Over the last 200 years, the Upper Witham has been deepened, straightened, and disconnected from its floodplain. Installed land drains removed excess water for agriculture and grazing, but in many cases, this did not create higher grade agricultural land as intended. These measures, along with over abstraction for both irrigation and public water supply impacted the water table, which is now so low it results in less available water for the river.
Nationally of the estimated original 2 million hectares of functional, wetland, lowland floodplain, only 3000 hectares remained by 2015. Above Grantham, there is an opportunity to restore the Upper Witham at a landscape scale – where it is classed as a limestone river, which is nationally important for biodiversity.
EMRT and partners are working with key landowners including Buckminster Estates. Recently a major restoration, coordinated by EMRT was completed near to Colsterworth. The addition of inset floodplains, offline ponds and the redirection of a spring to create a wetland feature will help to slow the flow and trap silt as well as pollutants. The introduction of gravel bars, riffles and woody material have ensured more diverse flow and habitat for wildlife including brown trout and native crayfish.
A thanks to the funders Environment Agency & Anglian Water Services, Buckminster Estates & the farmer who was very patient throughout!