River channels had been mechanically dredged and straightened
The Bourne Rivulet is an iconic fly-fishing tributary of the river Test immortalised by the trout fishing Opera singer Harry Plunket Greene in his book ‘Where the bright waters meet’.
Like many of the UK’s world-famous chalk streams, the Bourne Rivulet suffered state-sponsored, river engineering works in the name of ‘Land Drainage Improvements’ following WWII. River channels were mechanically dredged and straightened to facilitate arable cropping in low-lying, floated water meadow systems close to the river. It is likely, as time went on, that an increasing proportion of these operations exceeded the original brief in that dredging operations became more random and sites more unsuitable as water authorities ‘cast around’ looking to ‘lose’ surplus budgets.
The Bourne Rivulet may have fallen into this category as any attempt to lower water tables has not improved the adjacent meadows to an extent that renders them fit for the plough. On inviting Simon Cain to comment on his ailing river habitat, the owner was intrigued to learn that channel engineering was the cause of habitat degradation….and that his perched and steep-sided fishing bank margins were almost wholly constructed from dredged river gravel deposits.
The client brief was to return the river to something approximating its pre-dredged status (Pools, riffles, meanders, shallow emergent bank margins etc) with a view to optimising the classic chalk stream habitat and world-class wild trout fishing associated with this headwater. The restoration scheme was designed and delivered by Simon Cain and the Cain Bio-engineering team on behalf of a collaborative partnership between the Riparian Land Owner & Natural England.
Read more about the history of Cain Bio-Engineering and its introduction to river restoration projects, across an impressive array of the UK’s most prestigious chalk streams and their tributaries.