Volunteers from Shepreth and Barrington add final touches to improved River Shep

PUBLISHED: 18:31 30 August 2019

Volunteers planting along the River Shep. Picture: Rob Mungovan

Volunteers planting along the River Shep. Picture: Rob Mungovan

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The project for the Barrington stretch of river is led by the Wild Trout Trust, a conservation charity that focuses on practical work to improve habitat for trout across the UK and Ireland.

Volunteers planting along the River Shep. Picture: Rob MungovanVolunteers planting along the River Shep. Picture: Rob Mungovan

Wild Trout Trust conservation officer Rob Mungovan, who lives in Shepreth, told the Crow about the trust's work.

He said: "Although we are a small team, we have a big impact because we work in partnership with rivers trusts, wildlife trusts, local conservation volunteer groups, fishing clubs, landowners, government agencies and many more.

"Our role in these partnerships is to provide expert advice and practical project delivery as well as to inspire others and give them the advice and practical skills to improve and maintain their lake or river for the benefit of trout and all wildlife."

Work on the Shep included 200 tonnes of gravel carefully placed into the river to create new spawning areas for brown trout, minnows and dace.

Volunteers planting along the River Shep. Picture: Rob MungovanVolunteers planting along the River Shep. Picture: Rob Mungovan

Riverbanks have also been regraded to create new habitat for water voles, and trees managed bring more light to previously shaded parts of the river.

Mr Mungovan said: "Taking care of these chalk streams is important given the wealth of wildlife that they support.

"The clean water provides great habitat for wild brown trout and water voles can still be found amongst the abundant plant life."

The work was part funded by the Environment Agency in a drive to see rivers improved to 'good ecological status'.

Volunteers planting along the River Shep. Picture: Rob MungovanVolunteers planting along the River Shep. Picture: Rob Mungovan

The Shep provides an important nursery ground for fish that use the nearby River Rhee.

Lou Mayer, EA environment programme manager, said: "The agency works in partnership with others to achieve action for the good of our rivers."

Demolition and excavation firm the Seearo Group - which is based in Flint Cross and has been trading since 1983 - also helped to fund the project so that the river could be made more accessible, allowing children to play in the clean gravel-lined stream.

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Clive Onslow, director at Seearo, said: "I was aware of Rob's idea's to improve the River Shep, and am pleased to be able to help this project along.

"It's great to see large machinery being used to rebuild habitats when so often people see them as a cause for alarm."

The River Shep is a chalk river that rises at the RSPB's Fowlmere Nature Reserve from chalk springs.

The river flows for 2.5km through the village of Shepreth to meet the River Rhee at Barrington.

The Friends of the River Shep have looked after the river for 20 years, helping to keep it in good shape in partnership with Mr Mungovan.

The group, also known as ForShep, is a voluntary conservation group which was set up in April 1999 to safeguard the river from the pressures of modern life. It emerged out of a village meeting, which decried the state of the river and the lack of wildlife.

ForShep is made up of more than 90 household memberships and represents a real effort by the community to conserve their local environment.

The River Shep suffers from low flows with the 2019 drought making the situation particularly bad.

After two dry winters, ground water levels have become low which, when combined with water abstraction, puts a huge strain on the river flow and the wildlife that depends on it.

The Wild Trout Trust project created a new low-flow channel in the river which will make it more adaptable to the challenges of drought and climate change.

The WTT would like to thank the landowner for his trust on the project and to the local community for their patience during the delivery phase.

To find out more about the River Shep habitat improvement work and how you can get involved, contact Friends of the River Shep forshep@hotmail.co.uk or visit their Facebook page by searching 'Friends of the River Shep'.

You can also check out the Wild Trout Trust's website at www.wildtrout.org.

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