Langden Brook Gravel Reintroduction Programme
A project to restore Langden Brook in the Forest of Bowland to a more natural state has finally come to fruition after 20 years of effort from United Utilities, the Environment Agency, the Ribble Rivers Trust, the Forest of Bowland AONB, the Hodder Consultative and in particular Brian Wells, the Consultative’s ex-chairman.
Water from Langden Brook is used to supply parts of Lancashire with drinking water. United Utilities only abstract this water during periods of high flow, therefore over-abstraction does not occur and the ecology of the river is protected. However there is another issue associated with the operation – the obstruction of the natural downstream movement of gravel, which is an essential part of a river’s ecosystem.
Over time, gravel that is washed down by the river builds up behind the abstraction point in vast quantities. Once or twice a year, United Utilities must remove the built-up gravel to ensure a constant water supply and up until now, the material has been disposed of.
For years, environmental organisations have been keen to see the material reintroduced into Langden Brook downstream of the intake to allow natural river processes to continue. The gravel provides ideal habitat for spawning salmon and sea trout, as well as aquatic invertebrates, which in turn provide food for birds and otters. Since the 1920s when the intake was constructed, Langden Brook has been starved of this type of substrate.
There have been many issues delaying the progress of the project, including concerns over the aesthetics of this popular natural beauty spot and difficulties over whether the gravel material is classified as waste. Having worked in partnership to overcome every hurdle, the gravel reintroduction programme finally got underway this summer.
Following a fish rescue, the gravel was dug out and transported downstream of the intake where it was spread along the riverbank. As the flow of the river fluctuates, it will naturally eat away at the gravel pile and wash it downstream, resembling a more natural process and creating an improved river environment.
Jack Spees, Director of the Ribble Rivers Trust said “This is a significant and positive step forward in restoring natural river processes. The project will increase and sustain wildlife for the benefit of local communities, and help to attract visitors to the area.”
All of the parties involved anticipate that the project will continue indefinitely, in the hope that Langden Brook can begin to support a greater amount of wildlife and attract more visitors to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If benefits to the environment can be shown, it is possible that the project could be used as a demonstration and rolled out to similar locations across the UK.