After over a year’s planning and preparation, we were finally given permission to proceed with a project to improve the habitat of the Moat Brook in the area of the Jubilee Wood. In a partnership between the Friends of Bilbrook, Groundwork West Midlands, South Staffordshire Council and the Wild Trout Trust, volunteers from Bilbrook and Codsall were taught and practised various techniques to create new habitats for the wild residents of the Moat Brook.
Poor River Conditions
Over the years, the Moat brook has been straightened out and densely planted with Alder Trees to make it easier for local crop production in neighbouring fields. This has lead to a very dark conditions and compaction of the river bed. Unfortunately these conditions mean that fresh water fish, especially trout, find it very difficult to lay eggs on the river bed. Trout is known as an indicator species, meaning that if you can get Trout to breed in a river, you have also created the right conditions for most other aquatic species.
Some very simple techniques of woody material introduction and stabilisation to help create submerged “cover” habitat for fish (and hopefully the native crayfish that have been recorded in the brook) were used. Some simple tweaks to those techniques also helped to promote more diverse depth over the cross-section of the brook at selected points.
At the same time as creating localised bedscour – the installed material also encourage patches of sediment deposition. The combination of those actions produce a pattern of separation between areas of fine silt and coarser bed material in a patchwork fashion. In this way, a greater variety of micro-habitats are created and this creates many more opportunities for aquatic species. At the same time, it also creates the variety needed for different critical life-cycle stages within individual species such as trout.
Because the materials for the woody material introduction and stabilisation were won by selecting a small number of trees in the river corridor, this also contributed to creating a more varied dappled light and shade regime. In turn this will promote greater opportunities for more varied under-story vegetation to develop. Those opportunities for under-story species have only been provided by the hard work we have done to gain control over the invasive Himalayan Balsam.
We are hoping that this will be one of many projects undertaken in the brook which will encourage more diversity of species and create more habitats and better conditions for humans and nature alike.
A huge thanks must go to Richard Schneider at Groundwork West Midlands who has done masses of work to arrange permissions, co-ordinate volunteers and contractors as well as getting materials and kit on site and providing lunch. We would also like to thank Paul Gaskell for providing his expertise and showing us techniques we can use ourselves to continue the valuable work already done in the Moat Brook. Thanks also to Ryan Taylor at South Staffordshire Council for allowing us to do the work on their land and providing Craig with the chainsaw.