Broom Mill Farm Habitat Improvement
The River Gaunless contains some of the best spawning habitat in the Wear catchment and the stretch that runs through Broom Mill Farm, near West Auckland, is a wildlife-rich area where fish, kingfishers and otters have regularly been sighted. The Wear Rivers Trust worked with the farm owners to develop a project to protect the watercourse from silt and erosion.
The Wear Rivers Trust approached Matt and Tracy Betney, who run the popular Broom Mill Farm, shop and café, in 2010 to assess the farm for any management opportunities that might benefit both the farm and the river environment, with the added benefit of highlighting the wildlife value of the farm to visitors.
The river needed protection from diffuse silt pollution and the farmland needed protection from erosion. The main cause of the problem was unimpeded livestock access to the water, meaning that the banks were being poached and protective vegetation cover could not establish itself. The proposed solution was therefore to restrict access to certain areas by erecting fencing and to plant trees in the newly created riparian buffer zone to reduce erosion and provide shelter for fish and other animals.
Volunteers from Durham University Conservation Society worked hard to help clear the stream of rubbish that had washed downstream during heavy flows and they assisted in planting 600 trees along the riverbanks. 1,000 metres of fencing, including two water gates, was erected to exclude livestock from the river and alternative drinking points were made available.
Since the project was completed in March 2012 bankside vegetation has been able to establish itself and it would appear that this is helping to reduce the extent of land lost during floods. The water gates do show signs of undercutting, so further monitoring will be carried out at the site to assess the damage and carry out maintenance where necessary.
Annual fish population surveys are carried out at Broom Mill Farm and the 'before' and 'after' results will be used to assess whether the project has improved the fish habitat significantly enough for populations to increase. It is hoped that the outcome of this project will prove to be the improvement and protection of both bankside and in-stream habitats.
Funders and supporters of this project: