The Cotswold Water Park Trust is delighted to have received a £70,000 grant from The Hills Group through the Landfill Communities Fund and additional funding from the Environment Agency for a two year project which is enabling a series of environmental enhancements to be carried out at two key sites in the Cotswold Water Park, Cleveland Lakes and Shorncote Reedbeds, and creating better ecological connections between them by enhancing the Cerney Wick Brook.
The Cerney Wick Brook is in poor condition, with long stretches of the watercourse suffering from dense over-shading, artificial straightening and a general lack of channel diversity. There is little in the way of in-channel or marginal vegetation, and where it does exist, it is fragmented and of poor quality. Of all the Thames tributaries in the Cotswold Water Park, it is possibly the most stable in terms of flow, due to the artificial input of water from the Shorncote sewage treatment works. This presents a huge opportunity to create and sustain a vibrant, flourishing watercourse, with its own permanent residents such as Kingfisher, Water Vole and Otter. It is currently utilised by all these species, but merely as a navigational tool, rather than as a home. Where these species have historically colonised its entire length from the Thames upstream to Shorncote, they are now no longer resident.
The Shorncote to River Thames Wetland Connections Project is improving the ecology of the River and the habitat for fish and invertebrates, in line with the Water Framework Directive targets. Through a program of works delivering shade reduction, channel enhancement and vegetation management, cohesive enhancements are being made to the two wildlife sites at either end at Shorncote Reedbeds and Cleveland Lakes, benefitting water birds and Water Voles which are yet to fully colonise the brook. The CWPT’s Estates Team is currently carrying out the de-shading works and will expand along the length of the river, coordinating with neighbouring landholders.
The Cerney Wick Brook (also known as the Shire Ditch, County Ditch or Wickwater) connects two of the Cotswold Water Park’s richest, most biodiverse sites; Shorncote Reedbeds in Gloucestershire to the north and Cleveland Lakes in Wiltshire to the south.
Shorncote Reedbeds was the first mineral site in the Cotswold Water Park (CWP) to be purposely restored as a nature reserve. A joint project between Hills Group, Thames Water and the Cotswold Water Park Society; the partnership provided the opportunity to create a site with large areas of reed fringe and islands for ground nesting birds as well as other associated wetland features. Since its inception, it has arguably become the most important site for birds in the Gloucestershire half of the CWP with species such as Water Rail, Siberian Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting and the elusive Bittern. The occasional rare glimpse of a feeding Otter can also be had from one of the two bird hides. The Cerney Wick Brook begins its life as a fully-fledged watercourse at this point, before making its way along the county boundary to the south towards Cerney Wick.
Cleveland Lakes is the Cotswold Water Park Trust’s largest nature reserve, with almost 5 times as many biological records as the next most abundant nature reserve in the CWP. An extensive variety of wetland habitats have been created and managed, including open water, reedbeds, lagoons, mud scrapes and wet woodland, as well as the river corridor itself where the Cerney Wick Brook finally meets the River Thames. Cleveland Lakes is host to Wiltshire’s largest heronry, where in excess of 40 pairs of Grey Heron and 20 pairs of Little Egret now breed every year. The reedbeds provide habitat for Reed Warbler, Reed Bunting and Otter, as well as refuge for our threatened Water Voles, when their burrows on the River Thames are flooded.