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" The Whit Beck Project - One Year On -"

Date & start time: Tuesday 15th Sept 2015, 6 pm start.

Location of Start : The Whitbeck Bridge, Lorton, Cumbria, Uk ( NY 158 250 )

Places visited : A local walk following the new river down to the River Cocker.

Walk details :   1 mile, approx 40ft of ascent/descent, 1 hour 30 mins.

Highest point : On the bridge over the river at the start !

Walked with : The Cumbria Rivers Trust folk, Ian Creighton and Karin, and a dozen interested locals, myself included.

Weather : Overcast but clearing to a lovely sunny evening.

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We received an invitation from the Cumbria Rivers Trust to view the Whit Beck Restoration Project on farm land further down the Lorton Valley.

It has been a year since the initial groundwork was first completed

and this night I joined a local group on an evening visit to see how the scheme has progressed.

[ This matched a similar scheme that featured on the BBC Countryfile programme recently (14/09/15),

however the film footage taken of this site was recorded but not used in that programme.]

The pedestrian view 'over the bridge' that carries the main Lorton to Loweswater valley road.

We have passed this view so many times when we have drive up and down the valley . . . but now it is different.

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From their web site:

"Whit Beck is an actively eroding stream which drains off the Lorton Fells. It joins the River Cocker approximately three quarters of a kilometre upstream the village of Low Lorton.

The River Cocker then joins the River Derwent at Cockermouth. The River Derwent is of national and European significance and is classified as both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation.

The project has restored a 350m section of heavily modified raised river channel back to a more natural self-sustainable course. The new channel is 1200m long.

It has improved flood plain connectivity, boosted wildlife, improved channel morphology (shape), is natural and has significantly expanded the area and diversity of habitat.

This has improved the spawning opportunities for the various fish species and increased wildlife benefits."

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It will be interesting to walk around and see how the scheme has improved the habitat one year on from their initial engineering work.

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We met on the bridge at the start of the scheme.

This is a view of the raised embankment and the straight course of the Whit Beck. It was canalised in order to prevent flooding of the fields

many, many years ago.  Whit Beck is fed by Aiken Beck and Blaze Beck which flow down from the Whinlatter Pass.

It also goes by the name of Boonbeck as it passes through High Lorton Village.

The river used to run straight ahead through the trees.
Now the old river bed has been filled and re-seeded.

We walked around to see the new river . . . close up.

Ian fills us in on the history of the scheme

and the little 'hiccup' at this point, subsequently re-engineered with great success.

The river has been set on a new meandering course through the lowland field, hence the fencing.

The banks have been re-planted with a selection of trees and bushes to kick-start the re-generation process.

Some of the corners have been reinforced

here to protect the underground water supply pipeline from Ennerdale to Workington hidden in the bank.

Most of the others have just been left to become naturalised of their own accord.

All the deposited stone and the beach have been formed by the natural processes of the river.

A year on and Ian is very pleased with the results.

Riverside plants include rushes as well as field grass and wild plants.

The dead trees in the background are as a result of the flooding of the area following the 2009 floods.

The river broke its banks and this area of the valley became waterlogged.

Now with the new beck alongside, the drainage is improved and the greenery is returning to the area.

A man-made 'natural' hollow has been left to encourage diversity of habitat.

It has certainly worked.

The pools of water have become havens for frogs . . . one picked up here on a "catch and release basis".

Now you see him . . . in the time we were looking we saw half a dozen more.

Trees planted last year are now growing well within their protective sleeves, which protect and encourage growth.

Time now to walk down through the rest of the scheme.

The River's Trust Map of the scheme (my scribbles).

Several watering points for sheep and cattle have been built into the scheme.

Restricting them from the full length of the river bank protects the slope from erosion and allows better diversity of habitat.

Here Ian points out many of the new features of the stream bed and the vegetation that has grown up in the last year.

His smiles say it all !

New colonisation of the river bed . . .
. . . and of the surrounding embankments.

New samplings are springing up . . . natural re-growth of alder not planted by the team.

Further down the beck we meet the river, the two watercourses divided by the main river embankment.

The river is noticeably higher than Whit Beck at this point but levels will equal out by the time we reach the end of the beck.

The point at which the old beck met the river has been filled in . . .

. . . and the beck continues on, meandering along its new, extended river bed.

Ian is full of information and tells us so much more about the success of the river naturalisation.

Again from the River Trust website :

" During the autumn of 2014 twenty salmon, sea trout and trout redds (patches where the fish lay their eggs) were counted. Previously, the stream was so straight and steep that it only contained cobbles and boulders and the fish couldn't spawn (lay their eggs). During this summer (July), single pass electric fishing surveys through three 50m sections of the new channel found there to be significant numbers (hundreds) of juvenile salmon and trout as well as eels, lamprey and sticklebacks. All fantastic news!

In addition, to the channel itself evolving, the marginal vegetation and new woodlands are already growing at a great rate. Otters, herons, dippers are regular visitors and there has been an occasional sighting of a kingfisher. "

It is turning into a wonderful Cumbrian evening.

The final part of the jigsaw . . . the confluence of the two rivers.

It looks so natural that it could have been like this for years . . .

what better accolade could there be for a river reclamation scheme.

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Technical note: Pictures taken with my Canon 1100D Digital SLR.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . Ian to add the history and the habitat information for the scheme.

Go to Top . . . © RmH . . . Email me here

Previous walk - 10th September 2015 - Crag Fell and Grike

A previous time up here - Please refer to the Cumbria Rivers Trust Website for previous pictures relating to this area.

Next walk - 21st September 2015 - Our Beadnell Holiday in Northumberland