Wear Rivers Trust

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Willow Weaving with our WSP Corporate Volunteers

What a pleasure it was to have WSP, specialists in hydrology and hydraulic modelling, come volunteer with us last week! They were given the opportunity to carry out some corporate volunteering and chose to spend their day with us where they could put their specialist skills and knowledge to good use.

We spent the day in Bear Park on the River Browney where a stretch of the river running through arable and pastoral farming land has suffered from past dredging, channelisation (the straightening of a watercourse), flooding, pollution and a reduction of biodiversity. Today we wanted to concentrate our efforts on bank erosion where the straightening of the river and lack of plant life has caused parts of the bank to collapse.

To aid the journey of the rivers return to health we wanted to use ‘green engineering’, a sustainable process of working with natural resources to create useful structures without causing harm to, and instead benefitting the environment.

There were obvious sections of the river bank where erosion was evident and the bank was clearly at risk of collapse. Hard engineering solutions to stabilise the bank would be expensive, time consuming and usually very damaging to the river’s environment. ‘Willow weaving’ is an inexpensive, natural method and is a great example of green engineering.

Our Project Co-Ordinator Paul, guided the WSP volunteers on how to collect willow, creating several bundles tied with twine and using larger sections to form ground stakes. These stakes, which were still very much alive were planted firmly into the ground where they will continue to grow. The willow bundles were then woven in amongst the stakes and tied firmly in place, creating a habitat for a rich variety of insects and invertebrates. As the willow stakes grow and spread their roots they will stabilise the river bank, holding the soil together so that it becomes compact and less likely to collapse into the water. As it grows it will continue to provide further habitat for the local wildlife.

We ended the day at a local café where we chatted about rivers and the issues they face whilst we tucked into sandwiches and cake! And we will keep returning to the Browney site to keep a close eye on how the new willow is growing along the river bank. A great day was had by all! A big thank to WSP, you were all fantastic!

If you would like to take part in volunteering with Wear Rivers Trust please contact admin@wear-rivers-trust.org.uk

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