it is hoped this first phase of works undertaken will help the river achieve ‘good ecological status’. The next phase will see similar methods employed on a further stretch downstream.”
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