Catchment Action Plan 2017

The 2017 Catchment Report and Action Plan for the Old Bedford including Middle Level Catchment can be found here .This plan is  a working document and  will be updated on a quarterly basis. Our next step is for catchment  partners  to prioritise the issues identified  and develop actions/programmes of work based on these priorities.

The terms of reference for the Partnership are here.

Catchment Partnership: host update January 2017

A quick up date of what I have been up to over the past few months as Catchment Partnership host for the Old Bedford including Middle Level :

Producing a Guide to achieving Good Ecological Potential: Good Ecological Potential (GEP) is a Water Framework term and refers to the best ecological condition an artificial (or heavily modified) water body can achieve without compromising the function of the water body. The Guide sets out to describe the concept of GEP, explain the terminology surrounding it and give examples of drain modifications which would lead to good GEP being achieved.  A working party of EA and IDB members have been working on the Guide and recently I was asked to support its completion which I was keen to do as it will  have real benefits for the management  of our catchment water bodies. A consultant (Roger Mitchell) has been busy finalising the text and we have recently had a workshop to consult on the draft version. The guide will be published and available on the ADA website March this year and is funded by the EA.

Eel pass installed at outfall of Donningtons Drain into South Holland Main Drain near Whaplode Drove,



Catchment Sensitive Farming events: I met with Andrew Downs; our Catchment Sensitive farming Advisor in December to learn more about agricultural diffuse pollution – in particular soil/fertiliser run off. As a result of this we are hosting an event  for farmers on 8 March at Flegcroft Farm (near Whittlesey) with speakers on soil erosion, tyre pressures and worms(!), lunch and a farm walk to look at his no till seed drill which helps to reduce soil run off. The partnership is funding the lunch for this event and all Partners are welcome to attend. We are also working on a pond dipping event near Pidley for April. Will keep you updated.

Bury Brook walk over: Helen (our newly married catchment coordinator, now Mrs Chapman) , myself and an EA geomorphologist did a walk over of Bury Brook last October there is a blog post of this here.  Helen will update us with the EA response to this walkover at our next meeting.

Water quality issues in the catchment: I met (with Helen) and the EA water quality planner at Brampton to look at how the Partnership could support the EA in making decisions about water quality issues. This was a very useful session and the offer of help/support is there if any partner wants to take up some sampling. I also attended a Fresh Water Habitats Trust workshop on volunteer water sampling where they had some simple but reliable testing kits for nitrogen and phosphate which I am considering getting hold of for all partners to try out if they want to. We could try a “snapshot” of the catchment in a particular month, just a thought.

The test kits are just little tubes which you mix the river water into. This  photo shows phosphate levels with darker meaning higher levels.


The partnership has also given a phosphate reader to the Great Fen to assist in monitoring P levels at this important site.

Giving Nature an Edge: Is an HLF project bid Cambridgeshire ACRE is putting together to follow on from the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership. Its focus is on restoring and raising awareness of the   natural heritage of the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk Fens. It will enable communities to work with local organisations to strengthening ecological networks to help reverse the decline in wildlife and habitats. Many partners are already involved in the bids development. Let me know if you want any more information.

Other activities

  • We need a new Catchment Action Plan to identify our priority issues and then decide what we are going to do about them. I have started work on this and met with other catchment hosts plus the Rivers Trust recently for guidance. I will need some help for the partnership in developing something meaningful which we can deliver and will talk about this at the next meeting
  • Other events I have attended: Sustainable Urban drainage workshop run by Anglian water, Fens for the Future conference on Natural Capital; Middle Level Biodiversity meeting.


I hope some of this has been of interest, Rachael.

New (ish) resources

I have recently come across this report into the effectiveness of various water friendly farming interventions from the Freshwater Habitats Trust.



And the second document I have recently become aware of is the draft Flood and Water Supplementary Planning document for Cambridgeshire which some of our partners will have been consulted on – the final version is due soon.


Bury Brook Walk Over with the Environment Agency

Myself and two members from the Environment Agency (Catchment Co-ordinator and Geomorphologist)  went on a walk over of Bury Brook at the end of October this year. The aim was to identify/confirm reasons for WFD failures and also to identify what actions could be taken (long term, short term and by EA or others) to try and improve the health of the river. The following are  my observations and thoughts:

  1. Flow: Flow rates were generally slow. The river has been over widened for drainage purposes and  relies on surface water run off to feed it. As it is on clay bedrock it is probably a flashy river and we visited after a period of low rainfall which might account for a lower flow rate but some river stretches were extremely slow indeed, leading to…..
  2. Sediment: in many places the river had a deep layer of silty sediment. This is  probably caused by run off from fields and slow flow.We did see sites where the slope of the fields, lack of natural barriers (hedgerows etc) and limited /no buffer strips would be likely to lead to high run off rates. Deep layers of sediment do not make good habitats for invertebrates or fish and act as a source of stored nutrients which adversely affect river water quality and associated wildlife.

    Compaction in buffer strip

    3. High phosphate levels:  were indicated by large amount of nettle growth upstream and various algal growths downstream including filamentous algae. The most likely cause of these high levels upstream is run off; downstream there are two sewage treatment works which might also be contributing phosphates into the river.


Algae and sediment

      4. Some good signs : where the river has had “light touch ” management it is showing signs of reverting back to a more natural state. In places the bed was gravelly with varying width and flows and it was even beginning to re-meander within its deep channels with the occasional berms or islands  developing. On the golf course quite far downstream the EA had done some restoration work and created artificial berms.

So what could we do? 

  • Investigate phosphate levels upstream in high flow conditions
  • Consider what actions could be taken to reduce field run off
  • Selective bank clearance where it is heavily overgrown to create more varied habitats
  • Further sediment removal to create artificial berms/pools

Using fixed point photography

The River Restoration Centre (RRC) has a simple, practical guide for beginners who are considering using fixed point photography  to show how environments can change over time – a useful tool for demonstrating the impact of any kind of project/work which aims to create changes in landscapes.

Find the RRC guide here: rrc_-_fixed_point_photographyv1

The Great Fen (one of our Catchment Partners)  has been using fixed point photography to show the vegetation changes taking place as one of the largest wetland  restoration projects of its type in Europe develops over time.  You can see the photos here

Summer Standing 2014 near Top Farm, Great Fen. Photos by Gary Dean, Great Fen.

Gt Fen