A scheme to return wetlands to their natural state has made significant improvements to waterways in the New Forest this year.
Local experts have carried out restoration work on more than four miles of artificially-straightened channels in 2018, helping to enhance the area’s precious wetland habitats.
Stream and mire restoration is part of the New Forest Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme and over the last eight years it has restored over 10 miles of drainage channels, first artificially straightened by the Victorians, to their more natural wetland systems which help to support the unique biodiversity of the New Forest. This work also slows water flow, helping to prevent flash floods racing downstream.
The restoration programme is crucial to ensure the survival of the New Forest’s internationally-important mires. Permanently waterlogged soils along many of the valley sides and bottoms lead to the formation of extensive mire systems that support rare plants and animals. The National Park has 75% of the remaining valley mires in north-western Europe.
This year extensive work was undertaken on streams at Wootton, near Burley and Pondhead near Lyndhurst. There were also smaller restorations of streams and mires from Deadmand Bottom in the north of the Forest to Ferny Crofts in the south.
The 10 year Higher Level Stewardship scheme is an agreement with Natural England, held by the Verderers and managed by them in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park Authority.
Nick Wardlaw, HLS Contract Manager at the Forestry Commission, said: ‘This year has been a fantastic one for restoration of our very valuable habitats in the New Forest. The sun has shone brightly on us and we have been able to deliver a large amount of work which is essential for helping to protect and enhance the outstanding biodiversity that we have in the Forest’s wetlands.
‘A lot of hard work has gone into large scale works such as the re-meandering of the Avon Water downstream of Wootton Bridge, and smaller restorations such as the work to support the at-risk mires to the east of Ringwood.
‘We now look forward to monitoring the progress of these sites into the future and hope our work helps to ensure that future generations can enjoy seeing and hearing the New Forest wildlife as much as we do.’
In addition to wetland restoration the HLS scheme also delivers a large amount of heathland and grassland vegetation, supports commoning, archaeology and provides education about the New Forest. This includes bringing more than 11,000 children on school trips to the National Park and recording thousands of forgotten archaeological sites.
To find out more about the HLS scheme and its work to restore waterways in the New Forest visit www.hlsnewforest.org.uk/restoration