Surrey Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the Environment Agency and Thames Water, has begun a three year project to restore the Cranleigh Waters river, to improve wildlife habitat and river flow. With funding from Thames Water, the project aims to reconnect the local community with their river through monitoring and restoration days.
Volunteers from Surrey Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency and the local community gathered to do a mass water sample of the Cranleigh Waters in July to obtain baseline ecological data for the project. With 20 volunteers taking kick samples, the sampling covered a long stretch of river counting invertebrates such as mayflies, which are a good indicator of water quality.
The survey found that while water quality was variable the habitat was in poor condition due to past modifications of the river. A healthy river maintains a channel that is constantly flowing however at the Cranleigh Waters the river is too wide in many places, so the river flows very slowly and drops silt on the bed which smothers the in-stream habitat.
In addition the steep banks of the widened river cannot support the vegetation you would normally expect to find which is essential for fish and invertebrates. Thick vegetation along the banks of rivers not only provides a wildlife corridor for mammals, such as, water voles and bats, it also prevents soil running off into the river, keeping pesticides and fertilisers away from the watercourse.
Glen Skelton, wetland landscapes officer at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: ‘Our survey helps us to understand where the issues may be and develop a plan to enhance water quality with good river habitat management. What this river needs is some love, so by reconnecting the community of Cranleigh back to their river, it will give it the best chance of improvement.’
Adrian Clarke, Cranleigh resident who took part in the water sampling, said: ‘The river brings a sense of identity with the local village and a number of local residents were concerned that it was being neglected. So we are delighted to be working with Surrey Wildlife Trust to improve our river. It was an enjoyable day doing the mass sampling and we found a number of species: shrimps, mayflies, olives and stone loach. I had no idea what a caddisfly larva was before the training, it has been fascinating.’
For the next step Surrey Wildlife Trust would like to recruit local volunteers, with wellies at the ready, to regularly monitor the river and the wildlife that lives there. Volunteer training will be available in late August and early September. To find out more about the project or to volunteer contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit surreywildlifetrust.org/volunteering