Lumley Park Burn Restoration Project
Arising from a number of smaller tributaries, Lumley Park Burn flows predominantly through built-up areas, including Herrington, Shiney Row, Hetton-le-Hole, Fencehouses and Bournmoor, before running through a steep-sided valley and under the A1 to join the River Wear at Chester-le-Street. Due to the urban and historic industrial nature of the catchment, the Lumley Park Burn has long been perceived as "dead" but is in fact a promising wildlife corridor which we are helping to restore.
The burn has been described as “smelly” and “dead” because of the number of former opencast mining sites, numerous mine discharges, combined sewage outfalls, landfill, fly-tipping and in-stream obstructions that restrict fish movement to their spawning habitat. Although water quality has improved considerably over the past 50 years, owing to the reclamation of opencast and landfill sites and upgrades to the sewage treatment plant at Sedgeletch, there are still high levels of pollutants in the water. The whole catchment is categorised as being of poor ecological status under the Water Framework Directive, with low fish and invertebrate populations and high phosphate and ammonia levels.
Our habitat improvement work has been focused on the stretch of Lumley Park Burn from Bournmoor to the A1 flyover (at Castle Dene) and has been funded by County Durham Environmental Trust and local fuel supplier Par Petroleum. Work has been carried out in partnership with Bournmoor Conservation Group and with the help of numerous volunteers ranging from Northumbrian Water staff to children from Woodlea Primary School. Works have included the installation of a riverside footpath and fencing, creation of a new wildlife area and wetlands, and numerous volunteer tasks to clear rubbish, survey wildlife, plant trees, and remove invasive weeds.
Under the A1 flyover a modern road culvert and ruined watermill race and penstock (overflow) channel had been cutting off fish migration to the upper burn and tributaries. Wear Rivers Trust, in partnership with the Environment Agency, Durham County Council and engineer Peter Kerr of the Northumberland Rivers Trust, developed a design to help fish traverse these structures and once again reach the upper catchment. A full archaeological survey was carried out by Northern Archaeological Associates ahead of construction. Methods were agreed with contractors Owen Pugh Ltd to leave the archaeology undisturbed and protected under the fish pass. The archaeological summary report is available here.
The culvert was addressed by Durham County Highways Team using Sealane Ltd to install a series of concrete baffles (similar to railway sleepers) to reduce flow velocity and provide resting pools for fish. As part of the project, Durham County Council also repaired and pinned an important retaining wall within the penstock channel. Upstream, a slag waterfall below the mill race itself created a drop of around 1m onto bedrock, making it difficult for fish to get enough momentum to jump the step. A series of three lower pools have raised water levels to allow fish to pass that section. Further upstream the mill race narrowed the burn, restricting flows and causing water to accelerate, plunging 1m down into a 3m-deep erosion pool. Heavy rock armour was installed to protect the remaining structure and a series of six upper pools were created to raise the level over the race.
The fish pass has held up well and remains passable for fish but binding the materials protecting the archaeology and infilling the erosion pool has been a challenge. Serious flood events in June, July and September 2012 caused the loss of large volumes of materials and necessitated much repeat work during construction as well as causing damage following completion. There was significant erosion behind the rock armour as the burn burst out of its newly restricted passage so in Spring 2013 work was carried out to strengthen the banks immediately downstream of the mill race.
Electro fishing surveys have confirmed that salmonid species were not present prior to the construction of the fish pass. Further electro fishing will be completed annually to track progress of salmonids and other species.
The Wear Rivers Trust has forged links with a number of community groups doing their bit to protect and improve their part of the catchment. Funding from the Sir James Knott Trust has been sourced to assist with the development of community management plans covering defined sections of the burns. These plans detail the problems faced and actions needed and the local groups will lead on implementing the actions with the support of the WRT staff and volunteers. Actions include litter picking, bank protection, grass cutting and balsam bashing as well as Riverfly monitoring. We have also had help from Northumbrian Water and Peak Indicators staff who have come out to help clean up the burn.
Funders and supporters of this project: