Since we first joined the global celebrations in 2008, World Rivers Day has become a regular event for the Wandle Piscators: an occasion to break out the heavy tools, stake stuff down, pull stuff out, and generally improve our local river’s habitat for all manner of species. 

This year’s plan brought us back to the Wandle’s mid-point at Merton, to complete a river restoration scheme designed and led by Will to enhance the back channel through Ravensbury Park.

It’s already a valuable backwater refuge during spates and minor pollution events on the main river, but the vertical toe-boarded banks don’t provide much shelter or habitat for the fish, birds and insects living there.

Earlier this year in April we installed two flow deflectors and trialled a few ranunculus (water crowfoot) plantings, whilst the Friends of Ravensbury Park thinned some of the overhanging trees.

So now it was time for the second stage of the project – adding variation to the channel with three more recycled-timber deflectors and 12 metres of pre-planted coir roll.

Before starting work, we waded upstream to check out those earlier deflectors, one of which had already begun a textbook job of channelling the current to scour a deep pool and kicking up a long plume of clean, sorted gravel for fish to spawn on:

Inspired by this tangible success, we got down to today’s deeply satisfying business: sledgehammering stakes to hold those lumps of Large Woody Debris in position…

… adding instant riverbank in the form of very shaggy, well-grown coir rolls…

… and wiring them all together securely:

Within just a couple of hours, the stretch below the ornamental bridge had been transformed from a vertical-sided miniature canal to something resembling a real small stream, with paired deflectors rapidly turning a barren, shallow glide into a varied pool-and-riffle sequence:

Jim kept us all laughing while we worked with his Irish navvy-driving skills and shouts of “Swing that hammer, Paddy!”…

… and soon the third deflector was solidly staked down too…

… with at least half an hour to wait before the Surrey Arms opened for much-anticipated pints and a rousing toast to Anglers at Work on World Rivers Day!

Thanks to all our volunteers: Adrian, Andy, Duncan, Jez, Jim, John, Ollie, Sophie, Steve, Theo, Will and Zigi

As a result of the Wandle Trust’s involvement in the “Wetted Land: Assessment, Techniques and and Economics of Restoration” project, this work was part-funded as a WATER river rehabilitation and restoration event selected within the scope of the INTERREG IVA France (Channel) – England cross-border European cooperation programme, co-financed by the ERDF.


(Photo credits: photos 1 – 9 Duncan Soar, photo 10 Will Tall)

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