On a very autumnal Friday morning, volunteers gathered in the Jubilee Wood to help with more work restoring the Moat Brook back to its natural condition. Many decades ago the brook was straightened and the banks planted up with Alder. Over the years this has had a detrimental effect on the quality of the both the water and vegetation along the banks of the brook. The trees have grown to a considerable size and have blocked out the light thereby preventing wild flowers and shrubs to grow, this has resulted in exposed soil which has been washed away during high rainfall and which has been deposited further downstream. The roots of the trees have also prevented the natural meanders to develop, vital for creating shallow, deep, fast and slow areas along the brook. This has resulted in extensive sedimentation downstream, and slower flow and the widening of the watercourse.
We established a ‘camp’ next to the brook where everyone gathered regularly for biscuits and a nice hot brew, courtesy of our firepit. Lunches provided by Bilbrook Kitchen meant we were well fed at lunch and still raring to go well into the afternoon. Over 2 days, 19 volunteers helped cut back the vegetation along the banks which will allow more light to fall on the banks and encourage more shrubs to grow. The cut back vegetation was used to make dead hedges, log piles and other habitats for wildlife. Selected trees along the river corridor were also removed and 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.
Not only is there a forest school in Jubilee Wood, we created an educational area next to the brook where we can now host school children when we carry out river activities such as kick sampling and boat races. We will be able to use this area when we carry out our river-fly monitoring, which we do twice a year. Visitors to the wood will also be able to sit down next to the waters edge and take in the beautiful surroundings whilst listening to the gentle trickle of the water and the accompanying birdsong.
There are plans to do more work next summer to introduce brushwood bundles into the water channel. These will have the effect of creating small meanders and backwaters which will increase the water flow but also help create submerged “cover” habitat for fish (and hopefully the native crayfish that have been recorded in the brook). At the same time as creating localised bedscour – the installed material will also encourage patches of sediment deposition vital for egg laying of trout, which we now have breeding in the Moat Brook thanks to previous restoration work in 2017. The combination of those actions will 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 will be created and this creates many more opportunities for aquatic species.
As well as our amazing volunteers who gave up their spare time to help us, a huge thanks must go to Rob Martyr, Habitat Development Manager from Keep Britain Tidy who has done masses of work to arrange permissions, contractors as well as getting materials and kit on site and providing us with lunch. We would also like to thank Mel Westlake the Staffordshire Trent valley Catchment Officer for Staffordshire Wildlife Trust for showing us some great techniques for projects we can continue with in the wood. Thanks also to Lee Copplestone from Keep Britain tidy for providing us with lots of equipment and last but my no means least, thanks also to Ryan Taylor and all the team at South Staffordshire Council for allowing us to do the work on their land and providing us with 2 chainsaw operatives from the Street Scene Team based in Bilbrook.