River project shortlisted for national award

A river restoration and biodiversity project taking in the Witham through Grantham is shortlisted as a finalist for the prestigious UK River Prize 2024.

South Kesteven District Council was the lead partner for the £1.2m Witham/Slea Blue Green Corridor initiative which was funded from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with financial contributions and partnership support from North Kesteven District Council, the Environment Agency and the National Trust.

This Blue/Green project formed a crucial part of the overall, long-term, Upper Witham Restoration, a habitat improvement programme that has been ongoing for more than 10 years overseen by the Upper Witham sub-catchment partnership who submitted the area for the prestigious award.

Work in and around Grantham began in 2019 and ended last summer, supporting and developing areas alongside the River Witham and River Slea. It saw rivers linked with their floodplains, new habitats created, and existing habitats improved to support a more diverse range of species.

The 14 individual projects of the Upper Witham Restoration, which includes four in the Sleaford area, were designed to improve the freshwater habitat, support the ecosystem and benefit local communities.

SKDC Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate, Cllr Rhys Baker, said: “The idea was to create and improve river environments for wildlife and people to enjoy.

“The importance, the success and the legacy of this work have culminated in the nomination for this award and we are pleased and proud, as a Council and a project team, to have made such a long-standing improvement to our natural environment.

“Ten of the 14 projects involved the Witham through Grantham, along the river’s route from Dysart Park to Queen Elizabeth Park and on to the National Trust’s Belton House.”

Examples of the project work include tree planting and the introduction of bird boxes and wildflower meadows. Other work includes:

• River channel improvements to restore straightened and over widened sections of the river to reinstate natural processes, improving habitat for people, places and wildlife

• Wetland creation, creating rare landscapes and supporting a wide variety of special native species, such as amphibians and water voles previously limited by the lack of habitat

• Wildflower meadow creation, establishing a wide range of flora, and creating habitat for many important species through refuge and food provision, as well as benefiting pollinators

• Flushing meadow creation, creating a spring-fed meadow to support diverse flora

• Tree management to support native species by introducing light and adding woody material for habitat creation

• Footpaths to bring essential transport links throughout the town, making enjoyable riverside walks more accessible

The award citation reads: “The urban work on the river through Grantham has been very well received with the public engaging with the schemes in the parks in the town.

“It is a good example of how well thought-out river restoration projects can enhance public green spaces for the benefit of local users.

“The incorporation of an access platform down to the shallow riffle at the project in Wyndham Park makes a very popular spot in the summer and is a good way of helping people to interact with and enjoy the natural environment.”

The winner of the 2024 UK River Prize will be announced at the UK River Prize Award Celebration on 24th April in Llandudno, North Wales.

The wider Upper Witham Restoration involved partnership work between the Environment Agency, East Mercia Rivers Trust, Wild Trout Trust, The National Trust, Grantham Angling Association Fly Fishing Section, South Kesteven District Council and the University of Lincoln.

More information: www.withamsleabluegreencorridor.co.uk


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