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A two-year project has been completed along the River Colne to add trees and shrubs to the river bank within a grazing meadow. Before the planting look place, it was a very open habitat with little vegetation along the banks of the river.

These photos demonstrate the open aspect of the area before the planting took place.

In March 2016 three sections were planted covering an area of just under 2,000 sq. metres. The mix of plants includes Alder, Oak, Field Maple, Hawthorn, Hazel, Dogwood, Blackthorn, Spindle, Dog Rose, Guelder Rose, Crab Apple and a number of willow species. These areas were also fenced so they were not grazed by the sheep that use this area, before they have had time to establish.

The first photo was taken just after the planting was completed in March 2016, the second was taken in October 2016 and shows that the plants are already beginning to establish.

In March 2017 three additional sections were planted, covering an area of just under 1,600 sq. metres with the same mixture of species. Over the two years a total of just under 3,500 sq. metres of the river bank is now populated with tree and shrubs.

Planting in progress – March 2017.

A Map showing the areas that have now been planted.

It will take many years for these plants to mature but once they have, they will create much need shading of the channel in this area. Some level of shading is important along river banks as cooler water has higher dissolved oxygen levels. Therefore, in hot summers shaded channels have better oxygen levels and this will help to prevent fish kills resulting from increased water temperature.

Trees have also been found to be useful in reducing localised flooding. Not only by absorbing some of the water through their root system but the root network also creates channels for the water to flow down and penetrate the soil more rapidly. This will only have a small affect locally but if more woody plants are established, along river banks, throughout a catchment then the flood reduction impact would be cumulative.

Woody plants along banks also help create stability and reduce the erosion caused by fast flows, this will help reduce the amount of sediment that is washed downstream, which can smother gravels and reduce good quality habitats for aquatic invertebrates and fish spawning sites.

We would like to thank Mr. Todd for allowing us to carry out the planting on his meadow. We would also like to thank the Environment Agency and Essex Rivers Hub Catchment Partnership for funding the project and the Woodland Trust for supplying the trees in 2017.

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