Why conservationists are putting the bands back into miles of New Forest streams
A SCHEME to return wetlands to their natural state is being hailed as a victory after more than four miles of artificially straightened channels were restored this year.
The drainage was first altered by the Victorians, who believed it would drain the land and improve grazing, but by doing so they damaged the wetland habitats. Water ran faster through the channels, carrying away valuable nutrients and gravel deposits.
Introduced eight years ago, the restoration scheme reinstated the channels to their proper course, helping to support the unique biodiversity of the New Forest.
Funded by the New Forest Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme, the work has been carried out using old maps of the New Forest and will help to prevent flash floods racing downstream.
It also leads to natural flooding of the floodplains, meaning better grazing for ponies and the improvement of conditions for birdlife.
The restoration programme is also crucial to ensuring the survival of the New Forest’s internationally-important mires, which need permanently waterlogged soils to support rare plants and animals. The national park has 75% of the remaining valley mires in north-western Europe.
This year’s work was undertaken on streams at Wootton, near Burley, and Pondhead near Lyndhurst. There were also smaller restorations of streams and mires from Deadman Bottom in the north of the Forest to Ferny Crofts in the south.
Nick Wardlaw, HLS contract manager at the Forestry Commission, said: ‘This year has been a fantastic one for restoration of our very valuable habitats in the New Forest. The sun has shone brightly on us and we have been able to deliver a large amount of work, which is essential for helping to protect and enhance the outstanding biodiversity that we have in the Forest’s wetlands.
A lot of effort has gone into large scale works, such as the re-meandering of the Avon Water downstream of Wootton Bridge, and there have also been smaller restorations such as work to at-risk mires to the east of Ringwood.
‘We now look forward to monitoring the progress of these sites into the future, and hope our work helps to ensure that future generations can enjoy seeing and hearing the New Forest wildlife as much as we do.”
To find out more about the HLS scheme and its efforts to restore waterways in the New Forest, visit www.hlsnewforest.org.uk/restoration