We're very happy to announce upcoming improvement works on the River Arle in Alresford. This part of the chalk stream is among the few remaining strongholds of the endangered white-clawed crayfish, so is an especially precious piece of wildlife habitat. It's also highly valued by the town's residents, who identified one stretch in need of a helping hand: a public footpath on the Millennium Way.
What's the problem?
The streamside footpath immediately upstream of the Eel House is a busy one, so needs extra care to remain in good condition. The bank is being eroded by public use and high stream flows, which has narrowed some sections of the footpath and caused dips in the surface that become muddy puddles in wet weather.
As well as making it less accessible, the erosion of the path has released sediment into the stream. This builds up in the channel, making it less habitable for wildlife and more likely to overflow. Heavy shade and high footfall have also reduced plant growth along the banks, which worsens the erosion and reduces the available habitat for animals like water voles.
Repairs by the community have helped to slow the progression of this issue, but these have to be made regularly and cannot cope with the problem in the long term. We're delighted to be offering a more permanent fix, as part of the Watercress and Winterbournes Landscape Partnership Scheme.
What's the solution?
In early October (exact date to be confirmed), we'll begin improvement works that will benefit people and wildlife alike. During this period, we'll re-surface and re-widen the eroded path to make it accessible once again. We'll also replace the existing bank supports to help secure its edge, and protect it with buffers made from natural materials such as woody debris.
These actions will help to secure the bank, but its long-term stability relies on vegetation like that which can be seen on the far side. Plant growth along the stream will help to lock the soil in place and shelter it from the flowing water, so we'll reintroduce a margin of native plants and thin certain trees to allow more sunlight. The vegetation will also provide a home for many wildlife species.
This margin will be vulnerable while the plants are getting established, so we need to add a low fence to ensure they don't get trampled underfoot. However, we'll also be reinforcing the popular access area near the recreation ground so that dogs can still enjoy a dip in the stream. We hope this will allow residents and visitors to both enjoy this special habitat and contribute to its protection.
While these works are taking place, we need to close the section of footpath between the recreation ground and the Eel House for a few weeks. This is to ensure everyone's safety, as there will be heavy machinery on site. We know this is a popular route, so the closure will be kept as short as possible.
We want to involve local people in the ongoing management of this special habitat. If you live in the Alresford area and are interesting in volunteering, please contact us on email@example.com. If you have general queries about the works please contact Moragh Stirling on firstname.lastname@example.org.