Wiltshire Publications

The Wildlife Trust gets stuck in with upgrading the Bitham Brook

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THE Wildlife Trust and their team of dedicated volunteers have been hard at work cleaning Bitham Brook. The main areas of focus were improving the river for wildlife and making the area more appealing to visitors. 

Part of the works involved re-grading the river bank in order to make the area more inviting for wildlife, cleaning 20m section of the river bed itself, improving water quality and creating an area specially for dogs which will help to curb erosion of the river bank.  

The work is being undertaken as part of the 2020-2025 A Better Biss Approach (ABBA) project which is working to restore and enhance the River Biss and its tributaries which includes Bitham Brook. 

Connor Goddard, Water Team Projects Manager of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust spoke about how they came to work on the Bitham Brook, “The ABBA project 2020-2025 is a project funded by Wessex Water which aims to improve the River Biss catchment through a variety of practical restoration and engagement projects. 

“Following the success of the project in Westbury we identified another opportunity for some more restoration on the Bitham Brook as it runs through The Mead Park and for which we will hopefully be able to find funding for soon.  

“We are also looking to set up a ‘Friends of Bitham Brook’ group of local volunteers who will take on some of the management of the brook, clearing litter and scrub to allow some of the other aquatic species to thrive so if anyone is interested in that they can get in touch with us. 

“We are going to be going out for more walkover surveys this winter to help identify more possible restoration opportunities, particularly in the headwaters. As ‘upstream thinking’ is central to a lot of river restoration so we would be interested to hear from anyone who lives in the headwaters of the streams that make Biss catchment if they would like to be involved with the project. 

“The site where we did the restoration on the Bitham already had water voles and if the Friends of group manage to form and undertake some of the scrub clearance this will hopefully encourage the resident water voles to stay and thrive.” 

The Trust has also built links with local residents who are already taking an active role in protecting the brook and set up a Riverfly Partnership monitoring site to monitor the health of the brook through regular sampling of aquatic invertebrates. There are also plans in place to plant over 200 native plug plants by Spring 2022. 

“We are always looking for new volunteers, either for practical restoration days or for a new volunteer group we have set up, the Water Guardians,” said Connor. “The Water Guardians are volunteers who take on a regular stretch of river which they monitor for pollution incidents and can also record wildlife sightings and litterpick if they want to. With so many waterways around Westbury and Trowbridge we are definitely looking for people to become guardians.” 

Anyone looking to get involved with the practical restoration days can email water@wiltshirewildlife.org 

Anyone interested in becoming a water guardian can email guardians@wiltshirewildlife.org

Photos by Wildlife Trust.