An environmental scheme to return New Forest streams and wetlands to their natural state has been chosen as one of the UK’s most important river restorations. Shortlisted as a finalist in the 2019 UK River Prize, the project has restored natural bends or meanders to over nine miles of streams in the New Forest National Park over the last nine years.
The prestigious UK River Prize celebrates the achievements of individuals and organisations working to improve rivers and recognises the benefits to society of having a healthy and natural environment. The restoration of the wetlands in the New Forest, one of the largest environmental improvement schemes in England, was chosen by the judges as one of the four finalists from a strong field of entries from right across the UK.
The project is part of the New Forest Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme, a partnership between the Verderers, Forestry England and the National Park Authority. It is restoring and protecting internationally-important habitats in the New Forest which has 75% of the remaining valley mires, or boggy areas, left in North-Western Europe.
Started in 2010, the ten year project aims to reverse the damaging impacts of the artificial straightening of streams and digging of drainage channels, carried out since the Victorian era, by reinstating the waters meanders and natural bends. Straightened channels can cause bogs to dry out, stream banks to erode and increases the risk of flooding downstream all of which damage critically important habitats for rare and endangered wildlife and plants.
By returning the streams to their naturally flowing state the project is helping to make sure the surrounding habitats are more resilient in both winter floods and summer droughts. Allowing the water to meander through the landscape also slows it down during periods of high rainfall, limiting erosion and reducing the risk of flooding further downstream and in built up areas.
Commenting on being shortlisted for the award, Nick Wardlaw, Higher Level Stewardship HLS Manager, at the Forestry England said: “We are extremely proud that the work of everyone involved in this project here in the New Forest has been recognised in this way. The New Forest is a truly unique place and playing a part in protecting these internationally important habitats is a great privilege for all involved.”
Martin Janes, Managing Director, River Restoration Centre,said:“The high standard of entries for this year’s UK River Prize has once again demonstrated the enthusiasm, passion and commitment of local partnerships, charities, volunteers and agencies, in working to restore their rivers for people and wildlife. The judges praised this project for its focus on wetlands and rivers and the integral link between them, as well as the size and scale of the work carried out over nine years and across more than 60 sites.”
More information about the work of the HLS scheme in the New Forest can be found at www.hlsnewforest.org.uk.
Notes to Editor
- Images of the restored wetland areas are available on request
- Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests. As England’s largest land manager, we shape landscapes and are enhancing forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. We have around 1,000 staff, 20,000 volunteers and 80,000 members. For more information visit forestryengland.uk. Forestry England is an agency of the Forestry Commission.
- The role of the Verderers of the New Forest is to protect and administer the New Forest's unique agricultural commoning practices; to conserve its traditional landscape, wildlife and aesthetic character, including its flora and fauna, peacefulness, natural beauty and cultural heritage; and to safeguard a viable future for commoning. www.verderers.org.uk
- The New Forest National Park Authority works with partners to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities. It also has a duty to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park. www.newforestnpa.gov.uk
- The UK River Prize is administered by the River Restoration Centre and judged by a panel of experts. The winner of the 2019 award will be announced on 30 April 2019.
Media Officer, South Forest District, Forestry England
Tel: 0300 067 4123
Mob: 07384 878434