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New Riparian Woodland on the Colne

New Riparian Woodland on the Colne | Essex Rivers Hub
Date: 2017
Project Lead: Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust

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Project Partners: Karl Roots Contractors, Landowner
Funding: Environment Agency, Essex Rivers Hub

The River Colne is an asset for wildlife and water through Essex however, it is known to have low flows and low dissolved oxygen levels at certain times of the year. This can affect fish, insects and other aquatic wildlife. Planting trees along the river can help to reduce these impacts by creating shading which results in cooler water temperatures and higher dissolved oxygen levels. Planting native trees on the banks also has its own intrinsic value for wildlife, creating new habitats which will benefit a mix of species from insects to bats.

Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust Project officer, Mary Norden, undertook a survey to identify possible opportunities and was also pleased to find an interested local landowner to work with. The ensuing discussions resulted in a detailed plan of action including the exact location of planting compartments and species mixes. Fencing and the need to ensure grazing animals couldn’t graze and browse our efforts were key! Mary worked closely with colleagues at the Environment Agency (EA) and with their assistance secured the required Flood Defence Consent for works near a main river and she carried out the ecological assessments.

Once the scope was agreed it was vital to find fencing and tree planting contractors who understood the objectives of what we were trying to achieve and worked hard to deliver it – a huge thanks to Karl Roots Contractors! The time of year meant we found ourselves up against the clock to get the scheme underway, as the bare rooted trees we were using needed to be in the ground before the end of March. It was tight but with everyone pulling together the project was completed well within time.

It all looked a bit raw having just been completed but once the many beautiful species of trees planted make progress, this area of the Colne will be even better for water and wildlife. There is a public footpath that runs along the back of the site from Seven Arches Farm (near Colchester) to New Bridge, so please wander along to take a look at the project.

If you are a local landowner, or an organisation that is interested in discussing possible enhancements, please get in touch via our website. Things we might do together include tree planting, fencing to reduce poaching / erosion of river banks and making new in-channel features such as woody debris that enhance river flow and create habitat and refuge for fish and other wildlife. You may also have your own ideas which we would be delighted to discuss.


A second year of planting has now been completed and a total area of 3,500m2 of the river bank is now planted with a variety of trees and shrubs suited to this area. Planting of the last three sections was completed in March 2017 and over time the trees and shrubs will provide much needed shade for the River Colne.

Thanks goes, again, to the landowner for allowing us to create these areas on his land. Also this project would not have been possible without funding from the Environment Agency and Essex Rivers Hub Catchment Partnership and the trees and planting equipment provided by the Woodland Trust in 2017.

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The topics below represent the pressures that many waterbodies in the Combined Essex catchment face. They have been divided into six main categories, but it is quite often that these categories can overlap as pressures relate to each other.

Diffuse pollution occurs as water moves across the land or through the ground and picks pollutants. These pollutants can come from a variety of places, including urban and field run off. The pollutants that enter the river can range from sediment to toxins to excess nutrients, meaning that diffuse pollution can cause a whole range of different issues. The variety in these pressure groups means that it is something that can be quite difficult to tackle. It requires groups of people, business and stakeholders to work together in order to solve this problem.

Fish should be able to travel up and down a river freely, allowing them to move and breed in the most suitable habitats for them. It is important that fish populations do not become isolated, as this makes them more susceptible to disease and puts pressure on their survival. Unfortunately, there are often many barriers along rivers that prevent fish from being able to migrate up and down stream. Where barriers have been identified, they will be seen as a ‘pressure’ on a waterbody. Thankfully, there are many solutions now that can be put in place to aid fish passage, even over large barriers.

The flow in a river can vary greatly throughout the year as rainfall and run off can have an effect. This is a natural process. It is when flow is impacted by non-natural processes that it can cause problems. Sometimes, water can be intercepted or removed from a system; this will reduce the flow, therefore changing the habitat conditions. Some species are happy in high energy rivers. This means that when flow is reduced, these species will no longer survive. The opposite of this can occur when excess water is entering a river, for example through increased runoff. Low energy systems then become high energy and displace the species that live there.

A species that is not meant to be found in a particular area is known as an invasive species. Invasive species can be from a different habitat or a different country altogether. Most of the invasive species that we find on our rivers have come from other countries – plants that people have imported for their gardens or animals that have been released for food or by animal rights activists. Control of invasive species requires a lot of time and effort. We are fortunate that we do have a range of methods to manage most of the invasive species that cause havoc on our rivers, but there are still some which we are still struggling to control.

Many of our rivers have been heavily modified over the years as rivers have been used for a wide range of purposes. Physical modification is one of the biggest factors that causes our rivers to be unhealthy. The issues that it can cause range from reducing habitat, preventing migration of mobile species, and even have an effect on the water quality. Where structures and modifications are no longer in use or necessary, they should be removed to allow the river to regain its natural state. Unfortunately, this action is not always taken which means that many of our rivers are over straightened and contain redundant structures. It is possible to return a lot of our rivers to their natural state, through one off projects, but in other cases it is not possible as the river has been changed to protect assets or manage flooding. It is recognised that some modifications cannot be removed without having severe negative impacts both socially and economically.

This is pollution that comes from a single identifiable source. The pollution entering the river could include a whole range of pollutants. Some point source pollution is known about and licences, for example sewage treatment works. Other sources are not licensed, and therefore work needs to be done with landowners to fix the problems that are allowing the pollution to enter the river. Point source pollution is more easily controlled than diffuse pollution as it often only takes one management approach to solve the issue.