Country Life Today: Returning rivers to their natural path

In today's round-up, we bring you news of an innovative Natural Trust project, a fracking update and an emotional speech from Prince Harry.

River project promises to boost wildlife and reduce impact of climate change

Water vole at Holnicote

Water voles are one of the creatures set to benefit from the scheme. Credit: National Trust Images/Steve Haywood

A pioneering project has been launched to revert rivers back to their natural path before any human interference.

By allowing rivers to meander like ‘the branches of a tree’ rather than along a single channel, water flow will be slowed, wildlife will increase and the impacts of climate change will be tackled by holding water in the landscape.

Work has already started on a pilot project to return a tributary of the River Aller on the edge of Exmoor to a more natural state. The approach will revert the tributary to its original flow before human interference, allowing natural processes to be developed.

The initial project will involve 10 acres of land involving a tributary of the Aller river, but, if successful will then be developed over a 33 acre site on the River Aller itself.

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‘Many streams and rivers have become disconnected from the surrounding landscape through years of land drainage and mechanised flood control,’ said Ben Eardley, project manager for the National Trust. ‘Over hundreds of years we have simplified and concentrated rivers into a single, straight channel that has over time become disconnected from the land around it.

‘Instead of storing water and depositing sediment, and recharging groundwater aquifers, these modified systems move water and sediment rapidly through the catchment, providing no buffer against floods, droughts or valuable top soil loss.

‘With an increase in flooding and droughts predicted through climate change we need to make our landscapes more resilient to these challenges.’

The project, the first scheme of its kind in the UK, aims to reduce the frequency of flooding and could also allows for more water to be stored in the water table to help in times of drought. It will also help restore ecosystems and encourage habitat diversity, providing a suitable home for species like the endangered water vole.

‘By making the river catchment more resilient it will become more robust and better able to cope with extreme weather events or changes in climate,’ added Mr Eardley.

Full story (National Trust)

Cuadrilla vows to apply for new fracking permission

Anti-fracking banners hang on the fence surrounding Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool.

Anti-fracking banners hang on the fence surrounding Cuadrilla’s fracking site near Blackpool. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Fracking may continue in Lancashire despite campaigners’ hopes the practice was being abandoned.

Earlier this month Country Life reported celebrations from activists after equipment was removed from Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, but the firm has since confirmed their intentions to continue drilling.

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said it had not updated its position on drilling since August, when it indicated it would apply for an extension from November. However, it will await the outcome of the technical reviews before doing so.

Full story (Country Life)

On this day…

On 17 October, 1963 The Beatles recorded ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ at EMI Studios in London. Taking two weeks to dislodge the previous number one, ‘She Loves You’, also by the Beatles, the hit stayed at the top spot for five weeks and remained in the UK top 50 for 21 weeks in total.

‘It pulls at my heart strings in a way I could have never understood’: Prince Harry delivers emotional speech on parenthood

Prince Harry was comforted by co-host Gaby Roslin. Getty Images

Tuesday night’s WellChild Awards at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London paid tribute to children bravely facing difficult circumstances, and Prince Harry was among the high-profile attendees.

The Duke of Sussex gave a rousing speech about the impact parenthood has had on his life, from how he felt when the Duchess was pregnant to bringing up baby Archie as a new father.

Full story (Country Life)

And finally… ‘Street gulls’ take over

The number of town-dwelling seagulls is thought to have trebled in the past 15 years as the birds continue to take advantage of nesting spots on flat roofs and food waste on the streets.

Aberystwyth in Wales is one popular town for the birds, where protective parents have been known to ‘mob’ pedestrians if they walk close to their young. Despite councils’ best efforts to ward off the gulls, it seems these wily birds are here to stay. Best guard your fish and chips.