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Reconnecting the Witham

 With support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the People's Postcode Lottery, the Environment Agency, InvestSK and Lincolnshire Cooperative, our ambition is to reconnect local people with the River Witham in Grantham and its natural and built industrial heritage.  

The River Witham rises just south of Grantham at South Witham.  The name "Witham" seems to be extremely old, apparently predating Anglo-Saxon, Roman, and even Celtic influence, the meaning is not known.  Over recent centuries, and particularly the last 100 years, the once naturally meandering river channel of the Witham has been straightened, deepened, widened, impounded and embanked as part of fluvial engineering schemes designed to reduce flood risk and improve land drainage. These modifications, together with catchment land management practices, have contributed to a decline in river corridor habitat quality in the catchment.

The river runs through the centre of Grantham and is heavily modified in sections.  It does however, run through both Wyndham and Dysart Park, giving local people the opportunity to access and enjoy a riverside setting.  LRT were part of a partnership project to improve a 100 metre stretch of the river, benefitting the river habitat and park users' experience.  The work here improved the way the River Witham flows, enhancing wetland habitats and creating a more natural river environment for people to get closer to and enjoy.  The Project also included the installation of some recycled plastic decking enabling safe access for the public to get closer to the river and explore its wildlife.  

Along with other changes, man-made barriers in the Witham have significantly reduced the number of eels in river.  Eels used to represent more than 50% of the standing fish biomass in the UK, and are an essential part of a balanced riverine ecology, acting as both predator and prey for some notable species, such as otters and kingfishers.  Eels are now a red list endangered species.  By enabling passage and providing opportunities for engagement we hope to improve the prospects of this amazing but little understood fish.  We will give school children the opportunity to learn about the amazing life cycle of eels, their importance for rivers and provide the chance for selected schools to care for some elvers (young eels) in fish tanks for a short period of time.  We also aim to have a tank in a location accessible to the public to widen the community engagement.

A project officer will oversee the project and work with volunteers and local people to facilitate the activities.  We will provide opportunities for people to gain an understanding of their river heritage.  In particular focusing on the use of water to power mills in the past, and looking at how it affects the river ecology today.  This may include guided walks, interpretation or active family fun days. 

By installing a first fish pass in Queen Elizabeth Park, more fish and eels will have access to larger stretches of the river, allowing them more opportunity to fulfil their natural lifecycles. We are also installing habitat features alongside Dysart Park to improve the way the river flows and improve biodiversity in this section.

If you would like to be a part of the project please email nicola.craven@lincsrivers.org.uk

Details:

Lincolnshire Rivers Trust
Registered in England
Registered Charity No: 1157922

lincsrivers@gmail.com

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