What on earth, you may well ask, is a coir roll? Effectively the environmentalist’s version of an instant noodle, it’s ready-to-go riverbank: just add water. Preseeded with vegetation, the coir rolls can be attached to the canalised concrete sides of the river, and left to work their magic. A softer riparian fringe is created, providing valuable habitat to the river’s various inhabitants, and it looks better too.

Coir rolls at the ready

The EA had kindly offered us a cargo of 39 metres of rolls, and we had the perfect spot for them – the large pool below Hackbridge road bridge, a few hundred yards downstream from where we installed a flow deflector last September. And so, in a joint project with the Wandle Trust, a team of volunteers got together on Saturday to enjoy the early Spring sunshine and, under the leadership of Will and Theo, to see what they could come up with.

View from the footbridge

Under the watchful eye of Tanya from the EA, the rolls were laid in place alongside the concrete bank.
Tanya pointing

Will had taken a team of Piscators on a mission to Winkworth Arboretum a couple of months ago, where the National Trust had generously allowed us to harvest chestnut timber for stakes. These were hammered into the river bed either side of the coir rolls to provide anchor points to which to attach the rolls.

Hammering stakes into the Wandle

Installing coir rolls in the Wandle

Sheer brute force with a sledgehammer seemed to be the order of the day, as demonstrated by Jim above, though Theo and Gideon did have a crack with the upturned-milkchurn-device:

Theo and Gideon in the Wandle
Volunteers install coir rolls in the River Wandle
Coir roll in the river Wandle

There were a lot of stakes, a lot of carrying, and a lot of hammering, but this was one well-oiled machine and these volunteers were on a serious mission to get stuff done… and enjoy themselves.

Ed with stakes Chris holding stake in the Wandle
Will managed to find a warning cone so large it almost made even him look small, and the girls wielded their hammers with such finesse that it was all the boys could do to look on with awe from the bankside.
Will with warning cone from the Wandle

Girls with hammers in the Wandle

There was a great lunch laid on by Jo and Sally (huge thanks to them for keeping the troops going). And the weather was so good it almost felt like we were having a summer picnic.
Coir Roll base camp by the Wandle

A couple of extra bits of work were done at the same time – namely replacing a previous section of coir further upstream, and building another ‘mini’ flow deflector.
Coir roll installed at Restmor Way on the Wandle

Hackbridge mini flow deflector on the Wandle

It’ll be interesting to see how the rolls develop over the coming months as the vegetation starts to take hold. But for the time being they’re already giving the banks some more feature, and look pretty well done too. As someone pointed out “it’s almost as if we knew what we were doing”.

Coir rolls freshly installed on the River Wandle at Hackbridge

Coir rolls on the River Wandle

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