Improving Winchester’s rivers for wildlife and people

Press Release: 22/08/2013

Martin De Retuerto and Cllr Jan Warwick looking at the improvement works in Abbey Gardens, Winchester.

The River Itchen flowing through Abbey Gardens in Winchester is being made better for wildlife and people.

Winchester City Council and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are working to turn straight, man-made stretches of river that run through the city into wildlife-rich, meandering waterways.

Work has been carried out by specialist river restoration contractors, Aquascience. It involves using gravel and thick native planting to create a winding and aesthetically-pleasing river corridor.

The more natural environment is attractive to look at and is ideal for wildlife including water-voles, salmon, otters, kingfishers and grey wagtails. Freshwater eel, brown trout and grayling have been spotted in the enhanced river stretches already.

Cllr Jan Warwick, Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods and Environment at Winchester City Council, said:

This exciting project will help to make the very best of Winchester’s waterways for wildlife and people, bringing the countryside into the town and linking the city to the wider landscape.

Martin De Retuerto of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said:

We hope that this project will make the riverside areas of Winchester an even more interesting and attractive place to live and visit. The improvements are self-sustaining and will not increase the risk of flooding.

The Abbey Gardens stretch of the river is the second phase of work that started with similar improvements at Friarsgate in Winchester.

An interpretive ‘Water-Vole Trail’ is set to be created with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The trail will lead walkers from Abbey Gardens, along the riverbanks, to Winnall Moors Nature Reserve.